How Camping Can Help You Live a Better Life
Do you feel like you are a hamster on a wheel? I sure do.
Everyday it’s wake up, coffee, get ready for work, come home from work, eat dinner, go to bed.
Some days I’m not sure I can do it one more day. It sure is tempting to just pack everything up and run away….
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2016 the average American worked 1783 hours per year.
Are we just working our lives away?
That’s why I HAVE to camp and that’s why you NEED to camp.
Why you can’t afford to not camp
Nature has a super calming effect on me. I remember to breathe and slow down. It’s so much easier to be in the moment. I am not thinking about I have to get the reports done, meeting at 1pm or why isn’t the fax machine working now?
Our lives are so busy doing. We forget to live.
I read an article not to long ago from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, it said that “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
Wow! That’s a lot of people. I hate to think that there are that many people distressed and suffering.
When I am mentally off track I find that spending a few days in nature really helps me. I feel restored, almost cleansed. There is something about slowing down and enjoying the beauty around me that creates and overall sense of peace within me.
What about you? Have you noticed a difference in your mood or attitude when spending time outdoors?
I think an overall sense of well being is the best way I can describe it.
Research has found that nature has a positive impact on us and can reduces anxiety and boosts mental health and well being.
According to the website Healthy Place:
Nature relaxes the mind, thus reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Being in nature reduces the amount of stress hormones, like cortisol, in our system.
- Experiencing nature increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for digestion and rest; part of its activity involves slowing the heart rate. When the parasympathetic nervous system is active, physical side effects of anxiety decrease and subjective feelings of peace and relaxation increase.
- Getting out into nature reduces anxiety by decreasing activity in the part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex that is active when we ruminate. One of the features of anxiety is rumination, seemingly endless worries and what-ifs. So to create a welcome break from anxiety’s rumination, get out and go experience nature.
So….. how to jump off the wheel of the monotony of everyday life?
I go camping.
Why do I camp?
Camping helps me…
- Good Night’s Sleep
- Fresh Air
Here’s what I mean and why you need to take time in your busy chaotic life to spend time in nature and go camping.
The simplicity of being outside is amazing. I love to sit and listen to the wind blowing through the trees. The sound of birds chirping. Watching all the little furry creatures running around.
My favorite are the chipmunks.
They seem so happy and playful. They are constantly running around, chasing each other and chirping to one another. I love it. It makes me laugh!
At our campsite we have our resident chipmunks that I have fondly named Chippy and Chipetta. I have imagined that they are husband and wife. And WOW, does Chipetta get mad at Chippy sometimes!
But more importantly these moments turn my overactive brain off for awhile. There is no thoughts of work, bills or other daily life stresses.
Just time to relax, sit and enjoy the moment.
Good Night’s Sleep
Imagine that! Sleeping all night? Is it really possible?
When I am camping it is the only time I sleep through the night.
Like most of you, sleeping is a challenge for me to say the least. It takes me forever to wind down, relax and fall asleep. And then when the miracle of sleep has come…
Bam! I am awake again!
Like clockwork I wake up at 2:30am. Every morning…
Most days I am functioning on about 4 hours of sleep. But when I go camping….
I fall asleep almost immediately and can count on 6-8 hours of sleep. It’s feels amazing! I wake up well refreshed, clear headed and excited to start my day.
I read a cool article from Time Magazine “How Camping Helps you Sleep Better”
The article explained that camping helps us sleep better because our internal clocks are reset to a more natural sleep cycle when out in nature away from electronics and exposed to natural light.
In 2013 Kenneth Wright, a researcher from the University of Colorado Boulder began a study to see how week-long camping trips affected peoples internal clock. Before and after the trip he measured peoples melatonin levels (the hormone that tells the body when it’s time to go to sleep and help’s set your internal clock).
Wright found that in our daily environment our internal clocks are delayed by two hours.
Yikes! This might explain my fight to sleep!
This out of sync sleep cycle isn’t great for our health and has been linked to health problems including sleepiness, mood problems and increased risk of obesity.
Good news is your body has the amazing ability to re-calibrate itself. Wright found that within a week in nature the body was able to reset it’s internal clock.
Whew! There is hope for us!
There is something revitalizing about being outside in the fresh air.
The crisp, clean and pureness of it is amazing. If I am out of the woods to long, I think my lungs feel icky and my brain gets cloudy.
Is that weird?
I thought maybe it was just me so I looked it up….
