It’s a well-known fact that where we live and how we live greatly influences our lives physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In fact, I’ve dedicated a whole series to exploring how housing impacts health and well-being in all kinds of ways in my Healthy Home blogs.
The immediate environment in which you live can drive your mood, affect your behaviour, alter your decision-making processes, influence your stress levels, and much more! It can also help with your physical health (i.e. allowing for exercise and proper diet) or hurt it. Try reading “Healthy Home: A Guide to Radon Exposure” and “What Are The Real Financial, Emotional And Health Costs Of Commuting?" as examples.
A while back, I explored the concept of Biophilia in an installment of Dear Urbaneer, which is the theory that humans are meant to be close to nature. There are benefits of integrating natural elements into your décor, like natural materials, greenery, trees, proximity to green spaces, soft angles – and of course- the presence of water. Check it out: “Dear Urbaneer: What Is Biophilia And How Can I Use It In Home Design?".
Of all the natural elements that impact home and health, water may be the most significant. Living near water is the basis for societies because water is a necessity for survival. As research has shown, being near water creates a mental calm and promotes physical health. Here is a snapshot of how water shapes our experience.
Water = Calm, Research Shows
There has been all kinds of research done to determine how it is that water calms us. One theory is that the proximity to water is the most direct path to mindfulness.
A study was conducted in New Zealand, where researchers found that access to 'blue space' was even more assistive for psychological health to residents in urban areas than green space. The study was done in Wellington NZ, which is a busy urban center bordered with bodies of water.
This study looked at older adults in Hong Kong who frequented blue spaces like coastlines, harbours and beaches. Respondents who were in these surroundings more often reported better well-being and lower risk of depression. The study also found that respondents who lived within a 10-15 minute walk from blue spaces were more likely to derive the benefits.
European research group Blue Health does research links between the environment and health. In one of their studies, they consistently found positive associations between blue space exposure and mental health. It is interesting to note as well that people who were more likely to visit blue spaces were more likely to engage in physical activity, which of course has mental and physical health benefits as well.
Water In Urban Settings
When you picture lakeside living, you might conjure up images of cottage country or pastoral settings. However, the proximity of water can bring many of the same serene benefits, even when you are surrounded by all the trappings of the city.
A German study found that urban dwellers were able to achieve calm and serenity by being close to man-made water features, like ponds, pools or water fountains in a city setting.
We are particularly lucky in Toronto. We have the benefit of superior urban amenities to keep us entertained and make our lives convenient and full. There are man-made water features abounding in the city. We also have the benefit of living on the shores of one of the most scenic bodies of water in North America: Lake Ontario. There are numerous neighbourhoods that offer the benefits of being near the water the Harbourfront, Cherry Beach, the Beaches and Toronto Island.
What Is It About Water?
While there has been a great deal of research done into establishing the link between health and proximity to water, there hasn’t been much quantitative research into the Why. Some researchers believe that the sight of water causes the release of neurochemicals, increasing the blood flow to the brain and heart, which is one of the support systems of maintaining good physical and mental health.
There are a number of theories as to why.
Don’t we work all year in order to be able to take advantage of the rest and relaxation of vacation? For many, taking a vacation means visiting the lake, the beach or other waterside locales. The idea is that the very sight of water conjures up memories of a vacation, and that you are able to incorporate some of that special feeling into your daily living when you’ve got access to water.
• Air Quality
Not always, but air quality tends to be better near the water. Similarly, people tend to pause and unwind a little bit more because of the relaxation that water introduces. This means deep breathing and cleaner air to boot.
There tends to be more plants and vegetation near water, naturally cleaning the air.
• Exercise Opportunity
As I mentioned above regarding one of the studies, people who gravitate to the water tend to exercise when they are there. A waterfront is the perfect place for a bike, walk or run. It’s also a serene location to meditate or practise yoga. Then there are all the other water sports and beach-friendly activities, like volleyball and football.
• Multisensory Calm
As I mentioned in last month’s “Dear Urbaneer” about Biophilia, the sound of water rushing or trickling, or as waves on a shoreline, is known to have calming benefits. When you couple that sound, along with the feeling of some of the breezes that come off the waterfront and the sight of the water, it is a more comprehensive calm.
• Better Sleep
There is a reason that they make “sleep” machines with white noise or sounds of running water. These sounds are soothing and are known to be great sleep aids. Better sleep means better physical and mental health.
• Fast Track to Mindfulness
The ability to be mindful means a better ability to manage stress and anxiety, and there is something about water that helps us to flip a switch mentally. It can be hard to center yourself to be mindful in the hustle and bustle of the city, or even in wide-open green space. The sights and the sounds of water provide a more direct path to mindfulness, which can help you to meditate more productively, another mental health-boosting activity.
Living Near Water From A Real Estate Investment Perspective
House hunters will often pay a premium to live on the water or near it, mostly because of the benefits listed above. It's hard to put a price tag on intangible benefits, but they certainly contribute to establishing a premium for their value.
The other reason why properties on or near the water tend to increase in value is a function of scarcity. Although there is an awful lot of water on the earth’s surface (70 percent +) there is only so much land that abuts or is near water. It comes back to supply and demand.
Waterfront living is also equated with a lifestyle that comes at a premium as well. There is the convenience factor of being able to do all those water-friendly activities at your doorstep or a short stroll away.
And of course, there is the ever-changing view that water provides. It’s like hanging a new painting right outside your front door every day.
Check out these articles by Vice, Global News, and LongevityLive: “Why Living Near Water Is Good For Your Mind” , “Being Near A Body Of Water Makes Us Calmer And Healthier, Science Shows” and “Living Near Water Is Extremely Good For Your Health”.
Are you drawn to the water? Can you imagine how improved your day to day life might be might by living just a short stroll from a lake - close enough for a daily dip?!
Great news! A property has come to market that is literally a 4-minute walk from Lake Ontario and the amenities that can be found right there along the shore: Sunnyside Beach, Sir Casimir Gzowski Dog Park, Sunnyside Boardwalk, Martin Godman Trail! Check out this Townhouse With Roof Terrace On The Queensway, NOW SOLD!
If you enjoyed this blog and you're interested in Toronto's Harbourfront and Lake Ontario shoreline, you might also like the following Urbaneer.com blogs:
At Urbaneer, we posess the experience and the real estate foresight to help you find a home that provides you with the lifestyle that will make you happiest. We’re here to help!
Thanks for reading!
-The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-800
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