Not only are waterfalls and fountains lovely to look at and soothing to listen to, but the negative ions they produce can actually lighten your mood and enhance your sense of well being.
If you’re down in the dumps, seriously depressed and contemplating slitting your wrists, don’t take a bath – take a shower! Research shows that showers produce large quantities of negative ions, which are such powerful mood enhancers that negative ion therapy has even been used to treat depression caused by seasonal affective disorder.
Ions are molecules or atoms which contain an uneven number of electrons and protons. An ion is considered negatively charged when it contains more electrons than protons, and positively charged when the opposite is true.
Negative ions are generated by moving water, as found in crashing waves at the sea shore, waterfalls, rivers – even showers and water fountains. Negative ions are essentially created by friction, much in the same way that static electricity is produced. When water passes through the air or crashes down onto a hard or liquid surface, like in a waterfall, friction causes the air molecules to strip electrons from the water molecules, increasing the number of negatively charged ions in the surrounding air.
Thunderstorms generate negative ions from the friction caused by massive amounts of water moving through the atmosphere in the form of turbulent clouds and rainfall. Waterfalls, crashing waves and rainfall also create tremendous amounts of negative ions, accounting for the feeling of well being we experience when walking along the sea shore, near a waterfall or after a thunderstorm.
Studying the Positive Effects of Negative Ions
Over the last 70 years or more, dozens of studies have been conducted on the positive effects of negative ions on the human psyche. Dr. Felix G. Sulman, Hebrew University’s department head of Applied Pharmacology, conducted some very enlightening experiments in Jerusalem. Sulman placed groups of people in an enclosed room and exposed them to large numbers of either negatively or positively charged ions.
When exposed to positively charged ions, the test subjects became irritable and fatigued. The very same people, when exposed to negatively charged ions, became alert and relaxed, and exhibited stronger and slower alpha brainwaves, which were actually measured on an electroencephalogram.
In order to study the effectiveness of negatively charged ion therapy on subjects suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, research psychologists from New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University exposed test subjects for 30 minutes a day to a high density negative ion generator.
Seasonal affective disorder is generally defined as depressive episodes believed to be triggered by diminished amounts of sunlight during winter months, which is also when levels of negative ions in the atmosphere are at their lowest. Roughly 58 percent of the test subjects received complete relief from their depressive symptoms, leading researchers to conclude that high density ion therapy could well be as effective as antidepressant medications.
Unfortunately, a rash of get-rich-quick schemes to market inefficient or even just plane phony negative ion generators in the late 1970s gave negative ion therapy research a bit of a black eye, and progress in the field has somewhat stalled. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, however, to comprehend the powerful feelings of well being we get when we are near waterfalls, water fountains and those lovely indoor water walls that are so popular in swanky, upscale office buildings and malls.
Whether it’s the pleasing visual aesthetics, the soothing acoustic rhythms, or the negatively charged ions arising from the moving water, there’s nothing like a cascading wall of water to make us feel as though everything is right with the world.