Ask almost anyone and he or she will tell you that a beach vacation is very, very relaxing. There's something about reclining in a lounge chair with your feet tickling the sand as ocean waves roll in front of you that brings a deep rest to your soul. Have you ever stopped to think about why that is? Most people just assume it's all about taking a break from day-to-day stresses and letting go in an environment completely different from their home, but there are actually scientific reasons as to why the beach is so beneficial:
- Salt water: The ocean is full of minerals, most notably pure salt. Salt water helps to clear up physical wounds, phlegm, and overall negative energy.
- Ocean air: The air on the beach itself contains some salt, and it's also usually humid. Humidity brings moisture to the skin, lungs, and other parts of the body, helping them to function optimally.
- Sand: Walking barefoot through sand provides gentle exfoliation to the tough skin on the feet, and the uneven surface challenges the muscles in a new way as the body makes minute adjustments to find stability.
- Natural ground: The earth's surface is a source of electrons that the body can absorb to neutralize the free radicals that cause inflammation. In school did you learn that lightning is just static electricity between the positive atmosphere and negative earth? The negative charge of the earth is infinite and constantly being replenished by lightning. While antioxidant-rich foods are also important in regulating free radicals (unstable molecules that can steal electrons from healthy tissues and lead to inflamed tissues), being in contact with the earth is arguably the easiest way to support the body in this respect. On a beach vacation, people tend to kick off their shoes immediately and spend most of their days barefoot in the sand, soaking up more "negative ions" than they do in their normal routines at home.
- Ambiance: The rolling ocean waves, gentle breezes, and serenity of a beach puts the body into a parasympathetic - or "rest and digest" - state. Many of us live our lives in the opposite "fight or flight" mode, constantly stressed about deadlines, traffic, overburdened schedules, etc. Reaching a calmer state can feel like a huge relief in contrast!
As much as we'd love you to immediately book a beach vacation for yourself, we understand that traveling doesn't always fit into the budget. Here are some of our favorite ways to create the healing properties of the beach at home:
- Take a bath: Mix sea salt and Epsom salt together and add to a bathtub of warm water for a soak that will relieve muscle tension and produce some of the benefits of ocean water. Bonus points if you cut out all distractions and let yourself truly unwind.
- Light a salt lamp: Himalayan salt lamps shed small amounts of salt as they're heated by a soft light or candle.
- Try halotherapy: If you're landlocked but require more airborne salt intake than a lamp can provide, check out a salt therapy center near you. These centers actively pump salt into the air of an enclosed space (usually a comfortable room), flushing your skin and lungs with as much or more salt than you would get at the beach.
- Use a humidifier: Add moisture to your home or work space and breathe easier. If a humidifier seems like overkill to you, you can use a diffuser instead. Fill the diffuser with water and a few drops of essential oils to lightly humidify and oxygenate an area while dispersing therapeutic essential oil compounds as well. Lemon and Orange are our favorites for creating a tropical feel.
- Make a homemade salt scrub: Find a natural scrub recipe online and exfoliate your hands and feet with it. You can also buy one at a store, but by making it yourself you'll know exactly what it's in and can customize its texture and fragrance.
- Walk or sit barefoot outside: The negative ions that abound at the beach can be absorbed anywhere there is natural earth. Find a comfortable patch of grass, soil, etc. that is free of ants and thorns and either stroll or sit still with your bare feet touching the earth for at least 30 minutes. This practice is called grounding or earthing and can be done at any time...it just takes a more conscious effort in day-to-day life.
- Start a relaxation routine: Vacations shouldn't be the only time you take care of yourself. Regularly schedule activities that put you into a parasympathetic state - meditation and acupuncture are our top choices - and give yourself little breaks each day as well. It won't be the exact same feeling that you get at the beach...but playing ocean music can bring your mind a little closer to that vacation mentality.
Feeling overwhelmed? Start with the recommendation that calls to you the most and repeat it often enough that it becomes a habit, adding more from there. Some of these ideas can be easily combined - i.e. relaxing bath with a salt scrub and beach music - while others will take more dedication. The point is to relax, so don't stress about being perfect and do what seems right to you. If none of our suggestions appeal to you, then just go ahead and book that beach vacation!
Kathleen Ellerie is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.