Blue Mind and the Outer Banks

By on April 24, 2012

Blue Mind 2 will be at Jennette's Pier. (Pat Morris)

By Adam Norko

What do the Outer Banks and neuroscience have in common?

It seems strange, but there may actually be a very strong connection, and it may be close to the heart of all OBX lovers.

In December, I came across an article in Outside magazine that caught my attention. It is probably the best overview that I could give of these ideas, so I won’t try to recreate the entire story. I’ll give a quick intro, but the article is well worth a full read — and has been included in the upcoming Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2012 Anthology.


The subject is a Ph.D. biologist, Wallace “J” Nichols. J has a specialty with sea turtles, but he has recently expanded his focus to studying the neuroscience behind the positive effects the ocean has on everyone that comes into contact with it.

The gist is that the ocean can, and does, make us happy — and there is “MIT caliber” neuroscience that can help prove this theory.

J refers to these ideas as having a “Blue Mind.”

The Blue Mind ideas made immediate intuitive sense to me. Of course, the ocean/Outer Banks makes us happy. And my guess is that the Blue Mind ideas make intuitive sense to just about all of the vacationers that save all year and spend hours in the car driving, to enjoy their Outer Banks beach vacation.

Those sacrifices are made because the Outer Banks fills us with joy. At the most basic level, the beach and the ocean make us happier, and in turn healthier, people.


We love the ocean, the beach, the waves, the wildlife and everything that makes the OBX so special. We cross that bridge, smell the fresh salt air, catch our first glimpse of the ocean and our happiness neurons are activated and those neurochemicals begin to flow. Clearly, an OBX lover has a Blue Mind.

But if it makes such basic, intuitive sense, how can this be “cutting edge” science? It seems so obvious.

Maybe it’s the most obvious parts of our lives that go unnoticed for so long.


This is “cutting edge” science because J is the first person to bring this theory of “mind and ocean” forward, and amazingly, he is having trouble getting people to jump at the opportunity to conduct and fund research to prove the theories.

After reading the article, I contacted J and had a chance to talk with him at length. J spent some of his schooling at the Duke Marine Lab and loves the Outer Banks. We hit it off immediately.

After our initial conversation, J and I have stayed in contact with one another, and we have been discussing some very cool ideas focused on the Outer Banks. The OBX has such a strong connection to the Blue Mind ideas that I feel obligated by every fiber of my ocean-loving being to help J spread this message.

I’ve been digesting this information since December, so I’ll stop rambling and let you catch up . . . in a minute.

Below are a few links I’ll share for further info, but first, here’s a quick synopsis:

• The ocean is the largest feature of planet Earth and, as far as we know, unique in the universe.

• Our brain is the most powerful and complex “thing” we know of.

• Imagine the possibilities when we leverage that Blue Mind-Ocean connection.

• A happier, healthier world that does everything in its power to conserve the resources that make us happy and healthy . . . what an amazing feedback loop.

Let’s start the Blue Mind revolution right here on the Outer Banks. Who’s with me?

A couple — BIG — points before I turn you loose on the links below. It is probably pretty clear that I’m passionate about these ideas and believe whole-heartedly in the message. That passion does not stop with me. It translates all the way through Seaside Vacations, the company I work for. As a company, we are happy to help make 2012 the start of the Blue Mind revolution on the OBX. To start, we are putting our money where our mouth is.

As part of his Blue Mind message, J has started, which is a fun way to promote the ideas by sharing Blue Marbles — the Earth looks like a blue marble from space There’s a whole lotta ocean on this planet! The blue marbles help to draw people’s awareness, and gratitude, toward the oceans. And raise funds to support Blue Mind. All 2012 reservations with Seaside Vacations will be receiving one of J’s Blue Marbles at check-in to help spread the message and give us all a small reminder to be mindful of the amazing world we live in.

But the even bigger news is that we (Seaside Vacations) are collaborating with J to start a pilot study — the first of its kind — on the neuroscience behind the love we have for the Outer Banks, and the results of this study will be showcased at the Blue Mind 2 conference coming to Jennette’s Pier on June 5, 2012!

Please allow me to paint a quick picture of this Blue Mind conference: a national group of top neuroscientists meeting on Outer Banks to discuss the amazing positive effects that the Outer Banks has to our health and happiness, including data points from the first study of its kind, focused on the Outer Banks, all while overlooking the ocean at the brand new, “green”/ocean-minded Jennette’s Pier. The perfect Blue Mind marriage.

At BlueMind 2 we expect new findings, new questions, new collaborations and new friendships.

Spread the message, and let’s make 2012 the beginning of the Blue Mind revolution on the OBX.

We have some great sponsors on board – Jennette’s Pier, the Outer Banks Brewing Station, the Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau – but we need more help to make this dream a reality. All sponsorships and volunteers are welcome. Please contact for any thoughts or questions.

J ends his e-mails with this simple phrase, and it seems very fitting now — “Live like you love the ocean.”

Here are three pieces of media that will give you a good overview of the Blue Mind ideas:

1. Here’s a video that Nautica created discussing J and his Blue Mind ideas.

2. Blue Marbles – a great way to spread the Blue Mind message.

3. Outside magazine cover story.

Adam Norko is the Marketing Director for Seaside Vacations.

Comments are closed.

Recent posts in this category