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Your beach vacation can boost your mental health. Experts share 3 ways to make the most of it.

Few things are better — or more relaxing — than whiling your summer away at the beach. If your idea of heaven involves sinking your toes into the sand as the sun warms you back up after a dip in the ocean, you’re probably not surprised to learn that spending time by the water does wonders for the mind and mood. And, experts say, there are smart ways to get even more mental health benefits out of your seaside stay.

“A beach vacation is a wonderful time to carve out some time for yourself and give yourself the opportunity and space to focus on your own mental health and wellness,” counselor and certified life coach Rosa Talavera-Kaufman tells Yahoo Life.

Here’s what experts recommend doing to maximize those feel-good vibes during your next trip to the beach.

Lounging with a beach read is all well and good, but aim to try one brand-new experience to stimulate your body and brain for the long term. That could be as simple as hopping on a paddleboard for the first time, but you can also up the ante by adding a bucket-list experience to your itinerary, such as swimming in a bioluminescent bay among microorganisms that light up in a shocking neon blue.

“It’s frightening, in a primal way, to lower yourself into dark, murky water,” Seattle lawyer Julia Guarino tells Yahoo Life of trying the latter at the oceanfront resort Excellence Oyster Bay in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “But watching the magical blue glow spread out from your hands while you swim — I’ve never experienced anything like it,” she says, noting a feeling of wonder that many beachgoers experience when swimming in bioluminescence.

Studies have shown that this very sense of awe can be good for both your mental and physical health. Psychologist Reena Patel agrees: “Spending time in a new environment [and] engaging in enjoyable activities can uplift mood, stimulate creativity and inspire fresh ideas,” she tells Yahoo Life. “When on a beach vacation, this is the perfect time to try something new.”

According to Patel, the calming effects of a simple beach walk are known to help reduce anxiety. “As you are walking on the sand with bare feet, this is a great time to take advantage of your environment and practice grounding,” she explains.

“Maximizing a beach vacation can take the form of what I like to call mini-grounding techniques,” behavioral health clinician Mark Debus tells Yahoo Life. “This can include walks along the beach, and focusing on feeling the sand and waves on your feet and ankles.” He notes that people often subconsciously bring anxiety and tension from their home or work environments with them on vacation, and that practicing grounding strategies on a beach walk can help focus on mindfulness — and even lead to a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.

“In general, focus on the physical environment around you,” Debus suggests. “Remain grounded, and do your best to detach and take your mind off things unrelated to relaxation.”

Life coach Talavera-Kaufman suggests taking that grounding walk under a full moon for maximum benefits. “For those seeking to connect with their intuitive side, visiting the beach at night under a full moon and stars can be a powerful experience,” she says. Moon cycles impact behavior, she explains, so being on the beach under a full moon “can help spark intuition alongside meditation and grounding practices.”

It might sound woo-woo, but plenty of beachgoers — and scientific studies too — will attest that there is something about being by the water that brings peace, calm and clarity. “It’s really great for your mental health and is a great opportunity for self-reflection, intentional thinking and meditation,” adds Talavera-Kaufman.

In the age of digital nomadism, working while “on vacation” — aka the “workation” — is having a moment. But keeping those Zoom calls and work appointments is actually going to do damage to the potential physical and mental benefits of that beach trip, explains Debus. Instead, he advises travelers to “make an appointment with the beach!”

Aye Moah is a workplace mental health expert and the CEO of the productivity brand Boomerang — and she’s no stranger to the phenomenon of feeling unable to turn your brain off just because you’re at the beach. “It can be difficult to fully relax and enjoy your vacation with the stress of work in the background of your mind,” Moah says. She advises doing some simple prep steps prior to your holiday to remove work anxiety in advance and ensure you can truly unplug once you arrive at your destination.

“Set clear boundaries with your manager and your team before leaving about your availability,” she tells Yahoo Life. “By telling your team what they can expect — and you should make it clear that you’ll be fully offline — you avoid any chance for confusion.” Next, take a look at upcoming deadlines and send anything that you can in advance. Finally, leave behind a memo detailing whom your colleagues should contact for different types of questions or issues. “This way,” Moah explains, “if anyone in your company or externally has any questions while you’re out, they can be handled and you don’t come back to 100 piled-up tasks. And you’ll be able to focus on relaxing knowing that nothing is going to slip through the cracks while you’re out.”

Once you arrive on that long-awaited vacation, it’s time for the most difficult and powerful step of all: “Disconnect work email from your phones,” urges Moah. And turn off notifications for Slack or Teams — or better yet, uninstall the apps entirely until you return. “Ultimately,” she says, you should “focus on fully unplugging — you’ll come back less stressed and more creative.”

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