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Wed, Oct

The Very Real Benefits of Camping

WELLNESS-In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson dives into the healing powers of the wilderness. "In the presence of nature," he wrote, "a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows." 

It may be century-old wisdom, but his theory still holds true today. There's just something about losing yourself -- not to mention cell service -- in the woods. In fact, there are very real health benefits. We may not be able to transport ourselves back to Emerson's quaint cabin, but we can certainly head outdoors. Below are just a few reasons to ditch it all for a few days and go camping. 

You're totally unplugged.
There's no such things as cell phone towers out in the middle of nowhere -- and that's honestly a beautiful thing. Ditching your screen can have a significant impact on your well-being. Research suggests too much tech may lead to increased feelings of anxiety and poor sleep. There's even some physical perks to going off the grid: Excessive screen use may lead to neck pain and some have even experienced neurological issues. Time to stash that phone. Your mind and body deserve it. 

You may sleep better. 
The woods may do wonders for your Z's. According to a 2013 study by the University of Colorado Boulder, the more you abide by the sun's schedule the more likely you are to go to bed and wake up at a reasonable time. Researchers examined campers for a week and found that sleeping away from artificial light helped reset their circadian rhythms and made them less groggy 

Being in nature is good for your mood.
The outdoors are crucial for your mental health, especially if you're a city dweller. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that just a few minutes walking in nature can reduce depressive symptoms, which is common in people who live in urban spaces. In a corroborating study, research out of Stanford University found that spending time outdoors can help reduce rumination -- the obsessive, negative thinking that could potentially lead to mental health issues.

It could inspire a sense of awe.
As human beings, we're wired for wonder; we feel compelled to stop and soak up the sunset or gaze up at the stars -- and there's no better place to do that than camping in the wilderness. Research even suggests that awe-inspiring moments can make us happier and more inventive. How's that for a remedy to your creative rut? 

You'll burn some calories.
Hiking the grounds is all part of the experience -- and it's great for your health. Your trek has the potential to burn well over 500 calories. Not to mention, research suggests the activity can even boost your mental well-being. Talk about happy trails.  

Did we mention the no screens thing?
Seriously, this is probably the most underrated perk of camping, so it's a point worth driving home. Sometimes you just need to shut off cyberspace and connect to some green space. Research shows that constantly checking your phone could be a sign of mental health problems. 

As HuffPost President and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington explains, too much screen time could be burning you out and it's important to power down. "It's not easy to turn away from this kind of stimuli -- we're wired to connect," she wrote in a HuffPost blog. "But the connection that often comes from technology is not only an unfulfilling, ersatz version of connection, it's a siren call (or beep, or blinking light) that begins to crowd out the time we have for real connection. Even worse, it begins to rewire our brains to make us less adept at real connection." 

Camping gives you the opportunity to re-establish that real connection -- away from your iPhone. You're able to think away from screen full of distractions so you can return to reality with a clear mind -- and that alone is priceless.

 

(Lindsay Holmes is Healthy Living Editor at Huffington Post … where this column was first posted.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 56

Pub: Jul 10, 2015

 

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