Summer temperatures have invaded East Tennessee bringing with it the nearly insatiable desire to sink my toes into the deep sand of the beach and let go of all of the stress that has been building up inside me all winter. I can picture myself wading through the shallow tidal pools searching for seaweed left behind by the outgoing tide, seaweed that can be used as a moat for the half built castle abandoned by a previous visitor just out of range for the tide to wash it away.
My favorite beach destination is Folly Beach, South Carolina. It is a scruffy little beach town that boasts a fishing pier, a state park, and several large hotels. Once a year my family will load up a rental car and head down to spend some quality time under the sun and in the water. It is a way to slough off the built up stress and anxiety from school, careers, and life in general. It’s a ritualistic cleansing of the mind and spirit, a time to recharge. To me, the beach is the epitome of a picturesque escapism destination.
Relaxing on the beach is therapeutic, with the sounds acting on the psyche to help the body relax. The waves beat a metronome rhythm on the shore soothing the soul as no sound machine ever invented could hope to reproduce. The sounds and smells of the beach combine to influence our brains and our emotions while the ocean views produce awe, and a profound, immersive, and revitalizing peace. The water inspires us to find balance in our own lives. Beach trips, no matter how short, rejuvenate us and bring out our inner child as no other vacation can.
If you need an excuse to visit the beach, you should know that the beach boasts many health benefits. The beach is a place of healing and recovery that our bodies yearn for after long winter months spent huddling indoors out of the cold. It is as if we instinctively know that healing properties can be found at the shore. Below are the top five reasons our bodies crave beach vacations.
- Spending time on the beach means spending time in the sun, which boosts Vitamin D production. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression and other mood disorders. Spending as little as 15 minutes outside in the sun can increase vitamin D levels which, in turns, boosts serotonin levels.
- The sand provides natural exfoliation and neuro-stimulation. The average human foot has between 3,000 and 7,000 nerve endings and walking across sand awakens most of them as the sand gently exfoliates dead skin cells and massages the feet. A day at the beach is like a day at the spa, necessary to keep your feet healthy and happy.
- Spending time in seawater preserves the elasticity of skin. Treating your body to a good saltwater soak every now and again, while not the same as cosmetic intervention, will aid in keeping everything a little bit tighter and we all know that when we take time to pamper our skin we improve our mood.
- A day at the beach gets you moving. You can’t go to the beach without moving around. You have to scope out the perfect spot, walk to the water and back, collect shells, fly a kite, toss a Frisbee, and eventually pack up and leave the beach. All of this movement equals physical activity. In addition, walking in sand is a much better workout than walking on pavement, as it requires up to 2.5 times more mechanical work. Physical activity releases endorphins, boosts your mood, and has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Most importantly, the beach provides the opportunity to unplug from the expected or self-imposed connectivity we are all living with. Unplugging is good for the mind, body, and soul. Studies have shown that constant connectivity has led to an increase in stress, loss of sleep, and depression. By going to the beach, we give ourselves the chance to let go of technology and have an electronics free escape. Make the purposeful choice to leave your electronics in your room charging, even if you need to excuse this behavior by blaming the sand. We all know that sand gets everywhere and truth be told, the last place we want that sand is in our very expensive electronics. And, the last place we want our electronics is at the beach distracting us from our revitalization.
- In dry, clinical terms, a trip to the beach is a break from the norm and can decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. For anyone who has ever visited the beach, however, we know the truth. The beach is a magical place where childhood’s castles rise from the dunes and mermaids frolic in the waves waiting to be discovered. That picturesque shore can recharge your entire being and teach you the ultimate truth, that time was the invention of a landlocked man who had never spent a day at the beach.