Camping and health, until recently I never gave much thought to how the two could have anything to do with each other. I never camped as a child or growing up, and my first real camping experience was in my mid 20’s with my twin sister. By my late 20’s I was a turned into a camping pro by my love for rock climbing. I have camped at altitude, camped by myself on many occasions, camped in my car in rest areas and on the side of empty roads, camped on snow. But what does camping have to do with health? I started thinking more about what camping can add to my life and realised what a positive impact it can have on health.
When we spend day and night in natural light we are exposed completely to the light-dark cycle of the sun. I noticed I slept better and when the sun set’s you feel sleepy because I wasn't in an electrically lit up room. A study found just a few days of being exposed to the natural light and dark pattern of the sun re-set our circadian rhythm and resulted in an easier time falling and staying asleep afterwards back at home.
Cooking is more of a fun activity instead of a chore. We can all get involved in preparing the meal, cooking it and then eating it because it’s part of the adventure. We can invest the time into cooking a meal mindfully since we are not in a rush to check emails or watch Netflix. When car camping I always buy sturdy vegetables that last without refrigeration for days, no processed packaged convenience camp food here. Even when snow camping on Mt Baker where I had to carry in all of my food I made sure to sneak in some fresh items!
Back to our roots.
No electricity means fewer devices. When camping, by default I tend to unplug more from my phone and computer. Being in a beautiful place in nature is the best time to really be present. Take in your surroundings, spend quality time with your companions or make new friends around a shared campfire. We don’t need to see what’s happening on social media. When I’m camping it’s naturally the best time to take a technology detox. Take some photos sure, but then put the phone away.
None of these previous benefits take into account the powerful impact of being in nature. Getting away from urban life, stepping out of routine, being amongst the green of trees or desert plants or lakes, rivers, the ocean. I can observe for myself the impact these surrounds can have on reducing stress and improve mood. Research is now starting to show that not only does nature have a positive impact on our emotions but it can also help our physical well being by lowering the stress hormone cortisol and lowering blood pressure.
I didn't get into camping for the health benefits but it is interesting to see that there are explanations for the natural feeling of well being it brings. I’m sure there is plenty more research being done on explaining the positive effects of camping and nature but I don’t need to dig any deeper to know that the impact it has on me will have me coming back again and again.