Red Mind and Blue Mind: Harnessing the Power of Water to Alleviate Stress

In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, stress has become an increasingly prevalent issue affecting individuals of all ages. As the pressures of daily life continue to mount, finding effective strategies to manage stress has become paramount. One intriguing concept that has emerged is the contrast between “Red Mind” and “Blue Mind.” Red Mind represents a state of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, while Blue Mind embodies a sense of calm, clarity, and relaxation. Furthermore, there is growing evidence to suggest that water, whether being in, on, or around it, can provide substantial relief from stress. In this article, we will explore the opposition between Red Mind and Blue Mind and delve into the therapeutic benefits of water for stress reduction.

The Red Mind: Stress, Anxiety, and Overwhelm

Red Mind signifies a state of heightened stress, anxiety, and overwhelm that many individuals experience due to the demands and pressures of modern life. Racing thoughts characterise this mental state, a sense of urgency and an inability to relax or unwind. The constant bombardment of stimuli and information overload contribute to perpetuating Red Mind. It is important to recognize the detrimental effects of chronic stress, as it can lead to various physical and mental health problems, including cardiovascular issues, depression, and decreased cognitive function.

We all feel it. Irritable. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Like your heart is racing. Even uninterested in life. But something incredibly powerful is also going on inside our brains and bodies, both short term and long term.

Unfortunately, some of those stress-related neurochemicals, such as cortisol, can damage our bodies for up to two hours after even the smallest single stress.” Repeated and sustained stress can wreak havoc from head to toe. In fact, the top ten causes of death around the world can either be caused or exacerbated by stress. By sensitizing the amygdala through constant, inappropriate arousal, and weakening the hippocampus and preventing it from growing new neurons, increased stress can affect our ability to learn, retain information, or create new memories. Increased cortisol and glucocorticoid deplete the norepinephrine that helps you feel alert. Yet they also lower the production of dopamine and reduce serotonin levels, ultimately leaving you feeling flat, exhausted, and depressed (Grey Mind). Studies also have shown that the neural circuits responsible for conscious self-control are highly vulnerable to even mild stress. “Repeatedly activating the stress response system is killing us,” says Franssen.

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols – Blue Mind, How water makes you happier, more connected and better at what you do

What a double whammy.

It’s no surprise that stress, including Red Mind, can contribute to other illnesses or, even worse, cause them. The body is only capable of so much. Put it under pressure, and cracks start to appear. And it’s not just physical stress. It’s emotional stress too, contributing to six leading causes of death – cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, liver cirrhosis and suicide. 

The constant bombardment of stimuli and information overload contribute to perpetuating Red Mind
The constant bombardment of stimuli and information overload contribute to perpetuating Red Mind

The Blue Mind: Calm, Clarity, and Relaxation

In contrast to the Red Mind, the Blue Mind represents a state of calm, clarity, and relaxation. This mental state is akin to the tranquillity one experiences near bodies of water, such as lakes, oceans, or rivers. The colour blue itself has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind and can promote feelings of serenity and peace. When in the Blue Mind state, individuals often report enhanced creativity, improved focus, and a heightened sense of wellbeing. These positive effects can improve overall mental health and resilience in the face of stressors.

Harnessing the Therapeutic Power of Water

Water has long been recognised for its therapeutic properties, and recent research has shed light on its stress reducing benefits. Whether it is engaging in water based activities or simply spending time in a natural aquatic environment, water can have a profound impact on our mental wellbeing. Here are several ways in which water helps alleviate stress:

The Soothing Effect of Water: The sound of flowing water, such as waves crashing on the shore or a babbling brook, has a calming effect on the mind. This gentle white noise helps to drown out the intrusive thoughts associated with Red Mind, allowing individuals to achieve a state of tranquillity and relaxation. This effect, whilst not quite as effective, also works virtually with a wave sound recording.

Immersion and Water-Based Activities: Engaging in water-based activities like swimming, kayaking, or even taking a leisurely walk along the beach stimulates the release of endorphins and promotes physical wellbeing. These activities also provide an opportunity to disconnect from the stressors of everyday life and focus on the present moment.

Nature’s Resilient Presence: Natural aquatic environments, such as lakes, oceans, or waterfalls, possess a remarkable ability to induce a sense of awe and wonder. Research suggests that exposure to nature, especially water, can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve overall mood and cognitive function.

Mindful Reflection and Meditation: Sitting by the water’s edge or even gazing at a serene body of water encourages mindfulness and introspection. The rhythmic movement of water and the vastness of the surrounding environment can help individuals achieve a state of mental clarity and introspective calm.

River brook in the sunrise
The sound of flowing water, such as waves crashing on the shore or a babbling brook, has a calming effect on the mind

What about Grey Mind?

As mentioned in the above quote from J. Nichols, Grey Mind can be a knock on effect from Red Mind. Leaving us feeling depressed, disassociated, flat and exhausted, increased cortisol and glucocorticoid from Red Mind can lower dopamine and serotonin levels – the feel good hormones. Grey Mind can also occur in its own right for several different reasons, including mild to serious mental health disorders. This type of mind is not to be confused with Grey Matter, which is the outermost layer of the brain and plays a significant role in allowing us to function normally as it controls our movements, retains memories, and regulates our emotions, among many other functions.

