At the end of last year, I set myself a challenge: to go to the beach every day for seven weeks.
Initially, the goal was to appreciate the beautiful area I live in, the Gold Coast, where I’m surrounded by stunning beaches that I take for granted.
However, I quickly realised that I’d taken on a health shift and the benefits were far greater than I could imagine.
The idea for the challenge came about when I was travelling through Europe in November and December 2017, and I was telling people I met how amazing the beaches were back home.
Yet, it dawned on me how little time I spent there, despite living just five minutes’ walk from a beach.
I felt ashamed and disappointed that I wasn’t making the most of the gorgeous area I lived in.
I vowed to myself then and there, that when I got home, I would set myself a challenge to go to the beach every day.
The rules for my daily beach challenge
My goal was to go to the beach every day. I kept my requirements for the challenge simple and achievable, but followed a few key rules.
I started on December 13, 2017 (the day I returned to Australia after my travels) and ended the challenge on January 31, 2018. It was a total of 48 days, or seven weeks.
I knew it would be important to have a specific time frame, rather than an unrealistic never-ending period, in order to reach my goal.
While I had to visit the beach once every day, I chose not to set a time limit.
Whether it was two minutes, 10 minutes or an hour, simply going to the beach was part of the deal.
I didn’t want to add pressure to my challenge so allowed the duration of visits to be flexible.
A requirement of my daily beach visits was to wiggle my toes in the sand and dip my feet in the water.
The idea was to connect with the environment so getting amongst it was important.
I thought it would be more meaningful if I really engaged with the elements of the beach. Swimming was not part of the challenge – that was an optional extra.
The unexpected benefits of daily beach visits
I’m proud to say I stuck to my goal. I managed to visit the beach every single day for 48 days.
While it gave me the chance to connect with the natural environment, the challenge presented some unexpected benefits too.
As I embarked on this challenge, I knew that the beach would have a calming effect.
But what I found was, even when I had only planned to go to the beach for a few minutes, I always stayed longer.
Giving myself the time to stop each day was such a treat. The feel of the sand, the salty smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves – it was a real sensory experience.
My mind was quieter and I felt my chest open. I took deep breaths and time slowed. I didn’t feel the need to “do” anything. It was lovely to just be.
Sand is a great exfoliator.
I remember looking down at my feet one day and thinking how healthy they looked. My skin was clear, there was no flakiness and my toe nails were a soft pink.
I never expected the challenge to be physically beneficial for my body but, at the time, many people also commented on my natural glow.
The beach challenge gave my day purpose, and having a reward or something to look forward to made tasks throughout the day easier.
As a freelancer, whose days are never the same, it also gave me some structure. I could incorporate the beach visits into my plan and build my day around it.
It often forced me to take the break I so desperately needed, and it became something that I prioritised.
I used #lovellysummerbeachgoals as the hashtag for my beach challenge because I wanted to document it on social media and give people the chance to follow along, and maybe even get on board.
It still surprises how many people commented on my experience. Even now, two months on from it, people are genuinely interested in the challenge.
I get asked how I did, why I did it, and whether I am still doing it now. But the nicest thing is they have often said: “it made me think I should get to the beach more too”.
Getting back to nature
Reconnecting with the natural world is so good for the soul. To just be in nature can be so cleansing.
Last year I went to see a naturopath and cried – I was so exhausted and stressed, and sitting there with her just brought it all to the surface.
She prescribed me “30 minutes walking along the beach, a couple times a week”, along with other recommendations for my diet.
The health benefits of visiting the beach or swimming in the ocean are well documented, and I felt them during this challenge.
Continuing the good vibes post challenge
After I finished my daily beach challenge, I noticed how much my mental health was impacted by not going to the beach. My work-life balance was affected and I’d lost that calm I’d found.
Once I didn’t have to go to the beach anymore, I didn’t. And I found myself yearning and craving to get outdoors.
That clarity and space I had forced myself to have during the challenge was now gone.
But I now have an easy solution to make myself feel better – get outdoors. Whether it’s to the beach, to the park or to my balcony, all I need to do is get out in nature and it leaves me feeling a thousand times better.