Camping - Prescription to Health

by Bruce Watts
There is a strong connection between mental and physical health with nature
There is a strong connection between mental and physical health with nature

It’s not a surprise to campers… the great outdoors improves your health. More notably your mental health. Your family doctor will likely agree that your physical and mental health are connected.

The report entitled "The Nurture of Nature: Natural Settings and Their Mental Health Benefits" hosted at “Minding Our Bodies” identifies a strong connection between mental and physical health with nature.

I’ve been house bound for the past 3 weeks with a foot injury and frankly I’m feeling inexplicably bummed, kerfuffled, and filled with a general malaise. I self diagnosed my funk as an acute shortage of nature.

I need nature STAT !

Natural settings such as parks and green spaces may be just what the doctor ordered to improve both physical and mental health.

The great outdoors is my playground. Such physical activity like paddling, hiking, biking and backpacking improves my physical health and I’ve always felt it gave me mental peace. Now the research confirms my personal experience. The positive relationship between nature, physical and mental health is overwhelming… essentially undisputed.

Connections to Nature

The evidence is clear. Nature is good for your mental health, however the reason is not so obvious.

It is generally assumed that we are meant to be connected with nature. After thousands of years of evolution, your body and mind coexist positively with nature to somehow improve human survival.

Nature gives us benefits like stress reduction and attention restoration, fatigue reduction, and cognitive improvements. The why is still speculation, yet the evidence of the positive relationship between nature and our mental health is clear.

The Evidence

  • In Nature - Being in and around nature improves cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune function, increases energy and attention, reduces anxiety, anger, fatigue and sadness.
    It’s not just a one and done. There are cumulative positive effects that improves coping with life’s inevitable bumps.
  • Viewing Nature - Just looking at nature gives positive gains.  Both physical healing and stress recovery are improved by simply looking at nature. This includes both real and artificial images alike. Hospital patients recover faster, students show less stress, incarcerated prisoners show improved mental health, and workers have improved job satisfaction, concentration, productivity and mood.
  • Green Exercise - All exercise is good. However when done outdoors, there appears to be even greater improvements to mental health. Positive effects include: improved mood and feelings, decreases in tension, confusion, depression, anger, and increased energy.
    Participants even enjoyed the activities more!
  • Healing - There have also been identified healing properties of “green exercise”.
    Including faster recovery from depression, anxiety and dementia, improved confidence, social skills, sleep and hormonal balance, and reduced agitation.
  • Attention - Hanging in nature also appears to improve attention. A simple walk in the woods seems to improve attention capacities.

Conclusion

The evidence is clear. Nature is good for your both your mind and body.

A prescription for improved mental health could read… a “dose” of nature every day, two “doses” on the weekend, 3 “doses” of green exercise weekly… and camp regularly!

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A blog for campers by campers. Bruce is the primary contributor, with regular posts from Tracy and friends.

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