Environmental psychologists have argued that there is a value component added to the human-nature relationship. By staying close to nature, like when you’re enjoying the Best Of Camping, you feel more grateful and appreciative of what it has to offer to you. Seeing the wonders of the world outside automatically fosters within you the urge to be part of it and protect it. Have you ever noticed nature has some ‘soft fascinations’ that help in restoring attention when we get distracted or mentally tied down.
The soft fascinations are nothing but soothing natural elements such as flowing flowers, cricket sounds at night (1) , a breeze, sound of leaves rustling, ocean waves, or gentle sunshine, that we all love to be close to. When we stay close to these pleasant aspects of nature, we do not have to put any effort into attending to it, and we effortlessly immerse ourselves into the experience. A study in the journal of Environment and Behavior has shown that just by looking at real-life trees or pictures of trees in natural daylight can reduce stress and even depression in individuals. Famous architect and designer, Frank Lloyd Wright had this to say about nature:
Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature. It will never fail you.
Natural Restful Sleep
As discussed in our previous article “Camping In the Outdoors-Incredible Health Benefits“, circadian rhythms refer to the shifts in the body’s biological processes that happen over 24 hours, partly in response to changes in light and darkness. But, while our ancestors may have gone to bed early and risen with the sun, that’s not true today, said Wright, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Many people get little outdoor time during the day, then stay up late, eyes trained to artificial light from glowing computer, phone and TV screens.
In a 2013 study, Wright’s team found that a week of summer camping with no smartphones, was able reset people’s internal clocks to be in rhythm with nature’s. Melatonin levels started to rise around sunset, and the campers’ “natural biological night” kicked in about two hours earlier. Accordingly, the campers turned in much earlier than their usual midnight bedtime at home. They also woke up earlier, closer to sunrise, with natural sunlight, releasing serotonin, making them more active, just as nature intended. Wright encouraged people to get out in the sun when they can each day, then minimize bright artificial light at night. That’s particularly important, Wright continued,
when it comes to blue/green light like the glow from your phone or computer screen (after natural darkness).
Artificial blue or green light unnaturally elevates cortisol levels at night, which disrupts sleep and introduces a host of health issues relating to body-fat levels, insulin resistance, and system inflammation. It also contributes to sleep deficit, and a disruption of neuro-regulation of appetite, and weight gain. Another example of the negative effects of exposure to blue light, particularly at night, which prevented the release of melotonin and restful sleep, is clearly confirmed in this NIH study. College students were warned about having lower levels of melatonin due to using computers at night, which is why their sleep was being affected. Not only does artificial light affect your sleep but it also affects you in so many other unhealthy ways as well.
There’s even been some research linking prolonged exposure to high-intensity unnatural light, or blue light, with some forms of cancer. One study conducted of a 10-year period, found that a sample group of over 1,670 women exposed to higher intensity light in their sleeping environment had 22% higher odds of developing breast cancer than those who slept in total darkness. The researchers blamed it on hormone disruption caused by melatonin suppression. What’s troubling, in other studies, this has grim implications for workers who do shift work. Case-controlled studies have shown that nurses who worked rotating shifts at midnight are more at risk for breast cancer compared to nurses with permanent day work.
The lack of melatonin in your body causes oxidative-stress issues as well. Melatonin acts as an antioxidant too, and plays a role in the anti-aging process. Scientists now understand the fundamental mechanism behind aging because they’re the same markers found in neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. According to research there’s even a connection between high-intensity light, the lack of melatonin and cardiovascular disease. It appears that the lower level of melatonin increases oxidation and inflammation in the cardiovascular system, as this study concluded,
Therefore, melatonin rhythmicity appears to have crucial roles in various cardiovascular functions as an antioxidant, an anti‐inflammatory agent chronobiotic and possibly as an epigenetic regulator.
So that is why spending a night outdoors is a good escape from your mind to wind down and soak in nature at its finest. Being in the outdoors has shown tremendous positive effects on physical and mental health. When your body senses that it is getting dark outside, it produces and releases melatonin, the hormone which regulates sleep and wakefulness. But we all struggle with those nights when we need to watch one more episode or read one more chapter, and not want to get up in the morning. The exposure to fluorescent lights, hinders the production of melatonin and the process of falling asleep.
For this reason, taking a break from the screens because you’re outdoors camping, is the key factor that will improve this process and give you a better night’s rest. The one priceless takeaway when you venture into nature is having the quality time with yourself. Under the circumstances of routines, commitments to work, family, and friends, it is almost impossible to find time for yourself these days. So the next time you need to wind down, consider spending a night under the stars to reap the health benefits of sleeping outdoors, besides what it’s doing for keeping your body-clock regulated. Stanford University finds nature is your perfect mental health prescription.
