Camping is more than what meets the eye when it comes to its scientific benefits. It’s an activity that’s good for both the mind and body.
You can improve and develop your physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being by camping. Many of these reasons are due to how we respond to nature. In addition, organized camps help children learn essential life skills needed when they grow up.
Many kinds of research have been done to study the effects of camping on our overall well-being. Generally, we can confidently say that we work best with nature.
Scientific benefits of camping include being able to improve your mood, your physical health, and your relationships. You’ll also learn how to develop the skills that will make you more resilient. Let’s look at how camping can benefit you.
In a world where more than 264 million people suffer from depression, helping people feel happy, and stress-free is crucial.
Of course, camping cannot replace professional help, but it can boost your mood and make you happy.
Camping is a form of serious leisure. By definition, serious leisure refers to pursuing activities that are highly substantial, interesting, and fulfilling.
Whether you’re an amateur, a hobbyist, or a volunteer, these activities allow you to perform and acquire special skills, knowledge, and experience.
A study published in the Scientific Journal Publishers, Ltd. mentioned the positive effects of serious leisure on happiness.
They examined 284 Korean campers in the experiment to understand perceived happiness in a camping context.
Camping is a form of serious leisure because anybody who decides to do so does so intentionally.
What do you think of when you hear “city”? What about when you hear “camping”?
Camping can recharge your batteries by being away from the bustling city and being in a relaxing and peaceful green environment.
You exercise outdoors, enhance emotional connections with who you’re with, and positively interact with other campers.
This ultimately leads to increased happiness. Participation in such activities is the main factor in increasing a camper’s quality of life.
An organized camping experience enhances self-esteem and self-confidence.
However, this does not apply to all camps but only for those designed for self-enhancement.
It’s much harder to be self-confident, considering the modern world makes it easier to detach from people (and compare).
With parents always busy at work and neighbors not available, kids are more likely to be on their gadgets or on their own.
An organized camping experience can help them reconnect and engage in the now. This will ultimately help develop a positive self-image.
Camping is a physical activity as it is an outdoor activity. We get used to the comforts of our own homes and end up becoming couch potatoes.
But camping gets us out of our comfort zone. It can involve backpacking or hiking, setting up tents, and fishing. Exploring nature is undoubtedly an exercise.
You can even go earthing or grounding. Earthing is an activity where you walk barefoot in nature. This activity can help improve your sleep and manage pain.
These are some of the physical activities you can do:
- Kayaking or canoeing
- Water skiing
- Water volleyball
- Water balloon fight
- Capture the flag
- Hide and seek
Did you know that exposure to forests can boost your immune system?
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries have a term called “shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing.”
The benefits are in the fresh air and the phytoncides (airborne chemicals that plants give off) we breathe.
When breathing in these chemicals, our white blood cell count goes up. These are responsible for killing tumors and virus-infected cells in our bodies.
Also, stress inhibits the immune system. Spending time in nature reduces stress and even lowers blood pressure.
I’m not just talking about the vegetables you eat.
According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, having a “green” view benefits hospital patients.
Recovering patients from surgery heal faster and better. Pain, fear, and disruption from a routine add to the stress of these patients.
According to research, those with “green” views had shorter postoperative stays, fewer complications, and took fewer painkillers.
Circadian rhythm refers to the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow our 24-hour cycle.
Our biological clocks regulate this. These natural processes respond to light and dark, affecting our melatonin levels.
If you’ve ever had difficulty sleeping and took melatonin supplements, then you know what I’m talking about.
Our internal clock responds to the natural light and dark cycle, often disturbed by artificial light.
Kenneth Wright, a physiology professor, sent volunteers to go camping for a week in 2013 to study the impact of our modern light-filled environment.
Because it was summer, the volunteers were exposed to four times more light during the day but were not allowed to use artificial lights at night.
When the campers returned, their melatonin onset came two hours earlier, closer to sunset. It meant their biological day was synced earlier with the summer season.
The volunteers had better sleep schedules that prevented “social jetlag.” It was a goodbye to their Monday morning grogginess.
Camping was great for syncing their internal clocks to the natural day and night cycle.
The D minder app can be a great way to remind yourself of your sunlight exposure.
You can track the vitamin D you get from the sun and receive notifications when the optimal time of day to get out is, avoiding the chances of sunburn.
Camping is a social activity unless you decide to camp on your own. You build closer bonds with family or friends by doing team-building activities.
This increases your sense of belonging. Camping also helps you detach from your devices and be present in the moment.
Because we are social creatures, mindfully spending time with the people around us caters to our social needs.
Some scholars argue that social capital is as significant as economic capital for the success of societies.
Social capital refers to the “features of social life such as the networks, norms, and trust, that enable participants to act together more effectively.”
