My name is Chris, and I am a Shellaholic!
Unlike many Shellaholics, my obsession with beachcombing and collecting sea shells didn’t begin at an early age, but rather when my daughter was a toddler learning to walk on the beach with me. By the time she was 4 years old, she and I would wake up by 6:00 AM and head straight to the beach to look for the prettiest and most unique shells we could find. We would spend hours looking for the coveted Whelk Shell that was so hard to find. We were extremely lucky that most summers we would bring one home with us, and we still have them displayed on our desks and bookshelves.
Our collection first started at the NJ shoreline, but as the years went on, we collected shells from Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach and Cape Cod. I can’t remember how old she was when we officially stopped collecting shells together, but I’ve never been able to stop collecting them on my own. We don’t get to the beach as much as I would ideally like to, but when we do, I tend to get hyper focused on collecting shells. As I walk along the shoreline, instead of looking out over the water I find myself looking down towards the sand in search of some new spectacular sea treasure to take home and keep as a memento of our trip.
I didn’t realize how truly obsessed I was with beachcombing until a couple of weeks ago when I was on vacation in the Outer Banks. When I was walking along the water, I found myself mesmerized by the color and shape of the shells I was seeing. I had never ever seen shells with deep red, brown, and orange hues, as well as the occasionally pure white shells in so many different shapes and sizes. Upon researching, I found that the vibrantly colored shells are Atlantic Bay Scallop and Banded Tulip shells, and they are native to NC. Since this was my first trip to the Outer banks, this explained why I had never seen shells like this before.
For the rest of the week, while out on our beach walks, I became so obsessed with finding as many of the red shells as I could, that sometimes I fell far behind my husband and our dog 😊. When I couldn’t keep up with them, I initially blamed it on my shell quest, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t just related to finding the perfect shells. I was also searching for a way to relax and enjoy myself, and I had finally found it on the beach in Corolla. I was walking at my own pace in my own time and found that my focus on finding red and brown shells had completely cleared my garbled brain and left me feeling calm and peaceful. By the third day of my shell search, I replaced the foam stress ball that I usually carry in my pocket with a beautiful red and white sea shell that made me feel lucky and hopeful.
By the end of the week, I had collected at least 50 shells (including a black Whelk Shell!), and I realized that collecting them is not only one of my favorite hobbies, but it is and always has been a stress reliever for me. In fact, it turns out that there are many benefits to being a Shellaholic:
- Mindfulness! Beachcombing includes practicing a certain amount of mindfulness so that you remain focused on the present moment. This helps reduce stress and anxiety, and promotes a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Exercise! Looking for shells requires waking along the beach and bending over, both of which could be classified as forms of low impact aerobic exercise 😊.
- Mental health! Studies have shown that being outdoors in the bright sunshine, and some good old fashion “Vitamin Sea”(and the creatures that live in it) can have a positive impact on our mental health.
- Education! It’s always good to learn something new right? Shell collecting offers the opportunity to learn about different types of shells, the creatures that once lived inside them, and the large role they play in our coastal ecosystems.
Shout out to my daughter who turned me into the fun Shellaholic I am today 👣🐚! When I sent her a few pictures of my OBX treasures, she told me to keep them for my retirement beach home decor…from her lips to God’s ears!😊
Happy As A Clam,