I never went camping with my family as a child. We travelled overseas or took road trips and stayed in holiday houses. My first experience with bush camping was when I was seventeen and went with my high school boyfriend. He was an experienced camper and took care of all the set-up and cooking. It’s only since meeting my current boyfriend that I’ve been camping in a more participatory way, and I immediately noticed how amazing it is for my mental health.
I’m a pretty turbulent emotional person, and I never feel this more keenly than when I am trapped inside a house. Something about the four walls around me makes me feel trapped, anxious, and full of nervous energy. The few times that we have gone camping, I have immediately noticed that I feel calmer, less trapped, and more at ease. Being surrounded by nature and escaping from my modern life immediately boost my feeling of well-being.
Being in nature is soothing.
I truly believe that humans aren’t designed to live in cities. Within the urban and inner suburban environment, your exposure to nature is limited and controlled. You can find refuge in parks and reserves, but even those are surrounded by traffic noise and pollution. They are a far cry from the serenity that you experience when you are fully submerged in nature.
This article highlights research that suggests city life is harmful to mental health and may increase your likelihood of developing mental disorders later in life. This is from environmental factors like pollution and noise, and social factors like inequality and exposure to crime. I would also argue that living in cities comes with a higher-paced and more stressful life that is harmful to mental health.
Humans are still animals, albeit highly evolved ones, and a habitat of concrete and smog is harmful for our bodies and our psyches. The pace of life while camping is a lot slower, and your sleep pattern becomes more natural with waking up at sunrise and becoming more tired around sunset. Without constant screens and their blue light, your brain can settle into a more natural schedule. You are also forced to be more active and walk a lot more because many places are inaccessible by car. Getting back to your roots and camping surrounded by nature is beneficial for mental health.
We need to slow down.
Advocates of minimalism strongly argue that a simplified life is most beneficial for your mental health and well-being. Without all the needless possessions and distractions that signify status in modern life, you can focus on your relationships and other things that satisfy your core values. Camping is an easy way to temporarily access a simplified lifestyle free of the stresses of the modern world.
Camping forces you to disengage from technology and therefore reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, and the natural world. When you can’t use your phone or computer for entertainment, you need to engage in offline activities like reading, writing, and hiking. I love camping because it forces me to take a break from technology and allows me to fully relax.
It is particularly beneficial to disengage from social media. Constant exposure to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is highly harmful to your mental health because it contributes to low self-esteem and lower attention span. Disengaging from social media allows you to take a break from the constant stream of information and social comparison. You often lack phone coverage or internet while camping, and so it forces you to take a break.
Campfire cooking is more mindful.
It feels very soothing and rustic to cook outside. Cooking over a campfire is the most enjoyable because it imbues the food with a delicious smoky taste that evokes nostalgia and the spirit of camping. It also allows you to feel fully connected to the fire and also the cooking process.
During times of fire ban season, cooking with a gas camping stove is similarly pleasurable because it feels wild and unpredictable, unlike a conventional kitchen. In a regular kitchen, everything is easy and accessible and you don’t think about where your heat source is coming from. When camping, food storage space is also limited and so you have to be mindful about creating simple, filling, and nutritional meals. Cooking outside allows you to cook and eat mindfully, which keeps you engaged in the present moment.
Camping strengthens relationships.
If you camp with others, camping is a strong relationship-building exercise. As well as having fewer distractions and so more time to focus on your relationships, many facets of camping rely on teamwork. Erecting a tent, building a campfire, and setting up a campsite are all collaborative activities that need clear communication between you and your camping partner/s. It’s easy to become frustrated when dealing with complicated instructions and identical tent poles, but it’s a good exercise in patience and teamwork.
Camping is great for your mental health.
A lot of travel is beneficial for your mental health, but I believe that camping in particular is the most valuable. The further into the wilderness that you can get, and the furthest away from technology, then the greater the benefits will be. In the future I would love to live out of a van and even off the grid in a house in the woods, but until that time, camping is a great way to escape the stresses of modern life.
What is your favourite part of camping? Do you notice that it improves your mood and general mental health?