So, if you need some convincing to pack your swag or pitch your tent and head into the outdoors to see how awesome it can make you feel, here’s some sound reasons why.
Connecting with nature
The health benefits of a green prescription are now well established: time in nature has been proven to boost health, and doctors are now prescribing it as therapy for physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing.
The Japanese might have introduced forest bathing (Shinrin Yoku) for a health crisis in the 1980s, but it could be argued Indigenous Australians were really the creators of connecting to Country, a practice that centres around accepting the cycles of nature, listening to the land and moving within its seasonal rhythm.
Forest therapy is rapidly growing in popularity in Australia. Alex Musgrove, a forest therapy guide from Sydney, said its multiple direct effects include “a reduction in blood pressure, stress hormone levels and anxiety; increased levels of mental clarity, and improved immune function. Indirect effects include improved fitness levels, possible weight loss, reduced risk of depression and better quality of sleep”.
If you’re camping, it usually means you’re in holiday mode. You’re already feeling relaxed, ready to slow down, disconnect from the demands of your work life, escape your 9 to 5 routine and simply watch the world go by. Slowing down means you become more mindful, and more mindfulness means you’re living in the present moment.
“Camping makes life simple,” explained psychotherapist and counsellor Lee Trew, who previously taught bushcraft and 'coyote mentoring' on youth camps.
“In our modern lives, there are a myriad of complexities and all kinds of daily challenges we face that are not easily fixed - but when you’re camping, it comes down to things like: ‘Am I warm enough? Is everyone going to be fed?’
“Boiling life down to the simple meeting of our physical needs is actually inherently therapeutic for everyone and increasingly necessary as an antidote to our complex lives.”
Lee believes that our environment, to a big extent, dictates the texture of our reality.
“When we are in a modern environment, we see the products of the human mind and we believe that we can control nature, whereas in wild nature, everywhere we look we see forces that are far more mysterious and inherently uncontrollable.
“Everywhere we look, we see poetry and perfection and forces that are greater than us and if we want to be in alignment with this environment, we have to be perceptive and aware.
“Being in nature demands the subtlety of awareness that we don’t need to have in a city, where we just march along with our eyes glued to a device.”
Having to set up camp means you’ll be more physically active from the get go. Starting with pitching a tent and erecting a tarpaulin for shelter, you’ll be expending energy daily and while the comforts of a caravan park mean you won’t have to fetch water or collect firewood, it’s a given you’ll be walking, swimming or playing outdoor games with your kids most days.
With all that fresh air, extra activity and connection with nature - and hopefully, the absence of blue light - your sleep should certainly improve.
In fact, a study of campers in Boulder, Colorado found that exposure to natural light had a notable impact on circadian rhythm, which meant they were sleeping in closer alignment with the seasons. Their melatonin (the hormone that promotes sleep) levels rose significantly after just two days of exposure to natural light, with the winter campers going to bed earlier and sleeping longer. Their body clocks had, in essence, been reset to nature’s rhythms.
The study’s author, Professor Kenneth Wright, said there were a number of health risks associated with people who have “late” internal clocks - those who stay up late and sleep late - but a “weekend camping trip can reset it”.
Although he points out that his study is not about camping but about the impacts of natural light and how our internal clocks respond, it’s proof enough that camping means quality sleep.
Time together as a family is always precious, especially those memory making times on holidays. Camping adds a whole new dimension, of course. There’s the proximity between parents and children, practical challenges like preparing a meal without the luxury of a full kitchen and the psychological challenge of spending so much together as a close knit unit, often without technology as a way of keeping the peace.
Challenges aside, camping creates some unique opportunities for a family to connect: sharing tasks, doing fun activities together and just spending time together at a slower pace can be positive.
A study conducted in Czechoslovakia showed that camping as a family created stronger family bonds, self-reliance in the outdoors, and greater adaptability.
Camping reminds you to be grateful for those daily conveniences you take for granted, like a comfortable bed, flicking on the kettle for a cup of tea, flicking on pay TV, a private bathroom, or a comfy lounge chair.
When you change your environment and take yourself out of your comfort zone, you’re learning to be adaptable - and grateful at the same time.
And when you get home to those creature comforts, you’ll appreciate them so much more.
Research conducted by the Caravan Industry Association reported that campers are “happier, more satisfied, optimistic and energised… and significantly less stressed, bored, lonely and frustrated than non-campers.”
Their report concluded that 96% of campers believe camping makes you happier.
Go on, get out there and find some happiness.
- Circadian Entrainment to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle across Seasons and the Weekend | Current Biology
- Time Outdoors May Deliver Better Sleep | MedicineNet
- The impact of families camping together: Opportunities for personal and social development | Children & Nature Network
- Camping trips proven to improve mental wellbeing. Campers really are ‘Happy Campers!’. | caravanindustry.com.au
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