grace + gravity

Waterfalls Equal Happiness



Fine, you caught me, it's not math. But rumour has it, it IS science!


I was listening to a She Explores podcast on the highway through Utah yesterday, and heard something that I thought was crazy, but worth researching. I am so excited to report that there seems to be merit! (Disclaimer: I say "seems to be" because I am not a scientist, nor can I vouch for the authenticity of scientific reports.)


It may not just be sunlight in a room with windows that makes us feel happier and more awake or alive. The other thing that windowless, closed rooms lack is negative ions. Marian Diamond, a University of California professor of neuroanatomy has discovered a connection between negative ions and serotonin levels in the brain. Since I am not that much into biology, let alone neurology, I'll just give you the punch line: negative ions make us happy.


Apparently about one-third of the world's population experiences an extreme sensitivity to negative ions; more than the rest.


There are even scientific studies that show negative ions to be efficient air purifiers, removing impurities (like pollen, dust or pet dander). These little rascals are really powerful! Apparently they enhance immune function, purify blood, and promote deep sleep too.


Here's where the fun begins: negative ions are abundant in the natural world, specifically unpolluted wilderness. More importantly, they are most concentrated around water sources like waterfalls, rivers or oceans, and during storms. I have now browsed through a few google scholar results for a search of "negative ions waterfalls how?" (has anyone seen those If Google Were a Man videos?) and haven't quite been able to find something that explains in layman terms how exactly this happens, but I am thrilled about it, nonetheless.



Waterfalls have always been one of my favourite things to see on the trail. I will go out of my way for them, and I will stubbornly climb for them. More so than I will for a summit. When I hiked to Berg Lake in the Mount Robson area last year, I took a branch trail out to Emperor Falls. It's enormous, and I was so lucky to have it entirely to myself. I could have stayed there and watched the water crash off of those rocks for hours. I have also always found myself surprisingly relaxed during storms. Thunder scared me so much as a child, but now that I've reckoned with it, I love storms. I always feel so refreshed after storms, like it brings some kind of release.


I never imaged that there would be a scientific reason to back this feeling that I crave when I enter the outdoors with the intention of reaching waterfalls. Currently, I'm on a two month road trip through the western United States, and I'm hoping I can find at least one waterfall in every state that I visit. So far, so good! 



It's no wonder why I'm hooked - beauty AND a biologically positive impact thanks to invisible negative ions? Yes please, and thanks; I WILL keep chasing waterfalls!! As if I really needed another reason.

Photos are my own. Please do not reproduce without my written permission.

First: Virginia Falls in Glacier National Park 2017 |  Second: Emperor Falls in Mount Robson Provincial Park 2016 | Third: Fall Creek Falls in Idaho 2017

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