Vitamin “Sea”: The Therapeutic & Sensory Benefits of Sun, Sand & Surf
Beaches are one of the greatest and most enjoyable natural features this earth has to offer. Humans have a tendency to draw towards the blend of sand and water for both physical and psychological healing properties. With end-of-year school activities in full swing, political tensions, and stressors throughout our local and global communities….NOW is a great time to immerse yourself and your family in the therapeutic benefits of a sun, sand and surf sensory experience! Maybe you are inspired to plan a seaside summer vacation…Maybe it is already scheduled and you have begun to count down the days until you can dip your toes in the sand. For children and families facing medical challenges, opportunities to travel might be difficult or not possible; but there are ways to enjoy the therapeutic and sensory benefits of the sun, sand & surf whether you are near or far from the ocean’s edge.
Time at the Beach Eases Anxiety
The combination of both the sun and the waves work to relax your body and free you from mental stressors. Serotonin is released (serotonin is a key hormone for relaxation and happiness), and the sights and sounds of the ocean are soothing and peaceful.
Time at the Beach Promotes Better Health & Sleep
A few hours at the beach can result in a night of quality sleep. The beach helps relieve three key factors that inhibit sleep: high stress and anxiety levels, lack of physical fatigue, and hormonal imbalances.
A Benefit of Sunshine….As one of the most essential vitamins in our diets, Vitamin D promotes bone strength and calcium absorption; however very little of it is actually absorbed through the consumption of foods. Fortunately, spending just ten minutes outside in the sun can actually allow a person to absorb their daily dose of vitamin D directly through their skin! Sunshine also is a combination of scattered blue light [short wavelength that causes the sky to appear blue] and bright sunlight, which induce cells in the retina to release melanopsin, which can increase mood.
A Benefit of Saltwater… Iodine has numerous health benefits. Adequate levels of iodine ensures that energy levels and metabolic rates are optimal, that hair and nail growth is at its peak, and that hormone levels are regulated. Iodine, surprisingly, also is taken for its anti-carcinogenic properties and for the fact that it can help reduce fibrocystic disease symptoms. Iodine is naturally present in the water because of the living organisms within it. This essential supplement is absorbed through your skin when you swim.
A Benefit of Salt Air…. Breathe Easier during and after a day at the beach. The natural inclination to inhale deeply when you first step on the beach is actually an automatic response to the quality of the air. Individuals with breathing difficulties may find that it’s easier to breathe at the beach. The chest muscles surrounding the lungs relax and the air itself is actually charged with negative ions that work to increase oxygen absorption in the lungs.
The Beach can Improve your Ability to Fight Off Infections.
Salt water has unique antibacterial and anti-fungal properties making it excellent for external infections; however it can also help internal infections as well. The iodine in ocean water is a fantastic immune system booster. It not only is highly antiseptic, but it helps boost the function of the thyroid gland, which boosts our immune system’s function.
Connect with your spirit at the beach.
The beach can put you in touch with your spirit and consciousness. The vastness of the ocean, expansive horizon, and beauty of the surroundings makes you truly appreciate nature.
TRY these Extension Activities to Incorporate More Therapeutic Sensory Experiences into Your Routines and Environment:
- Use a sound machine with an ocean sound option to promote a healing, peaceful environment in a room, classroom, hospital room, etc. The auditory input of the ocean can stimulate the brain to release feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.
- Try visualization or guided imagery. Induce visions of the beach for anxiety reduction.
- Use the color blue to elicit relaxation. Wear it, paint it…
- Enjoy reading a good book at the beach? Foster that love of “seaside reading” by snuggling up under a mermaid or shark blanket with beach-themed books. One of our favorites…Take Me! Friendship Island, a beautiful children story authored by educator Gail Mack.
- Get Outside & Play! Even seated activities outside in the sunshine can have positive health benefits!
- Use water (even saltwater) for sensory play opportunities. Children love water tables, and should have an opportunity to experience the healing benefits of water through play! Provide engaging toys that sink and float.
- Use sand for sensory play opportunities. Kinetic sand is great for indoor sand play experiences. It can be relaxing tactile input, and is fun to manipulate with the hands (and feet!). Build a sandcastle or another fun creation!
- Encourage dramatic play with children during play times, bath time or anytime. Make or provide simple dress-up items so they can become mermaids, scuba divers, fisherman & pirates! Swim goggles & flippers can be fascinating both in & out of the water!
- Take a walk along the beach and other outdoor surfaces. Walking on sand is actually quite difficult and utilizes more muscles than walking on firm ground does. Take off your shoes and walk with bare feet for even more benefit!
- Leave your mark! Practice writing your name or shapes in the soft sand!
- Collect shells. Trade shells with a friend. Count or sort your shells!
- Learn to fish and teach a child. Fishing encourages patience & perseverance, and is sooo exciting when you catch something!
- Swim in the water or play at the water’s edge! Enroll in swimming lessons & learn about water safety.
- Practice deep breathing techniques for relaxation, self-regulation and improved lung capacity.
- If and whenever possible, spend a day at the beach enjoying the sun, sand and surf!!! Invite your loved ones for a day full of lasting memories!