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Wellness Tip: What Whales Can Teach Us About Living

A few years ago, a video of a man kayaking while loudly singing and mimicking whale songs out on the water went viral. Imagine his surprise when the random tune attracted a pod of beluga whales. His video showed them not only swimming next to his kayak but starting to sing back. 

These wholesome interactions between humans and whales make us wonder about the mysteries of how the creatures live, communicate, and behave. Living in the oceans, diving to their depths, and weighing literal tons, it would seem as if Earth’s largest mammal would be the polar opposite of humans. In reality, we share more similarities than you might think. 

Photo Courtesy Thomas Lipke

Studies have shown that whales and dolphins share similarities with humans, such as forming close bonds, having distinct communication styles amongst regions, and having complex relationships. 

Many of these connections are due to how our respective brains function similarly. According to Susanne Schultz, just like humans, the sophistication of their brains has allowed whales to colonize multiple ecosystems through teamwork, complex vocalizations, social play, and cooperation.

Given these similarities, there is still a lot that we can learn from these animals. So, for this year’s World Whale Day on Feb. 19, let’s celebrate these fantastic beasts by observing how they can advise us to lead a better life: 

Know that communication is the first step in any healthy relationship.

How whales communicate has long been a mystery to scientists. For the most part, it is a necessary part of survival by helping with navigation, locating prey, and finding mates, but also identifying them as a member of society. 

“We’re not saying that whales have opera and dolphins have poetry, but some forms of shared and learned behavior do seem to be very important to them in terms of how they make their living, survive, feed themselves, and develop a sense of belonging,” said Dr. Luke Rendell researcher at the University of St. Andrews. 

Knowing how to communicate is crucial to fitting in. It lets people know what you need, who you are, and how they can help you. Rendell also states how when someone sounds like you, they make you feel at home.

Whether it be communication amongst whales or humans, maintaining healthy communication in relationships helps us understand where we belong and cultivate a sense of home.

Photo Courtesy Phoebe Dill

Always stick with your pod. 

For whales, life in a pod is more about survival. Living anywhere from 40–80 years, depending on the species, they develop deeply loyal bonds toward each other. In the pod’s social structure, despite the females and males taking care of the young, one of the strongest bonds is between a mother and her calf. This bond makes them fiercely protective and even caring for a calf if something happens to their mother. Killer whales even practice a form of philopatry, where they stay with their birth pod.

Their practice of remaining loyal to their pod shows us the importance of maintaining these bonds. Staying with your pod rather than being solely independent gives us a network of people to help and grow alongside us.

Deep relationships teach you to trust others and allow you to create a distinct culture defined by belonging, play, and growth.

Photo Courtesy guille pozzi

Remember that teamwork makes the dream work.

As life in the pods has shown, whales are very social creatures. Not only do they engage in social play, but they also pass down skills and knowledge to younger members of the pod. The animals live with a mindset that they must work together for the betterment of the whole. 

They become smarter together and don’t leave anyone behind. As new calves join the pod, they are not left to fend for themselves but are nurtured by others. This nurturing of younger, inexperienced calves in the pod shows the selflessness of whales and the mindset that the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts. 

Relying on others with more experience helps you survive and contribute better to your own life and the lives of those around you. It is okay to ask for help and receive it because it is through learning by example that we can become better people.

Photo Courtesy Mike Doherty

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