Crowd laying on Beach
Credit: Getty Images

Do you ever just want to get away from all the stress and sit on a beach all day? You may want to rethink that.

According to Xinran Lehto, wellness tourism expert and member of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center, beach vacations that involve lounging in the sand are actually not that great for your mental health.

Lehto's study, Assessing the Perceived Restorative Qualities of Vacation Destinations, published in the Journal of Travel Research in 2013, measured what types of vacations travelers should take in order to recover from “mental fatigue.”

"Lying on the beach for many, many days is not the best way to recharge yourself. After a while you get bored and anxious, then you start thinking about work and things at home you need to do. That's not healthy for you,” Lehto said.

Spreading yourself on a beach towel and catching some rays might sound soothing, many of us out there simply can’t help ourselves when we’re left to just “relax.” Everyday stress can still manage to enter our minds while hanging out on an exotic shore in Bali. Even if you bring a book.

But taking a restorative vacation is still possible. Lehto’s study pointed to the key factors you should consider in order to truly have a true self-care experience.

“The place should have enough variation of interest and activities that have depth for you to be engaged with. The scope and depth of activities is actually more important,” she said.

The first and most important factor, according to the study, is “fascination.” Go to a place that fascinates, inspires, or piques your imagination. “Once you are attracted to a particular scene, you rest what we call your directed attention — the kind of focused mental energy that you need on a daily basis in order to function well for work and study — and activate your indirect attention, which is being drawn to things that make you a being of thought,” Lehto said.

At the same time, Lehto says, you should also go to a place that's compatible with your personality and where you feel at ease. This way, you don’t waste energy on feeling anxious. The study also notes that your personal “orientation” is key: "Service, signage and everything that helps you orient yourself – is very feel like you have a sense of place."

Finally, the study discusses the concepts of “awayness” and “mental awayness.” Going to a place that lets you disconnect from everyday life or is physically different or far away from where you live will likely make you feel more rejuvenated when you return. Lehto also suggests taking a break from technology or social media, which of course is easier said than done.

So try to enjoy your next beach day, but if you’re really feeling the urge to get away and recharge, it’s time to get creative.