I recently went on a two-night beach holiday with a couple of friends. Even though it was only a short holiday, I felt so relaxed and happy by the end of it. What is it about little holidays like this that is so good for my mental health?
Firstly, getting away from life for a few days removes some of the pressure of things that need doing. Even on a day off, when I’m at home, I often feel like I should be cleaning, or studying, or doing something useful. Going away forces me to forget about tasks and errands for a while. Because I had planned the time away, I was able to discard my to-do list with great relief as soon as I left home.
Beach holidays are also delightfully low-pressure compared to other types of holiday. There is no real expectation of sight-seeing or adventure. It is completely acceptable, encouraged even, to spend entire days lounging around reading. The main forms of exercise conducted on beach holidays—swimming and walking—are enjoyable and relaxing. For these reasons, beach holidays are restful and stress-free. I spent most of my weekend away engrossed in a book and felt more free than I had in months.
The ocean itself can be really therapeutic. Walking along a beach or sitting and watching the waves is very meditative. A beach holiday is a chance to process thoughts and feelings. At the start of the weekend, my mind was busy with thoughts of uncertainty about my future. Being by the ocean allowed me to organise my thoughts. I came away from the weekend with a clearer idea of what I want to do over the next year.
It’s also nice to spend some quality time with people you are close to. Catching up with close friends over a few days can be so much more meaningful than a rushed meal in the middle of semester. My friends and I braved the freezing ocean to swim out to a pontoon, where we lay in the sun and talked about ocean adventures from our childhoods. I learnt stories from them that I had never heard before. Then we came back to my friend’s shack and cooked up a BBQ meal that was way too much food for three people, but we somehow ate it anyway. I felt closer to my friends than I had in months.
The more that I think about it, the more that I realise that a beach holiday is a neat little bundle of wellbeing: time away, rest, reflection, and social bonding. This is more than enough of an excuse to try to go to the beach more often, even if just for a day.