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Get Tanked (You'll Feel Better)

Just five minutes of face time with a tankful of fish can lower your blood pressure and brighten your mood.

You can almost imagine scientists’ delighted squeals when the United Kingdom’s National Marine Aquarium announced its 2014 plan to empty its monstrous 550,000-liter tank, refurbish it, and restock it with bounteous new species of fish. Knowing that exposing humans to “green space” like parks and gardens can lower blood pressure, fight stress, and lift depression, the researchers realized it was the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to talk almost 200 people into staring at a fish tank for months to see how it affected them.

Actually, it was a pretty cool experiment: For a few minutes one to three times a week for 10 months, subjects observed the tank empty (just seaweed, coral, and water), semistocked, and, finally, fully fished-up. And though even “fishless,” it had a calming effect, the more fish they added, the longer subjects watched—and, consequently, the lower their blood pressure dropped and the happier they felt. 

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It takes just five minutes to feel the fishy effects, the Plymouth/Exeter study found, and, says the aquarium’s Deborah Cracknell, even “small home aquariums may very well provide well-being benefits.” 

Live fish not in your future? Take a break with a deep-sea screen saver. 

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