Imagine the soothing sounds of wind gently blowing through tree branches. The sun’s rays are dappling the leaf-covered ground beneath your feet. You stop to listen, and birdsong surrounds you. Far off, the soft buzzing of bees can be heard. You turn your head to find the flowers that keep them so busy and see a squirrel darting back up a tree trunk.
Does this sound soothing? Can you feel your stress melt away at the thought of being there outdoors? If you are asking yourself how can camping treat anxiety, there’s more to the science behind the benefits of camping than meets the eye.
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Camping Helps Us Get Back to Nature
There is a primal urge in every human to seek out peaceful places of beauty. Things like work, lifestyle obligations, and urban living can all add up to a hefty case of not being able to stop and smell the roses. This can be demonstrated by statistics showing that city dwellers enjoy camping more than those who live in rural areas. You don’t need to get back to nature if you already live there.
Even the U.S. National Park Service says camping is important for people to experience the beauty of nature in a controlled way. You get to wake up every morning with mountains, forests, or seacoast as your view. You can see wildlife during the day and stargaze at night. Camping is a world away from the humdrum lifestyle of the city and suburbs.
When you leave human-made structures behind and have no barrier between yourself and the great outdoors, this interaction can de-stress the mind completely. The days pass slowly instead of rushing by without enough time to get things done.
You Can Unplug When Camping
Okay, this doesn’t refer to those handy gadgets you can take on your camping trip for freshly brewed coffee and solar powered cookouts. Unplugging from your devices gives you a much-needed digital detox from technology.
There are other ways to naturally get rid of stress and anxiety, but you can easily merge these steps with your camping expedition.
One of the drawbacks to living in a hyper-connected world are the constant newsfeeds that have been customized to make us anxious. If you think about it, headlines are written to get the maximum number of clicks to open. Even if we resist the lure to read an article titled: “The World Will End in Five Years,” we are still most likely to be stressed out by the title alone.
You might not be aware of it, but this is happening to us on a regular basis every waking hour. You hear the “ping” notification sound, and there’s a high chance you will open the depressing newsfeed/intrusive email/angry text that has just come in.
Being unplugged means these worries have no power to intrude on your happiness and calm. There is a reason why yoga teachers ban smartphones from their classes. They know how invasive digital tech can be on our lives. When you go camping, your entire weekend will be as meditative as a yoga class.
Fresh air is good for you. It helps you to digest the food you eat more effectively, and also improves heart rate and blood pressure. Fresh outdoor air strengthens your immune system and reduces the chance of weight gain.
When we are out in the countryside, we breathe more deeply. Every inhalation revitalizes our mind and body. This energy boost means certain neurotransmitters function more efficiently. This makes sense when you understand that the human body has developed to live outdoors. Generations of humans woke up to ordinary sunlight and nature being only a cave entrance away.
It’s artificial lighting, air conditioning, and pollution that adds to stress levels. There are 5 major types of pollution found in urban environments:
When you go on a camping trip, all five pollution types are left behind. This is a proven anti-anxiety counteraction.
Camping Regenerates the Imagination
Your brain immediately reacts to new experiences. When it finds something outside of your normal routine, it releases dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in charge of making you feel good. It rewards you for doing something the brain recognizes as beneficial.
When you pitch your tent and go for a walk in the forest or along the coastline, your brain sees this activity as novel behavior and releases dopamine. Therefore, campers find their favorite pastime so exhilarating.
Another neurotransmitter linked to the stimuli provided by being outdoors is serotonin. Serotonin is best known for creating moods of pleasure or depression. Its basic function is to regulate learning, memory, and recognition. It is suppressed by humdrum or predictable behaviors and stimulated by the new.
When these two neurotransmitters are released into the bloodstream, they cause you to have the most amazing dreams. When you dream in vivid detail, it regenerates your imagination and inspires creativity.
More Vitamin G
We are so used to turning on a hotplate and having supper ready in under an hour that it’s easy to forget the amount of exercise cooking outdoors in the wild entails. There’s collecting wood for the fire, laying the kindling and logs into the fire pit, and then tending the flames until the whole thing is ready for a pan to be placed over it.
All this extra exercise is a successful natural antidepressant. When the body is active, it alleviates any onset of depression and lowers anxiety levels too. Many campers return home with a more positive outlook on life without even being aware of the reason why. This is the vitamin g(reen) effect.
For camping newbies, it’s easier by beginning to do a few of the campsite chores, such as washing the dirty dishes and tending the fire. These activities can be expanded to collecting firewood and hanging the food bag far away from the living area. The next thing you know, you’ll be suggesting a hike in the hills or a swim in the nearby lake.
Exercising in green spaces or blue environments – forests, lakes, and seaside – leads to the biggest improvement in negative mood in the shortest time. You won’t even realize you are also getting a good workout; it will simply feel like you are making your campsite better.
How to Maintain the Positive Mood Camping Gave You When You Return Home
It’s so great to return home in a better mood and with not a care in the world. The key is to maintain your new positive outlook back in civilization. The first step is acknowledging the stressful side effects living in an urban area can have on a person. The second step is to cherish your free time and not let it be invaded by technology or work-related issues.
The call of the wild is a real thing. You can glamp up your camping experience as much as you like. Shopping for new gadgets that turn your camping trip into a more luxurious outing are a fun part of being outdoors. The most important thing is that you take the time to get outdoors for a few days and interact with nature.
Camping and being outdoors gives us one of the most fundamental requirements for our wellbeing: autonomy. When you have the freedom and free time to wake up every morning and find your own adventure, it eliminates the anxieties city living imposes on us.
Feel your anxiety slip away on your next camping trip. Enjoy!