Camping: Good For Your Health & Available To ALL

Camping: Good For Your Health & Available To ALL

I’m back from a camping vacation. It’s the most incredible experience. Every two years my Spiritual Partner’s side of the family (I prefer that term to husband) congregate at our Mother Jj’s place on the Applegate river in Oregon. We all camp out, cook out, breathe in the fresh air, love on each other and float the river when the temperature heats up.

This year we brought our two granddaughters, and part of my nourishment came from watching how much they’ve matured, how they interacted with people and showed general good manners. That’s their parent’s dedication in action and it is FUN to witness!

This trip was a total RESET for my well-being and that left me wondering…

Do You Nurture Yourself With a Natural Reset Like This?

Camping is a great way to balance hormones – you probably know that too.

I’m taking this opportunity as a reminder of the other health benefits of camping, AND how to integrate an EVERYDAY VERSION of these incredible self-care practices into your regular routine.

1. When camping, you are isolated from technology and typically are more physically active.

In the “space” freed up by eliminating email, computer games or TV, it is natural to walk, hike, swim or in our case, tube the river. Even the physical activity of setting up your camp site is a combination of strength training and cardio. In addition to benefits such as increasing metabolism and increasing oxygenation, exercise causes the temporary release of Endorphin and Serotonin. Exercise doesn’t always have to look like a gym! While camping you’ll work in more movement daily, simply in getting around, making your meals and entertaining yourself without modern conveniences.

EVERY DAY VERSION: Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car at the far end of the parking lot, build something, garden, get a push mover for your lawn . . . you can even make doing laundry into exercise if you shift from thinking of “how do I cut out steps and get this done quickly” . . .  to . . . ”how do I make this task I need to do anyway into “reps” of exercise and work up a sweat?” Do things the HARD way to do your body good!

2. Camping resets your Circadian Rhythms.

These are the inherent rhythms – the pace of your body (mental, physical and behavioral) that occur over a 24 hour cycle. Circadian Rhythms are controlled by your body’s natural clock, and influence your sleeping and waking up, along with hormone release and your body temperature, which can affect your weight gain or loss among other things.

Alarms clocks are NOT necessary when you live by your Circadian Rhythms!

When you use an alarm clock to wake up earlier than your body’s natural rhythm, you throw yourself off balance and become vulnerable to hormone imbalance, weight gain and other health issues. Less than 6 hours of sleep a night restricts the blood flow to your brain, compromising your ability to think and make decisions, as well as, damaging your memory. Sleeping out under the stars with the sunrise and sunset as your only guide RESETS your Circadian Rhythms.

EVERY DAY VERSION: Take a weekend where you hide the clocks, and shut off your phone and internet ENTIRELY. Allow day light and dusk to be the only indication of what time it is!

3. When you camp, you BREATHE . . . and have access to fresher air.

In general, air quality in our modern world is poor, and your brain needs 20% of the oxygen you take in. That means your brain can’t perform to its highest ability if the air you breathe is low oxygen and/or polluted with toxins.The great outdoors offers higher quality of air, and large groups of plants and trees, that put out oxygen and share high quality air. Not to mention, being in the outdoors causes you to relax and breathe DEEPER taking this beautiful, fresh air to the lower lung. You can think of this as “a yoga-pranayama” because you will force a release of the stale air that is trapped in the lower lung from shallow breathing. There’s another bonus to spending time outside in the fresh air . . SUNSHINE! You know that sunshine is needed for Vit D and Vit D is critical to the production of Serotonin . . . the brain chemical that helps you “go with the flow” in life!

EVERY DAY VERSION: Spend time outside EVERY day, take a walk before work or at lunch, bring house plants into your home and work environment and practice DEEP breathing. Think of this as MEDICINE!

4. Camping lowers your stress for many reasons and the #1 way might surprise you!

You might be thinking that camping slows you down and gets you away from every day triggers and you’d be RIGHT. You might not know that the #1 stress your body faces is . . . FOOD!  When you are camping, you tend to eat more simply. You have fewer resources and can only bring a limited supply of food and snacks, so you also tend to eat less. The routine of camping lends itself to three meals a day and simple, natural snacks (especially if you pick berries on a trail). The basic kitchen set up of a camp prevents OVER eating because, let’s face it, if you run out of food . . . you are stuck! You may eat a few questionable foods like say . . . s’mores while camping (what IS a marshmallow anyway?) but overall, you’ll likely eat less because it is not as easy to mindlessly overindulge.

EVERY DAY VERSION: Buy a week’s supply of food for the week and tell the entire family that if you run out . . . that’s it. Or set a number of times the refrigerator door can be opened in any one day. Help yourself and your family become more conscious of what they eat and why.

[Tweet “Mindfulness can help you distinguish true hunger from cravings, boredom or merely habit.”]

5. While camping you socialize without agenda.

We are social beings by nature. On a physical, microscopic (and spiritual) level, we are all one. Yet so much of our interaction with each other can be more a purpose or motive. Observe yourself for one day and see WHY you talk to the people you talk to. Do you have an “outcome” in mind? Who do you pass over? Is it because the mind thinks there is nothing to gain in talking to them?  These are subtle, subconscious thoughts that don’t mean you are a bad person. It’s a societal habit. We focus on that which serves our interests versus the act of connecting itself. ALL that changes when you are camping.

You will find yourself in a campground with strangers. Yet you have the “time” to chat anyway. Let’s be honest . . . you might feel a bit bored and begin to seek out this human connection. How fabulous is that? When camping, you’ll likely socialize with people you would not slow down to SEE in your day to day life.

EVERY DAY VERSION: Make a point each week to go somewhere you wouldn’t typically go, like a park, and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. It could be a homeless person. It could be someone who doesn’t “look” like you. It doesn’t really matter who it is as long as you don’t know them. Share and LISTEN. It can be life changing! It will give you a sense of community and family on our planet that goes FAR beyond your blood relatives and coworkers. Yum!

6. Camping brings you new challenges.

New challenges (and all variety) are very good for your brain. New challenges keep the neurons firing and help you create new neural pathways. While camping, you’ll likely have a series of unexpected “problems” to solve. A part for the tent is missing, your camp fire won’t light, there’s no port-a-pottie . . . hmmm . . .these are great opportunities for human ingenuity! In addition, if you are camping with your family, these are great opportunities for each family member to contribute and perhaps contribute to the whole in a way they’ve never done before. You’ll gain respect and admiration for each other in a whole new way.

EVERY DAY VERSION: Get out of your routine! Try new hobbies or adventures on a regular basis. The brain needs new stimulation to be its best and so does your mind. In fact, one thing the greatest brains of our times have in common is that they find something new and become an expert at it. Don’t stick in your comfort zone . . . explore new sports, games and puzzles. Keep your “head” active.

I’ve made my case . . . I hope you go camping this summer. I’d love to hear about your trip and what you liked most about it.  Comment or email me at leah@onewholehealth.com.

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