Re-Centering and Being Mindful
Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant, happy feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Nature soothes and allows you to live in the moment, your mind clear and absent of negative, worrisome thoughts. In addition, nature helps us cope with pain and heal quicker. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort, even actually feeling happy and more alive, allowing for healing to occur, as well.
This is nicely demonstrated in a now classic study of patients who underwent gallbladder surgery; half had a view of trees and half had a view of a wall. According to the physician who conducted the study, Robert Ulrich, the patients with the view of trees tolerated pain better, appeared to nurses to have fewer negative effects, and spent less time in a hospital. Ulrich’s theory said that humans have a deep-rooted affinity towards nature, which is due to the thousands of years that early humans had spent living amid the wild landscapes. Ulrich said,
We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature.
It’s no different for modern humans, due to this fact that staying close to nature brings a feeling of positively and happiness in us. More recent studies have shown similar results with scenes from just having nature’s live plants in hospital rooms. Furthermore, time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases our ability to pay attention. Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we can naturally focus on what we are experiencing out in nature. This also provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks.
One of the most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general well being. Are you moody, anxious, depressed, having trouble remembering things? According to a Harvard Medical School study, you can reverse these symptoms by simply taking a walk in the woods! Another study has shown that people suffering from mild to major depressive disorders showed significant mood uplifting when exposed to nature. Not only that, but they also felt more motivated and energized to recover and get back to normalcy.
Nature undoubtedly the best healer. Spending time in nature awakens our senses and provides clarity and allows you to completely enjoy the Best Of Camping. Many studies have proved that people who have a close connection to the landscapes are happier from the inside, and they indulge themselves in positive thinking and have better coping mechanisms than others.
A strong human-nature relationship means emotional balance, more focus, solution-oriented thinking, and an overall resilient approach to life. Other studies by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with a positive mood and psychological well being, meaningfulness, and vitality. In her book “Positivity“, Barbara Fredrickson cited spending time in nature as one of her five specific tips to help increase positive emotions and said:
The environment can play a big role in triggering or soothing stress, and researchers say the more green in your life, the better you’ll feel.
This experience of connection with nature may be explained by studies that used an MRI to measure brain activity. When participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up, but when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. It appears as though nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment. A series of field studies conducted by Kuo and Coley at the Human-Environment Research Lab, concluded that time spent in nature connects us to each other and the larger natural world and even the universe.
Sage Journals Environment and Behavior reviewed a 2009 study by psychologists at Oberlin College, who randomly assigned 76 undergraduates to take a ten-minute walk in the woods beside a small river or in an urban setting near buildings and concrete parking lots, and then to spend five minutes taking in the scene. The students who walked in the woods experienced not only more positive emotions, but also demonstrated significantly greater attention capacity and ability to reflect on life’s problems than those in the urban setting.
Staying close to nature, observing all the little and significant elements of it, and appreciating it from the very core, is therapeutic and self-healing, preventing depression disorders. Even by saying and doing nothing, we can learn so much from connecting and just being a part of our natural surroundings. It gives us the perspective for healthier living, uncomplicated and worry-free, the motivation to carry on, and the energy to keep trying. For there is no bond more primitive and ingrained in us than our love for nature and nature’s care for us. Oh, and by the way, do you think nature ever worries? Think about this statement for a moment:
All the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried
, by Donald Miller.
Nature heals, and it heals by creating a sense of awe! The sense of awe isn’t simply one of the positive emotive responses that springs from exposure to nature. It’s the prime mover, the root from which all desirable emotional starts such as happiness, contentment, giddy ecstasy, amusement, and so on, emerge. Craig L Anderson’s research published in the journal “Emotions”, concluded that awe was the only element that predicted whether people would feel less stressed and more “healed.” Further, awe, such as seeing a magnificent waterfall (2), for example, was the only emotion directly associated with nature. People would find contentment with their job, or gratitude from a stranger’s kind act, or joy at watching a favored sports team win, but only exposure to nature could induce awe. Said Anderson,
Only awe could predict whether people get better [from PTSD].
We hope you enjoyed reading about the incredible health benefits of nature which can be gained through taking a Best Of Camping trip. What are your thoughts? And, should you have questions, please leave them below.
(1) Silent Watcher video
(2) Meditation Relax Clips