You won’t find any soft drinks or juice in the cafeteria at the IWK Health Centre.

They were recently pulled from the menu, and a hydration station was installed to encourage more water intake.

It’s a positive change for nurse Natalie Nymark.

“I drink a lot of water, but I thought there’s some days that I drink four cups of coffee,” Nymark explains. “By the end of the day I know that I’ve had no water.”

With that in mind, Nymark decided to participate in a ‘mindful hydration study.’

Five large organizations in Nova Scotia are taking part, including the IWK.

Darren Steeves is an exercise physiologist and one of the creators of the project.

He says the goal is to make drinking water a long-term daily habit.

“No one would never think about going to bed without brushing their teeth,” he explains, “but they would certainly go throughout the day without walking or getting seven hours of sleep, or drinking water.”

Participants watch weekly webinars to help teach ‘mindfulness’ and log a journal about their water drinking experience.

Steeves says the mindful part is key to making the habit stick.

“What we know is if you take a new behavior and bracket to something that we do and the new behavior being mindfulness that you’re likely to stay with it,” adds Steeves.

He says becoming present is the first step of mindfulness.

“So that’s where you start drowning out the noise like I’m doing right now and you actually start to concentrate on the water, look at its clearness, you start to do a little bit of deep breathing.”

Next, participants are instructed to stay in the moment.

“That’s when we actually grasp the water bottle,” explains Steeves, “feel how cool it is, and again keep focusing on the water bottle. Step three is to actually take a drink, feel the water in your mouth, feel it go down your throat, and feel it go into your stomach.”

Nymark says she has enjoyed this new present way of drinking.

“Before, I sort of approached drinking water as ‘Oh my goodness, I haven’t had water today,’ so you chug down your whole bottle now it’s more, you think about it more,” she says, ‘ I think about it more and I find I drink water more consistently through the day, not just all at once, at one time.”

At the beginning of the study, participants completed a total health index, a comprehensive survey of their overall wellbeing.

They will fill it out again at the end of the six weeks.

“When we get the second set of results we’ll look at, did anxiety improve, did we actually increase the amount of water that we drink, concentration levels, headaches and so forth,” explains Steeves.

He says feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’ve had people whose anxiety has gone down,” he adds. “One person said they took a new position and they said, ‘I was really nervous and I found doing this helped.’ One person, their digestion stuff is cleared, headaches.”

“I think it’s long enough that I’ll get in the habit of it and being in the habit of it, I think it will stay long term,” says Natalie Nymark.