Back at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020, the former director of the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, had a simple message: “Enjoy nature. It’s good for us, and it has very low risk of spreading the virus.” Lots of people heeded that advice and took to the water aboard boats. And a lot of the buyers were first time boat owners, which were up 10 percent compared with 2019.
You never have a lack of friends who want to go out on a boat. You become very popular and then, family and friend groups begin to expand to become boating families.
Many people who try boating for the first time can simply feel, instinctively, what research continually shows: being around the water can be healing in and of itself. Feeling the sunshine and fresh air all around, and looking out over the blue water toward the horizon, leads most people to relax, to exhale, to feel rejuvenated even in times of great stress.
In fact, after the pandemic shutdowns first happened in early 2020, some of the first public spaces and businesses to reopen were boat ramps and marinas—after officials determined that getting out on a boat could be done safely and would help people to get through the worst of the COVID-19 shutdowns. Boating or paddling can provide a refreshing outdoor escape during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And that escape doesn’t have to be for long in order to provide a healing benefit. According to research released in 2020 by the journal Frontiers in Psychology, as little as 10 minutes of being in a nature can have a positive effect. Compared to people in urban settings near things like traffic, people in natural settings saw a decrease in heart rate, cortisol levels, blood pressure and more.
Researchers found the very things that boaters tend to say they feel: “reducing stress, anger, anxiety, and … increasing vigour, comfort, positive affect, and a sense of feeling refreshed.”
In fact, just the sounds of bodies of water can help to reduce stress, according to a 2013 study. Get yourself within earshot of a lake, river or ocean, and you can immediately feel better.
Igniting Your “Blue Mind”
Wallace J. Nichols, the author of Blue Mind, knows all of this information well. His bestselling book looks at the scientific reasons why being in, on or under the water can make us happier and healthier.
“Simply the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness by lowering cortisol, increasing serotonin, and inducing relaxation,” said Nichols.
In fact, he says, when it comes to reducing stress, being on a boat can be considered a type of medicine.
“Blue mind is when we disconnect and logout,” Nichols continues. “We move away from the screens and we get out on the water, and leave all of that technology and information behind. We give our brains a break—and our brains love that.”