We have a natural circadian rhythm that controls our sleep cycles. With modern technology, like artificial lighting and electronics, these internal clocks have been skewed an average of two hours, which affects our sleeping patterns.
Camping can help you reset your clock to a more natural sleeping rhythm, allowing you to synchronize your internal circadian clock with the natural light-dark cycle. Research has shown that people camping outdoors for a week or longer found that their sleep pattern shifted about two hours, so they went to sleep earlier and woke up more refreshed and rested.
Serotonin is a chemical produced by our bodies that affects our brains and makes us feel happy. Increased oxygen intake, sunlight exposure and physical activity increase our serotonin levels, which are all staples of camping outdoors.
Spending time near lots of trees allows you to take in more oxygen, and let's face it, there's nothing like that first deep breath of fresh air at a campground! You also get more exposure to direct sunlight, which increases you vitamin D and allows your body to absorb calcium and phosphorous – nature's secret recipe for happiness. Physical activity and exercise have obvious health benefits such as improved circulation and are both unavoidable when your living in the wilderness – even for a short while.
The most obvious deterrent is the lack of fast food restaurants in the woods. Generally speaking, camping can lead to much better choices in food intake, but you still have to make a conscious effort not to bring a lot of fatty snacks and foods. Granola, trail mix, natural berries, lean meats and vegetables are all great options when camping.
Of course, a s'more never hurt anyone either – it's all about moderation. Keep it as healthy as possible, but leave some fun snacks as an option too!
With everyone so inundated with technology these days, camping forces families to work together and reconnect with communication that doesn't come from a cell phone or tablet. Recent studies have shown that socializing can extend your lifespan and delay memory problems.
In a world that has become so hectic in pace, we must re-train ourselves how to relax again. Unplug from the world and remember the five L's of a strong family unit: learning, loyalty, laughter, love and leadership.
Expect the unexpected. This is a good rule to follow with any vacation, but seems to apply even more when you're camping. From finding your camping site and setting up the tent to building a campfire and cooking dinner, problems are bound to come up.
Camping has a way of jump starting our brains and forces us to figure out these problems. Our cognitive thinking skills help us come up with useful solutions to solve inevitable challenges that will present themselves. The problem solving skills used during camping can help train your mind to think and become better at solving complex problems that arise and allow us to cope better with the task in front of us.
So discover the great outdoors this summer during your next family vacation and welcome all of the added health benefits as well. Unplug from the outside world and reconnect with nature – your mind and body will thank you for it!