It seems like people come from one of three vacation tribes: Those who favor a spin in the city, those who seek solitude in the mountains, and those who just want to bury their toes in the sand. I’ve come to believe that last group is my kin – Beach Tribe. Our thoughts, our dreams and, whenever possible, our feet are wondering makai, towards the sea. Can you blame us? Many believe we are creatures borne of the sea and point to the fact that we are generally more than 50% water by weight. A yearning for the beach makes sense. But more than some primordial homing signal, there is something relaxing and natural, maybe even primal about the feel of sand underfoot that draws us towards the shore. Let’s face it: you’ve likely entertained the notion of going “Gilligan’s Island” more than once in your life. Heck, I entertain that notion several times a day!
That, I think, is the real appeal of the beach. The idyllic, deserted Gilligan’s Island beach, at least. While you’re basking in the sun with the sound of surf pounding about you and the fresh sea air washing over you, when you’re on a board cutting into a wave with salt droplets showering over you, when you’re skimming face down over the surface marveling at the wildlife below you, the rest of the world ceases to exist. Problems at work are, well, at work. The daily commute, test stress, deadlines, housecleaning, yard work, bills, coffee spills, nagging neighbors… they all reside where you are not. Is it any wonder you’re more relaxed?
Actually, it’s not a wonder at all. It’s science. Fresh, clean sea air is beefed up with negative ions which increase the body’s ability to absorb oxygen and balance serotonin levels. Serotonin is associated with moodiness and stress, so balance is good. More oxygen keeps you more alert, but also helps you sleep better. Sunshine, generally found in vast quantities at the beach, is a plus also. That nice warm sunshine helps your body release more endorphins, those “feel good hits of the year” that help you stay cool as a sea cucumber. Plus, it’s our main source of Vitamin D, which boosts your immune system and strengthens your bones. (Note: Be sun safe and sensible – APPLY SUNSCREEN, hydrate, and monitor your time in the sun. Don’t undo the benefits by killing your skin!)
“But wait, there’s more!”
You know how everyone says salt water is good for your skin? Turns out, they’re right. It opens the pores and helps pull out the toxins of that landlubber life you were living. Doctors have confirmed that seawater relieves dermatitis, and it reportedly increases the elasticity of your skin so you can be Stretch Armstrong! Not really, but that does help your skin’s appearance. Think about it: When was the last time you saw a mermaid with bad skin? I rest my case.
There are more benefits of seawater. It’s been known to help reduce infection and inflammation – sort of like putting Epson Salts in your bathtub when you do too much around the house. It also has magnesium, which is said to calm the nerves. In fact, here’s a Jeopardy-winning factoid: Seawater contains all 89 known elements present in the human body. Including gold. (Cha-ching!)
So maybe it’s not just the million dollar scenery right out of Hawaii Five-0, the chance to catch celebrities at play, or the crazy people-watching in general that draws us to the beach (although they are great bonuses). As it turns out, a beach vacation can actually be good for you! So much so that I believe prescriptions should be available so it could be claimed as a medical expense on your income taxes. Until that happens, feel free to join me in reciting the Beach Tribe Mantra: See the beach. Feel the beach. Be the beach. I feel better already!
Your Turn! Does a day a the beach leave you energized and refreshed? What is your favorite beach? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Images: San Diego’s “Silver Strand” on Coronado Island, California; The Wine Strand on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula; Coligny Beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.