‘Blue Monday’, considered to fall on the third Monday of January, has been marketed as the worst and most depressing day of the year. However, according to The Mental Health Foundation of England, Scotland and Wales, “no actual scientific studies have ever backed up any claims about Blue Monday.” Instead, there is a rise in understanding, anecdotal and an ever-growing scientific evidence, regarding the very real benefits of being in and around water. Quite simply, water makes you happy. The University of Exeter is currently undertaking a four year and €6m investigation into ‘Blue Health’ – the positive effects of coasts, rivers and lakes’. This is a, ‘European-wide research project to assess the potential health and wellbeing benefits of freshwater sources.’ Dr Lewis Elliott, lecturer in environment and public health at University of Exeter says, ‘there are lots of different ways waterside environments benefit your health.’
There are a number of recent books emerging all about the wonders of water. Some of the most popular books include, ‘Blue Mind’ by Wallace J. Nichols and ‘Blue Spaces: How and Why Water Can Make You Feel Better’ by Dr Catherine Kelly . Alternately, Emily Wheeler, founder of ‘Strength in Feathers’ a Community Interest Company, has a vibrant online community as well as local gatherings, workshops and retreats, ‘with wellbeing and positive living at its heart’. Emily’s research into ‘Blue Health’ inspired her to create ‘Blue & You:’ A Blue Health Wellbeing Journal. This journal takes both a practical and creative approach to engaging with water. As Dorset Adventure Park is the home of two spectacular lakes which provide an array of aqua park adventures, I was interested to uncover more about the wonders of water. I sat down with Writer Emily Wheeler to dive into the benefits of ‘Blue Health’.
Why does ‘Blue Health’ resonate with you?
I loved that the positive affiliation I had with watersports and the sea had an ‘official’ name and following. There is incredible research that adds scientific backing to lived experience.
How would you describe yourself and your company?
I write a blog about water and wellbeing, and run workshops which use writing for wellbeing exercises and nature connection to get people started or re-enthused on their own blue health journey.
What prompted you to create the ‘Blue & You’ Journal?
During lockdown 2020 I was unable to run workshops in person as I would have liked to, so I put my energy into creating a product which people can use to facilitate their own writing practice, incorporating water and ‘blue health’ metaphors to help explore their own emotional health and wellbeing.
What made you think to incorporate creativity with Blue Health?
I think it’s the only medium I know how! It can sometimes feel like artists and creatives don’t have a place in the environmental and medical spheres, but actually creativity offers a level of emotional connection which facts and data sometimes lack. The arts help people to care, reflect, and get motivated to take action.
Why do you think Blue Health is something that more and more people are connecting with?
I do think that nature connection as a whole has bloomed during lockdown, as well as an acute awareness of mental and emotional health. These two things together have created energy around the Blue Health movement.
What are the regular Blue health practices you follow?
I am lucky enough to walk by the sea every day, and really miss this whenever I am away from my home in Cornwall. I also try to swim in the sea around once a week, although it is getting cold here in January!
Do you follow a structured practice of Blue Health or is it something you lean into more or less as and when you need it?
I don’t do well with rules and structure so I try not to put pressure on myself. I try to become attuned to what my mind and body need, and very often it’s a coastal walk, dunk in some cold water, or a hot bath!
Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions and what are your thoughts on this tradition?
I haven’t this year because it didn’t feel right for me, but I have in the past. If you’re full of energy and motivation I think goal setting can be a great way to keep on track, but I never want to set myself up to fail with goals that feel too big.
What are your favourite water based activities?
I have done many watersports, but my current favourite is paddleboarding because of the gentle nature of it. I also just love sitting by the water, watching and being still. I say I ‘swim’ a lot, but this is mainly bobbing and dunking with the occasional breastroke – an immersive experience rather than a ‘sport’ I would say!
Where is your favourite place in Dorset and why?
I love the Purbecks and the area around Studland and Swanage Bay – especially the sand dunes and National Trust beaches after you go over the chain ferry at Poole.
Have you ever been to Dorset Adventure Park?
I haven’t but I’ve been on a Wibit before and it’s so much fun, no matter how many times you’ve done it before! Also great exercise – way more fun than the gym!
How can people get involved with Strength in Feathers?
Instagram and Facebook are my main channels of communication but you can also sign up to my mailing list on my website to get offers and updates. The Blue & You Journal is also for sale in my website shop.
If you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Find a way with water that works for you.
A purbeck water park with an amazing mud trail, is a pretty good place to play and boost your Blue Health happiness!
You can find out more about Blue Health and follow Strength in Feathers via their Instagram @strength_in_feathers, Facebook @strengthinfeathers and website www.strengthinfeathers.com. ‘Blue & You’ A Wellbeing Journal, is available to purchase via the Strength in Feather’s Website.
Remember to follow Dorset Adventure Park on instagram @dorsetadventurepark, Facebook @DorsetWP, twitter @DorsetWP and find out more via our website www.dorsetadventurepark.com .
Words by Olivia Lowry.