I love the sea. When I was 8 years old, my family and I moved to Torquay in Devon, on the south coast of England and, for the next ten years of my life, I was lucky enough to live just 10 minutes walk from the beach. Spending those formative years by the ocean were a huge advantage. Sometimes a place of refuge, sometimes reflection, but always a calming, nurturing environment that dialled down any anxieties or issues I was coping with.
One of my earliest memories is being at the beach. I think I was about 5 years old and I can still remember the wonder of seeing the ocean for the first time, chasing fish in rock pools and collecting crabs in a plastic bucket (we would release them all at the end of the day.)
It strikes me now though that the nearer you live to the sea, the more you take it for granted. I had not been to the beach for months when we went last week, and what an amazing time we had. The soft sand between my toes and the hypnotic rhythm of the waves made me realise what I had been missing. All at once I felt at one with the world and at peace. I was altogether refreshed, renewed, and revived by the presence of the ocean.
“Life takes you down many paths but my favorite ones lead to the beach.” – Unknown
“I’m pretty sure my birthstone is a sea shell.” – Unknown
Now probably more than ever, it is so important to have the opportunity to relax, breathe and ground yourself and I find being by the sea is the easiest place to do this. Perhaps exotic overseas holidays are out for the time being, but the beach or coastal region you visit doesn’t have to be some exclusive resort, my local beach at Lepe Country Park in Hampshire has exactly the same effect.
“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight and even heal what is broken” Blue Mind – Wallace J Nichols
I absolutely recommend a trip to the ocean as soon as you are able! And, if you live in the UK, wherever you are, you are never further than a couple of hours from a coastline. Even if you live in Coton in the Elms! (Coton in the Elms is a village in the county of Derbyshire and, at 70 miles from the coast, is the furthest place in the UK from the shore!)
Take a big deep breath of that wonderful sea air, wiggle your toes in the sand and your feet in the waves, and notice how life’s worries and cares all seem a lot more simplified. If there is no beach, watch the waves and allow the rhythmic and hypnotic calmness to wrap itself around you. Try and recall the first time you saw an ocean, of the awe you felt for the expanse and wonder of it. Let it revive your soul.
Even just looking at the ocean is good for you: We associate it’s blue and green hues with feelings of calm and peace, and according to research, “Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.“
Being by the sea can certainly help relieve stress and tension. Apparently, it is because the beach environment is filled with negatively charged ions which boosts mood by triggering endorphins and serotonin. (These are the “feel-good” hormones.) And of course, the soothing sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach are wonderfully relaxing as well. According to the App Store, that sound is one of the most favoured relaxation methods which people choose to fall asleep to. I certainly find that I always sleep better following a few hours on the beach.
Being out in the open (instead of chained to your PC or laptop), does wonders for your mood, and “Light Therapy” is actually prescribed by doctors and therapists to help combat anxiety and stress. A visit to the beach usually means spending more time in the sun, which means more Vitamin D, and that’s good for your bones. If you spend just 10 minutes in the sun, you can absorb an entire day’s worth of Vitamin D. The extra vitamin D you absorb throughout your day at the beach will be stored in your body for later use.
A few hours at the beach can actually really help to lower your blood pressure, support your immune system, and help with rheumatoid arthritis. As I write this I’m asking myself why I am not down there every day! Being near the sea or on a beach doesn’t just feel wonderful, it actually does wonders for the body as well. There’s nothing more therapeutic for your joints and muscles than a soak in salty water, as any spa or health resort will agree, and at the shore a saltwater bath is free! The ocean also heals little nicks, cuts, and scrapes, and it also seem to strengthen my fingernails making the nail tips whiter.
Sand works as a natural exfoliating agent on skin, and salt water will detoxify pores. Iodine in the seawater will also destroy any bacteria in your skin that can cause blemishes and is a fantastic immune system booster because it helps boost the function of the thyroid gland which, in turn, boosts our immune system’s function.
Be careful about too much sun however, and make sure you always use sunscreen.
Of course beach therapy is not just confined to hot days and summer sunshine. Winter beach walks are just as therapeutic and can be as challenging as they are fun! (See photo above on a winter walk on a North Wales beach)
So, unplug from electronic devices and take a trip to the beach. You will not regret it, and you will probably notice when you return that not only do you feel recharged but that downtime has rekindled your creativity.
There is something about being on a beach which makes me feel part of something much much bigger and at the same time small and vulnerable. I certainly feel a spike in energy levels, lifted mood, and overall well being when I am next to the sea. I suppose it is no coincidence that we are drawn to the ocean, being made up of 70% water ourselves, it makes sense that we turn to the water for a sense of perspective and calm, and, at a time of so much uncertainty, change and fear, it is a place you can lose yourself for a few hours and let go of all your worries and cares.
“Beach Rules: Soak up the sun. Ride the waves. Breathe the salty air. Feel the breeze. Build sandcastles. Rest, relax, reflect. Collect seashells. Bare-feet required.”
“To escape and sit quietly on the beach – that’s my idea of paradise.”
“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
― Jacques Cousteau