My personal journey with Red Mind

I suffered from Red Mind for years before my cancer diagnosis. Whilst I want to look back and say I didn’t realise it, the truth is I didn’t want to admit it. Or do anything about it.

It cost me my health. My life had limited purpose and reasoning. I did nothing to help that. My brain suffered. My body certainly took a hit. I didn’t have personal happiness (hedonia), let alone a deeper sense of happiness (eudaimonia).

To get through my illness and come out of it a stronger, better version of myself, I had to address my Red Mind. It was hard at first. I blamed everyone else other than me. But by spending more and more time by the water, this calmness allowed me a safe space to have these thoughts and feelings, working through them to mentally make things right again for me. Perhaps it was a form of my own Mental First Aid.

From Red Mind to Blue Mind

I couldn’t have been in my happy place going through my diagnosis, but being next to water made things seem a little bit ok. The mild meditative state of my Blue Mind helped me balance my Red Mind. I even believe it helped me avoid a deep depressive state of Grey Mind. Putting everything into perspective. Realising my mistakes. Owning up to them. Finding the strength to put them right and come out fighting. It wasn’t meditation though. That word makes me run a mile.

Entering a state of Blue Mind, is like drifting. Similar to meditation, but not, it takes you deeper into your consciousness, allowing you to enter a state of being akin to dreaming. Your brain patterns become slower and more structured as the noise and chatter of everyday life start to be peeled away. It was about allowing myself the time to think, then focus. Focus on getting better. 

I switched off a lot of social media. I wouldn’t crawl through endless medical websites looking for answers. It would have only made things worse. I only existed to myself and those around me that would care and understand. No highlight reels. No influencers making me feel like my life wasn’t already bad enough. It worked. And it pains me that I’m back on social media and behind a website to share this story; it’s just unfortunate it’s the most effective way to try and help others in the world we now live in.

My life is no longer about Mental First Aid. It’s a way of living. A lifestyle. A Water Wellness holistic approach. I deliberately spend much more time around the water now, concentrating on those Red Mind thoughts and knocking them out of the water (pun intended!) when needed. They still occur. More so when I’ve not given myself some focus for a few days, but I’m aware of it and know how to react – and hopefully, this will continue to save the rest of my life.

Blue Mind by the water
Give yourself the time and space to drift into your Blue Mind

Today’s World

In today’s fast-paced world, where stress is pervasive, finding effective strategies to manage and alleviate stress is paramount. Understanding the contrast between the Red Mind and the Blue Mind provides valuable insights into the impact of stress on our mental wellbeing. Moreover, harnessing the therapeutic power of water offers a practical and accessible means of mitigating stress and promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.

By immersing ourselves in water-based activities or spending time in natural aquatic environments, also known as Blue Space, we can tap into the soothing effects of water. The sound of flowing water, the physical engagement with water, and the awe-inspiring presence of nature all contribute to the shift from the Red Mind to the Blue Mind. These experiences allow us to disconnect from the stressors of our daily lives and find solace in the serenity that water offers.

Engaging in water-based activities not only promotes physical wellbeing but also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers. Whether swimming, kayaking, or simply taking a leisurely stroll along the shore, these activities help us to be present in the moment, redirecting our focus from stress-inducing thoughts to the joy and serenity of the water.

The therapeutic effects of water extend beyond physical activities. Merely being in the presence of water can have a profound impact on our mental state. The gentle rhythm of waves, the vastness of the ocean, or the tranquillity of a lake can induce a state of awe and wonder, allowing us to temporarily escape the pressures of our daily lives. This connection with nature has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve our overall mood and cognitive function.

Urban water fountain - Blue Wave Wellbeing
Merely being in the presence of water can have a profound impact on our mental state, even near an urban water fountain


In conclusion, the contrast between the red mind and the blue mind highlights the impact of stress on our mental wellbeing. To counter the detrimental effects of chronic stress, we can harness the therapeutic power of water. Whether through immersive water-based activities or by simply being in the presence of water, we can tap into the soothing effects that water offers. The sound, movement, and vastness of water provide a respite from the overwhelming demands of our lives, allowing us to achieve a state of calm, clarity, and relaxation. By embracing the blue mind, we can enhance our overall mental health and build resilience in the face of stressors. So, let us seek solace in the healing embrace of water and find tranquillity in its therapeutic depths.

Why are we not changing our levels of Red Mind across the world? Only we individually can answer that question, but one thing we do know is that water and technology, thankfully don’t always mix well. It’s time to disconnect.

The concept of Water Wellness can have such a profound effect on your Blue Mind. Understand more about the Six Dimensions of Water Wellness or start your journey here, finding how to bring more of this good stuff into your life!

What are your favourite ways to avoid and overcome Red Mind? What do you struggle with most? Please feel free to share in the comments below as I’d love to know your thoughts.

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional.  The purpose of this post is informational only.  Always consult your GP or physician before making any changes to your healthcare routine.

About the author

Hello, I'm Gill, a Wellbeing Warrior who advocates for a better life by spending more time in Blue Spaces and on the water. From a 20-year career in Senior Retail Leadership to a 2-year experience of how life can completely change, I've learnt the hard way that now is the time for healthier environments in which we work, live and play.

By achieving a sense of Blue Wave Wellbeing, my mission is to help others avoid the life-crashing health journey I have been through due to life and work-related stresses.

Nothing is going to stop the crashing waves.

But you can learn how to Duck Dive them.

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