Oh how we’re missing our annual winter trip to the beach. Cool, early morning walks in the surf. Breakfast and lunch on the balcony surrounded by palm trees overlooking green water. The moon and clouds playing hide-and-seek late at night, a brilliant shine reflecting intermittently on the sea. We always look forward to the trip, as it’s a balmy, breezy respite from our regularly scheduled winter. It also helps clear our heads, recharge our biological batteries, and reset our perspectives on life.
This year, thanks to covid, we are visiting the beach via our imagination, and we’re happy to have you join us. Studies show that actions we imagine can seem real to our minds, “tricking” the brain into providing us benefits as if we were performing those actions. Many athletes utilize this technique, called visualization, to attain their specific goals.
Ok, ready? Got your beach bag? We close our eyes, breathe slowly & deeply, and . . . smell the sea . . . picture clumps of seaweed in the gently lapping surf . . . notice the wet sand between our toes . . . feel the sun and wind on our skin . . . hear the forlorn cries of seabirds . . . and taste the salt on our lips. Be sure to wear your lip balm!
Let’s take a walk along the water’s edge and soak up the recurrent, grounding sound of the waves. According to an article from the University of New Hampshire, Is Being at the Beach Good for Your Health?, the beach can relieve stress fast. The heat of the sun, the sound of the waves, and your feet in the sand, the article says, are the reasons for this happy result.
While we’re absorbing the sun’s heat, (making sure we don’t overdo it) we are improving our health: increasing Vitamin D levels, helping prevent autoimmune disorders, and reducing our risk of certain cancers, according to Environmental Health Perspectives’ article Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health. Maybe we were designed to enjoy the feel of the sun on our skin for these reasons.
Enjoying the ocean air? Breathing the air at the beach can enhance overall health by diversifying the microbes in our guts, says Dr. Zach Bush, one of the few triple-board certified physicians in the US. The microbiome of most Americans, due to the standard American diet & overconsumption of antibiotics, includes a very small percentage of the 20,000 – 40,000 species of bacteria that constitute a heathy gut. Breathing in diverse environments can help in a big way.
Has your heart rate increased? We’re burning extra calories! Walking in the sand requires more energy than walking on, say, a sidewalk. If you’ve walked or jogged in the sand before, you know it’s a great workout. And if we’re going to indulge in those yummy vacation sweet treats and cocktails later, burning extra calories is a must!
Are you beginning to feel more of a connection with Nature? Wallace J. Nichols, marine biologist and author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, says, While in the restful, contemplative state associated with observing or interacting with water, it’s also common to experience feelings of awe. Awe, he continues, increases our sense of connection with all that is.
Have you worked up an appetite? Ok, ok, we’ll go for lunch! I’m famished too! There’s a great little open-air Mediterranean cafe within walking distance . . .
Some day soon, we’ll resume our physical visits to the beach. But for now, our imaginations take charge, engaging our senses and prompting an array of health benefits. Thanks for joining us! We hope you had fun & feel rejuvenated!
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.