12 Jun STATE of MIND- What Colour is yours?
For nearly a year I’ve been reading a study about the emotional, behavioural, psychological, and physical connections that keep humans fascinated by water in its many forms. The study is called Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do. It is written by Wallace J Nicholls (2014) Published by ABACUS
Like so many wonderful things in my life the opportunity to read it was given to me by the actions and generosity of a close friend. It’s a challenging read and just what my mind needs sometimes but whilst I’m still not finished yet I know I will be referring to it on and off probably forever to confirm why, how and if water has played an enormous part in my life.
‘Blue Mind’ is in some ways being discussed in the book as the ultimate frame of mind for maintaining and or regulating good health and wellbeing. The overall premise of the book is focussing on exploring and confirming that the proximity to and time spent with or in water environments has enormous benefits for health and wellbeing. This is no surprise but it still fascinating to see the studies that have been done to prove it. Studies with groups and individuals suffering with PTSD, Brain Injury, amputation, Austism as but a few examples each show the positive results of using water sports and water environments to heal and improve health and wellbeing.
As I’ve gone through the book bits jump out and I think ‘oh that’s interesting!” So over the coming weeks I am hoping to write about bits that connected with me. I can assure you they will follow no pattern or structure and this will undoubtedly become verydisjointed and confusing but every now and again it may seem significant to someone else. Today I wanted to think about the Author’s title of Chapter 6: Red Mind, Gray Mind, Blue Mind: The Health Benefits of Water.
It may come as no surprise that the Red Mind is described as characterised by stress, anxiety, fear and sometimes anger and despair. It is a fundamental part of our neuroendocrine system and evolved as the fight and flight mechanism. It involves great highs where we are flooded with helpful hormones that give us the strength to compete, challenge and achieve great things. However, we need it on rare occasions and it needs to be turned off most of the time to let ourselves rest. For most of us it’s on all the time and can leave us feeling a guilty dependence on the high it achieves for us.
The Gray Mind is described as representing darker, intense, lonely, confused, distressing times whereby, our mind will keep going over and over things in minute details when we are processing difficult experiences. Finally, the blue mind is the calm, receptive mind. In a Blue state of Mind we are described as able to experience ‘The Moment’. Furthermore, it is believed we can ‘heal’ in a Blue Mind state. Nature and particularly water are shown throughout the studies to have a powerful impact on our brain activity and chemistry and improve quality of life. The colour Blue thus being associated with an almost ideal state of mind.
Giving ‘States of Minds’ a colour is nothing unusual. We have all said we are “feeling Gray” at some point in our lives. However, I’ve always challenged Gray being seen as a colour with negative associations because it’s a fundamental colour in my work and it is the most exciting of colours made from 3 primary colours and the addition of white and with so many possibilities that leave me constantly planning my next painting. Therefore, it is, in my mind a hugely exciting colour, full of hope and possibilities.
Knowing that a Gray Mind is describing such a distressing time for us where we feel limited and restricted and sometimes even powerless made me wonder why it is not the same in painting. My paintings are full of gray yet they are not depressing, dull or powerless. In fact I would go as far as saying they are energising and powerful often. I use Gray in my work because I see Gray everywhere. I see the shades of Gray as the colour of ‘reality’. When I leave out Gray in my work and focus on a startlingly blue sky, I don’t relate the same way to the scene and I have to reintroduce Grays to make it feel real to me.
This made me wonder if I am viewing the world through a Gray Mind. This could well be true. Like many people I manage varying states of mind as I meander through life. But then I thought that by living close to water that would have altered more but then I remembered that when I am in the water it is very different. Nothing that was in my mind before I got in the water is there once, I have submerged. That is my Blue Mind. It is brief . It is hyper aware. It feels and senses so much more than it did before I got in. In fact I see very little when in the sea. My Blue Mind has nothing to do with colour it’s a blank canvas. But gradually I actually find myself searching to notice something that I would hate to have missed.
Lightbulb moment!!!!! In a desperate desire to not ‘not’ notice something my Red Mind has come in to the sea with me and won’t let my Blue mind hang out too long and then my Gray Mind looks around furtively worrying about remembering everything. Hence the addition of my GOPRO. If a Red Mind is all about Fight and Flight it’s possibly a good thing that it pops up whilst I am in the sea as so much can change in a flash
The colours that I see when in the sea are not changed by my state of mind. So do I trust in the creative process more and after achieving a Blue Mind in the sea I should aim to stay in it as long as possible? If I don’t I am in danger of focussing on capturing everything and thus miss experiencing that ‘healing’, ‘receptive’ time of a Blue mind state? The answer is easy. I must condition myself to stay in my Blue Mind longer. I have noticed that when I come out of the sea I have a strange extended smile stretched across my face that I have little control over. My eyes feel brighter, wider, my body energised irrespective of temperature. I carry those experiences all the way back to the house but almost as soon as I have showered and started work whether housework or Creative art work much of it is lost.
The further I get from the sea I drift out of a Blue Mind in to Gray Mind during the planning stages of the day. When I don’t have a plan or am not feeling inspired it’s a full blown Gray Mind hovering over me and if I have too many plans and commitments it a RED Alert. I do believe though that a Blue Mind comes back when I mix my paints or begin a story or make the first stitch or cut on fabric and imagine and begin creating. Sea plays a huge part in the composition and subject of my work so once again I am inclined to believe Water changes my state of mind. The very early stages of creating is definitely a Blue Mind. I don’t see a Gray mind again unless I have no goal in my work. I’m quite often in a gray mind at the moment as I feel I’m at a cross roads. A Red Mind returns only if I have not stepped back and I am in danger of over working a scene or a thought process. It’s a form of panic. Sometimes a worry that I don’t know what to focus on next or a questioning of my own self.
I notice more and more that I am really tired and I think through Lockdown I was probably in a Red State of mind more than I realised. Now I think I need to save it for those precious moments when I need to do something a little out of my comfort zone and of course when I need to be on high alert. Such as, when heading to the sea and being disappointed at not being able to get in I should be grateful for my Red Mind State that will keep me safe at all times when in proximity to a rough sea.
I know I have gone off on tangents, but I have learnt a huge amount from simply exploring states of mind as colours. I started imagining the colour alone was key but I realise now whilst the colour is important it is recognising how those states of mind operate in our own lives. The states of mind are enormously valuable for keeping us well and safe.
I started by approaching this from the perspective of colour so I will end with colour. Is Red a colour that you describe or associate with that intense state of mind associated with times of challenge and or fear and alertness? I wonder if orange and yellow would be equally as helpful to describe it? I think maybe black is my choice for the Gray Mind State rather than beautiful Gray. Although Black is very final and Gray is softer, less severe, so perhaps purple? Is Blue the colour we easily associate with that mindset that is calm and healing. I think Gray is my choice or maybe green. I feel very calm with Greens yet my enitre house is a selection of neutral tones simply because I find they relax me.
There is no right or wrong of course. There’s only the joy of thinking and exploring and putting it out there and out of your head where too many thoughts can sit heavy and drag you down. Thinking is good but so is sharing thoughts and watching them grow exponentially as they drift in and out of other people’s thoughts and so on and so on.
Thank you for helping me process this. I have been blocked for a few years and only now as I review where I am now and where I would like to go in the future with my Art have I started to feel some of the magic of over thinking the simple stuff. I am looking forward to being more aware of my state of mind and definitely working with my environment more to fully experience and understand the power of spending more time near water. If we don’t understand the process then imaginary barriers get erected and prevent us benefitting from the gifts that water is giving us freely.