It has been found that oxygen levels in the brain have been linked to serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is a natural mood stabilizer. When you have to much serotonin you may become tense or irritable and too little can cause you to be depressed.
Fresh air make me happy!
And the increased oxygen cleanses my lungs! Our lungs dilate more with the increase in oxygen and release airborne toxins.
No more ickiness!!
I love Spring and Summer! They are totally my favorite seasons. After a long New England winter Spring feels sooooo amazing.
Can you relate?
Today is March 17th and I have had it with winter storms, cold & cloudy days, wet feet, windburn face and cold hands. By the end of winter I feel a little at my wits end.
According to the Mayo Clinic a decrease in sun exposure has been linked to decreased serotonin levels.
Maybe my serotonin levels have gotten low?
Sunshine helps the release of serotonin by activating certain areas in our retinas. When we have the right amount of serotonin we feel happier!
Thankfully Spring is only a few days away! I know the sun won’t magically show it’s glow on March 20th but at least the end is in site!
Another health benefit of sunshine is Vitamin D. It is produced by the body when exposed to the sun.
This happens when we are exposed to ultraviolet B rays (aka sunshine).
Some of the health benefits of vitamin D include:
- lowers blood pressure by decreasing the hormone renin which may play a role in hypertension
- healthy bones by promoting the absorption of calcium and phosphorus (low levels of vitamin D have been linked to rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults)
- reducing the risk of diabetes by reducing insulin resistance, increasing insulin sensitivity and enhancing the function of the cells responsible for producing insulin
- keeps away cold and flu by regulating gene expression that influences your immune system to fight bacteria and viruses
- May aid in weight loss coupled with a healthy diet. At the University of Milan, research was done that showed that vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a higher risk of obesity and obesity related complications.
Wow! All those health benefits from a little free sunshine?
Sign me up and get me outside!
Okay, so I think this may be the best part of camping.
We have a seasonal site at a campground and camp from mid-April until mid-October. “Up on the hill” as we fondly refer to it we have been blessed with a group of friends that return every year and have become family.
It’s like a mini neighborhood or community.
My husband and I spend the entire season in our camper while our friends will usually come up on the weekends. Every friday, one by one cars pull up the hill and everyone comes “home”.
I can’t explain the feeling without sounding totally dorky…
Hey, I missed them all week and am excited to start the weekend and have a good time!
Sitting by the campfire on having a few adult beverages and laughing with friends is the perfect way to leave the work week behind you and forget the everyday stresses of life.
Hanging out with friends is good for you and benefits to your mental and physical health.
Research has shown that connecting with others can boost your sense of well being and decrease symptoms of depression.
In fact there has been evidence that spending time with friends can lower your risk of dementia. People that spend time with friends tend to do better on memory and cognitive tests.
But most importantly it is just fun. When we hang out we laugh. Like full blown belly belly laughs. The kind of laughter where you can’t stop even if you wanted too.
You know the kind of laughter that is just good for your soul.
And your body….
It has been found that laughter reduces stress hormones (immunosuppressant hormones) and can improve our immunity. While at the same time it increases beneficial hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters easing mood, tension, anger, and pain.
Your immune system is given a boost by triggering antibody cells to develop at faster rates by changing the body’s chemistry through hormonal shifts allowing your body to fight off illness and infection easier. It has also been shown that laughter can help fight against cancer. When you laugh the levels of Interferon-gamma (IFN) is increased. IFN stimulates the B-cells, T-cells, NK cells, and immunoglobulin, and it also works to regulate cell growth. All of these compounds are defend against cancer and are essential for a healthy immune system.
In November of 2016 The Center for Disease Control published that “About 75 million American adults (29%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 in every 3 American adults. It (high blood pressure) greatly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.”
Studies have shown that laughter decreases blood pressure. When you laugh you have an initial increase in arterial blood pressure because of the physical response to laughing. This is followed by a decrease in arterial blood pressure below your normal resting blood pressure therefore helping to reduce blood pressure and helping to prevent heart disease.
So get out there and laugh like your life depends on it!
Our lives have gotten increasingly busier and chaotic.
We only have one life to live and only one body to do it in.
Why not take the time to take care of yourself and have fun while doing it?
Nature is providing us with the free resources to improve our mental and physical health, ward off disease and improve our over all well being.
Get rid of your daily stresses, laugh, smile, spend time with friends….
Go Camping and Enjoy Life!
What do you think? Is your life worth it?