A trip to the coast is the ideal summer vacation for most Americans. People are willing to fly or drive to the nearest sandy beach, even if it’s days away, all for a dose of that sweet “vitamin sea.” Instinctively, we know a relaxing vacation benefits the body and spirit. But now, actual scientific research backs up those feelings. Sure, almost any vacation is going to make a person feel more relaxed. However, studies have shown that people who live near the ocean—even with all the normal stresses of work and daily life—tend to experience better mental and physical health. Of course, most Americans don’t live within view of a coastline. In fact, they don't have the best of those occasional opportunities to put their feet in the sand.
Maximize Your Beach Vacation Benefits
So you’ve got a week, maybe two, to breathe in that salty air and soak up some sun. How can you squeeze the most benefits out of such a short time? By focusing on the elements the beach studies find most beneficial. Unfortunately, they do not include drinking rum or parasailing.
- Spend time gazing at the water. The color blue is associated with calm, peaceful feelings. Watching the ocean’s waves actually changes the frequency of brain waves, putting the watcher in a mild state of meditation.
- Take a deep breath—lots of them. The negative ions in the ocean breeze help contribute to the feeling of being relaxed and at ease.
- Listen, do you hear that? The sound of waves crashing, the quiet hum of nature or even the background noise of people having fun on a busy beach all trigger the brain’s parasympathetic nervous system and cue the body’s functions to slow down.
- Bury yourself in the sand. The tactile sensation of warm sand on our feet and skin has a measurable effect of relaxation.
Staycations Matter Too!
You can’t completely replicate the benefits of a beach vacation at home, but there are things you can do to simulate some of the conditions which trigger your internal relaxation response. A table-top fountain will fill the air in your home with those healthy negative ions as well as providing the meditative sound of running water. A photo or painting of the blue ocean placed somewhere you can view it while in a relaxed position, such as while sitting in a comfortable chair or lying in bed may help encourage peaceful thoughts and feelings. It’s difficult to capture the revitalizing scent of ocean air at home, but things like coconut oil and tropical fruit and flowers may nudge your parasympathetic response in the right direction.
No matter where you go for vacation, unplugging from electronic devices, being present in the moment and enjoying the experience will go a long way to restoring your physical and mental well-being.