Watching fish and marine creatures going about their daily lives, swimming and meandering over their aquarium’s terrain, is oddly soothing and hypnotic. And, according to research recently published in Environment & Behavior, it’s good for your health too.
British researchers from Plymouth University and the University of Exeter collaborated with the National Marine Aquarium to monitor changes in people’s physical being and mental health after a stint of aquarium-gazing.
After watching marine life at the National Marine Aquarium, participants had a reduction in both heart rate and blood pressure. It seems the more, the merrier, as researchers also reported that people were more captivated and had a more positive mood if there were high numbers of fish in the tank.
Studies have shown that people are soothed by spending time in more natural environments but there hasn’t been much definitive research into the effects of marine environments on people’s mood and wellbeing.
"Fish tanks and displays are often associated with attempts at calming patients in doctors' surgeries and dental waiting rooms," said PhD student and the study’s research lead Deborah Cracknell in a press release. "This study has, for the first time, provided robust evidence that 'doses' of exposure to underwater settings could actually have a positive impact on people's wellbeing."
With clear benefits to mental and physical wellbeing, could we see more public aquariums arriving to calm us in our everyday lives?
"While large public aquariums typically focus on their educational mission, our study suggests they could offer a number of previously undiscovered benefits," said Dr. Sabine Pahl, associate professor in psychology at Plymouth University. "In times of higher work stress and crowded urban living, perhaps aquariums can step in and provide an oasis of calm and relaxation."
The researchers believe this study to be the first of its kind.