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Why Watching the Sea and the Sky Triggers Mental Health


A recent study finds that the visibility of the ocean and the sky significantly reduces psychological distress.

At its highest purity, said Wolfgang von Goethe in his theory of color, blue brings a principle of darkness with it. “It’s something like a stimulating negation, a contradiction between excitement and repose.” There may not be a more beautiful explanation for the intimate paradox that attracts us to the color blue, and this partly explains its character of metaphorical authority in the repertoire of human associations.

In addition to its already evident anthropological association with virtue, authority and divinity or, from a more psychological angle, with melancholy and calm, a newly published study tells us that blue has a lot to do with mental health. –– Specifically the blue vastness of nature in the sky and the sea. These results come as a reminder of the primacy that visual hygiene has on our health, those seascapes, and the open heavens that make us feel relaxed. This study is the first to link health with the visibility of water and sky, what scientists call “blue space.”

To measure mental anguish, researchers at Michigan State University, led by Dr. Amber L. Pearson, used the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) which is an efficient predictor of anxiety and mood disorders. They found that subjects exposed to more views of blue spaces showed lower levels of psychological distress. In fact, the levels were significantly lower.

And while further research is necessary as to whether other types of “blue spaces” (such as smaller bodies of water, artwork, flowers) can generate the deep contrast between excitement and repose associated with mental health, it’s clear that contemplation, that natural trait in human beings, must periodically find a resting point in the sky or in the sea.

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