Being Near Water Makes Us Happy

Verde River at Box Bar Recreation Area, Arizona 23 Oct 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

1 November 2021

When I visited Arizona in October the place I loved the best was along the Verde River at Box Bar Recreation Area in the Tonto National Forest northeast of Scottsdale. When I look back at my photos I realize why. The view and sound of water made me happy.

Above, the Verde River reflects the sky. Below, three wild horses sip water on the left bank (look above the arc of the sagging tree).

Shallow rapids in the Verde River, wild horses in the distance at Box Bar Recreation Area, Arizona, 23 Oct 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Studies have shown that being in, near, or on water makes us happy. In the 2015 book Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols describes …

The immeasurable sense of peace that we feel around water is what Nichols calls our “blue mind” — a chance to escape the hyper-connected, over-stimulated state of modern day life, in favor of a rare moment of solitude.

Conde Nast Traveler: Being near water really does make us happier

We often vacation near water, perhaps not realizing that we choose these locations for their sense of calm. My favorite vacation spot, Acadia National Park in Maine, is very calming with abundant water views.

Somes Sound, Acadia National Park, Sept 2010 (photo by Kate St. John)
Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Sept 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Even places far from the coast like Pittsburgh take advantage of water views with river trails, ponds and lakes. That’s why Duck Hollow and Schenley Park’s Panther Hollow Lake are such a draw for us.

The Monongahela River at Duck Hollow, 25 Oct 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Schenley Park, Panther Hollow Lake (photo by Kate St. John)

“When we are by the water it…cuts us off from the rattle and hum of modern society,” says Nichols. “Moving water is expert at masking noise, especially the sound of the human voice,” he says, noting that the human voice is considered the number one source of workplace stress.

Conde Nast Traveler: Being near water really does make us happier

The sound of human voices makes us anxious? Here’s the sound of Phipps Run at Schenley Park to calm us down.

The forecast is sunny. Spend time near water.

Read more about how water calms us in this Conde Nast article or at The Guardian: Why Time Spent Near Water is the Secret to Happiness.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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