Organized camps tend to be for kids and are a means to help them build this sense of community through camping.
They learn to get along with others and be responsible for themselves while at the same time being respectful of others.
Aside from improving your immune system, it can also help decrease anxiety, depression, confusion, anger, and fatigue.
Generally, camping helps enhance your mood. It also helps increase focus, attention, and cognitive capacity.
In our modern world full of distractions, we’re susceptible to Directed Attention Fatigue (DAF).
DAF happens when our brain gets fatigued as we try to concentrate amid many distractions.
Signs of DAF include impatience, forgetfulness, or crankiness not associated with an illness. Lack of sleep can also increase its likelihood but is cured by camping.
As we spend time in nature, we give the cognitive portion of our brains a break. We do this by observing nature and immersing ourselves in the environment.
This “break” helps us focus and increase our patience. According to studies, children who spend time in the natural outdoors reduce their attention fatigue.
Children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also show a reduction in these symptoms.
We are exposed to the rain, heat, wind, and snow when we go camping and engage in meditation by fully using our senses.
We concentrate as we hike or take a walk through the forest, which can help us calm down and reduce our stress levels.
The danger of today’s digital world is that we get addicted to technology due to the hits of dopamine and instant gratification it gives.
This decreases our attention spans.
Detoxing and recalibrating from these dopamine hits, we help reduce our anxiety and depression and improve our focus on less dopamine-related activities.
With cognitive fatigue, urban environments force people to use their attention. This is so they avoid the effects of constant stimulation, known as “hard fascination.”
On the other hand, “soft fascination” happens when a scene automatically captures your attention and effortlessly makes you feel at ease.
A natural environment triggers this “soft fascination.”
When people camp outdoors, they relax the cognitive parts of the brain as nothing competes for their attention.
Restorative environments pertain to those that give people the sense of “being away.”
You don’t have to “get away” to feel the attention restoration effects.
According to a study by Pearson and Craig, participants who watch films or look at nature photographs also benefit.
When camping indoors, a forest scene or nature documentary on your TV can suffice.
According to the same study, these restorative experiences can also apply to man-made features.
For example, students described their places of “escape” as a cottage in the woods – a scene you can find at a campsite.
Because camping is a wholesome activity, you’ll be developing various skills.
The more you camp, the more you learn how to strategize, communicate, and even survive.
Developing life skills is especially important amongst the youth. This is why a lot of camps are designed specifically for them.
Camping can help develop competence, a positive identity, resilience, and meaningful connections.
Three hundred camp directors agree that summer camps help children optimize psychosocial development.
This helps them grow more resilient to the stressors of life. By camping, they can take a manageable number of risks without relying on their parents.
As these children practice their independence, they become competent problem-solvers when they grow up.
They will also learn to make sense of culture and understand the community better. Both are a lot harder than learning to “do work.”
Toupence and Townsend’s research shows that camps have provided adolescent leadership opportunities for decades.
In their survey, all campers have increased self-perceptions of their leadership skills after the camping experience.
The skills involve communication, group work, self-understanding, and positional leadership.
When faced with situations in which they have to step up, they can exercise their leadership muscle to take charge of the team.
Because leadership is a social development skill, campers will also learn about conflict resolution and giving positive or constructive feedback.
We define decision-making as the ability to take personal responsibility for our own lives and control our behavior.
This involves thinking for ourselves and taking the necessary action aligned with those thoughts.
According to a paper by Henderson, the youth needs to have a choice and a voice. They need to be able to make age-appropriate decisions for themselves and others.
Camps help with this need as they can choose the activities to join, decide alternatives in situations, and implement their choices.
This practice of decision-making and problem-solving can’t always be practiced daily. Often, they may believe that adults are there to plan for them instead of with them.
By joining camps, they can get empowered to take ownership and responsibility for themselves.
Sometimes, we end up taking modern conveniences for granted. Roughing it can teach us to adapt without access to water, gas, or electricity.
Returning to modern society, we learn to appreciate what was seemingly normal and commonplace.
We are also mindful of our consumption when returning to our day-to-day lives. This can also extend to how we clean up after ourselves.
By being aware of our trash or storing our plastics and waste while camping, we are more self-aware of our impact on the environment.
Camping takes us back to how to do things simply. It’s why it’s a form of escape. But its effects on us can extend beyond the outdoors and into our modern life.
Camping gets us close to nature. It is the immersive experience we need to recalibrate ourselves and heal from the everyday stressors of life.
Based on much research, surrounding ourselves in outdoor environments helps us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
By engaging in camping activities, we also improve and help ourselves socially. We can camp to escape the bustling city life.
Or we can do it to engage with more people. Whatever the reason, you’re sure to reap some health benefits. And that’s according to science.