Most of my fondest memories as a child are of time spent at the beach.
Growing up on the island of Abu Dhabi, I was always no more than 10 minutes away from the sun, sand and waves.
I remember my dad teaching me how to swim, going fishing, catching a crab and making it my pet and becoming a pro at making sandcastles.
As I grew older, the beach became more of a sanctuary for me.
Whether that was sitting on the rocks with close friends at night and watching the waves crash, or going on a run by the ocean or a swim, breathing in the crisp sea breeze or just lying under the beating sun and reading a book, the beach became a huge part of all 18 years of my life spent in the United Arab Emirates.
And now that summer has arrived, I can’t be more thrilled to be able to hit the beach, even if that now means driving a couple hours while now on the East Coast.
I’m not alone.
One experiment that found people are willing to pay more for a hotel view with an ocean just proves an ocean view is highly sought-after.
But you shouldn’t just be making plans to hit the beach this summer to socialize or day drink. The beach is proved to have many therapeutic, physical and psychological benefits to the brain and body.
The idea isn’t new. Doctors sent patients to the seaside as forms of treatment as early as the 18th century, according to Live Science.
More recently, research has found those who lived closer to the coast reported better overall health.
Live Science notes it’s not just true for wealthy families who can afford to live near a beach.
The health benefits were greater for poorer communities, too.
As if you even needed another reason to go, here are all the ways the beach can be physically and psychologically good for you.
We’re hardwired to react positively when near the water.
Water is the most important ingredient for supporting life.
The human body is approximately 60 percent water (and the brain 80 percent), and we live on an aqueous planet; water makes up more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface.
But not only that, we rely on water for food, recreation, cleaning, drinking and working. Salon points out over half a billion people owe their lives to water, and two-thirds of the global economy is essentially derived from water-based activities.
But it also goes back to our ancestors. Homo sapiens spent a good amount of time in the water, diving for food and other activities.
As a result, many experts suggest our pull to the beach and water is something that was learned over time and is hardwired within us.
Even when we were all just fetuses, we lived in watery substances in the womb.
The color blue is calming.
It’s no wonder many interior designers suggest blue walls or accents for its calming effects.
The Huffington Post notes the color blue is most people’s favorite color around the world, and marketing research suggests people associate the color “with qualities like calm, openness, depth and wisdom.”
According to Color Psychology, blue brings forth feelings of calmness or serenity.
Being at the beach, you’re seeing blue almost everywhere, both in the ocean, and across the clear skies, for the ultimate feeling of serenity.
Being at the beach relaxes our brains.
As we’ve noted earlier, there are numerous pieces of evidence that support the beach’s positive effects on your psyche.
One study points out the restorative environment of the beach compared to urban environments.
Another study found a walk on the beach was better than a stroll in the park when it came to resetting your brain.
Moreover, the Huffington Post also says water is calming to look at and makes your brain mindful — where it is both relaxed and taking in the sensory input of the water.
HuffPo also notes mindfulness comes with a plethora of physical and psychological benefits, like better sleep, less stress, anxiety and depression and improved focus.
But more importantly, the beach helps you unplug. This study found being constantly plugged in can result in stress, depression and loss of sleep.
At the beach, sand gets everywhere, so we tend to leave our phones and tablets at home, or in our bags.
The sound of waves does, too.
There’s a reason many people sleep to the white noise of the beach. It’s proved to help people have better sleep.
Beach Tomato cites more research shows the sound of waves can change up some of the wave patterns in your brain, ultimately making you more calm and relaxed.
William Dorfman, a psychology professor at Nova Southeastern University told the Sun-Sentinel the sound of the sea may also trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain like serotonin and dopamine.
The beach promotes creativity.
It’s the same scenario as taking a shower, but even more extreme.
When we hop in the shower, our brain’s creative juices begin to flow and we begin to reflect and daydream, because it’s almost an escape from our busy, connected lives. This mindset is called the default mode network, according to the Huffington Post.
On the beach, it’s the same deal. But in addition to the auditory solitude, you have more of a view than an old shower curtain.
The sun literally makes you happier.
We have heard about the dangers of too much sun, but in moderation, the ultraviolet rays in sunshine can improve your physical and emotional wellbeing.
The sun boosts vitamin D production, which isn’t just known for promoting bone strength and calcium absorption.
It also stimulates the production of serotonin, the chemical that keeps us alert and happy.
One study even found increased sunlight exposure resulted in greater serotonin production had a positive effect on stress, sleep and appetite.
Another study found vitamin D can improve your mood through the production of endorphins, nature’s opiates.
Most doctors suggest 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to get enough vitamin D. Just make sure you’re staying hydrated, and have sunscreen and some shade handy for after.
Walking in the sand reconnects you to Earth.
It might sound cheesy, but it’s true.
The soles of our feet have more sweat glands and nerve endings than any other part of the body (between 3,000 and 7,000, if you like numbers).
So, walking barefoot in the sand stimulates all those nerve endings for the ultimate foot massage.
Not only does it feel good, it’s ultimately like a free pedicure, with wet sand acting like a natural exfoliant peeling off dead skin cells from your feet.
Not only that, but Martin Zucker, author of “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?” suggests you’re more connected to the earth when you’re barefoot, which results in mood-boosting benefits, according to Medical Daily.
Furthermore, walking barefoot has been suggested to increase antioxidants, reduce inflammation, improve sleep and reduce stress.
While walking barefoot to work every day isn’t the most appealing idea, talking regular barefoot walks on the beach is a great way to start reaping the benefits.
It’s the perfect time to read for pleasure.
In a screen-dominated world, we rarely have time to pick up a real book these days.
But the beach is the perfect place to finally read that book you’ve been meaning to.
Reading for pleasure reduces stress by 68 percent, and can be reduced in just six minutes.
You work out without really trying.
If you recall, just walking in the sand can be a workout for the muscles in your feet, because you rarely use all of them when wearing shoes.
A study found walking or running on the sand requires 1.6 to 2.5 times the energy than walking or running on a hard surface.
Additionally, if you’re leisurely swimming, surfing or playing volleyball, you could be burning anywhere between 100 to 300 calories, according to the Huffington Post.
And we know working out produces even more happy chemicals in your brain and is an effective way to reduce stress.
Pair a fun game of Frisbee with being surrounded by the ocean, and you’ll likely have even more of a mental boost, and will have knocked out your physical activity for the day without even going to the gym.
It’s like a trip to the spa and hair salon, but free.
The beach does wonders for your hair and skin. Instead of paying way too much for a body scrub or wrap, take a dip in the ocean.
The seawater opens up your pores and removes toxins from your body, which is why it may sting whenever you have a cut or scrape on your body.
Salt is a natural exfoliant that can leave your skin feeling softer than ever.
Moreover, the ocean is packed with anti-aging minerals that can tighten your skin and make it look younger.
When it comes to hair, sunlight helps your hair grow quicker, while the iodine in seawater is healthy for your follicles, hair guru Neil Cornelius tells Beach Tomato.
Plus, you get the tousled wave look that many hair products try to achieve — but don’t.
Happy skin, happy hair, happy self.