Connecting to nature and our surroundings can hugely benefit our wellbeing and mental health, making a touring holiday the ideal remedy to our ongoing blues…
The Mental Health Foundation has made “Nature and the Environment” its theme for Mental Health Awareness Week – May 10-16.
With ongoing uncertainties around international travel, we may need to look closer to home to enjoy time in nature. From the mountains of Scotland, to the valleys of Wales, the dramatic peaks of the Yorkshire Dales and the untamed beauty of the Cornish coast, Britain has plenty to offer the intrepid traveller seeking an escape into nature.
Ed Bassett, Head of Wanderlust at van hire company Camptoo, says, “It’s fantastic that the Mental Health Foundation has recognised the importance of nature for better mental health, as it’s something we, at Camptoo, advocate ourselves.
“Whenever I escape into nature for a few days, I always feel the benefits long after I return home. There is something primal and simplistic about sleeping under the stars, or waking up with the sunrise, that helps me to recalibrate and reset – particularly during stressful periods.
“By travelling with Camptoo, you and your bubble can go wherever you want, at your own pace, and in a campervan that caters to your every need. We’ve seen a 130% increase in bookings over the past week, as more Brits seek to stay closer to home and take advantage of everything a staycation can offer this spring and summer.”
Here, Ed shares his top reasons to consider a camping break to boost wellbeing.
We’re all guilty of spending too much time on our phones and in front of screens, but studies continually show the benefits of taking regular breaks from tech. If you’re lucky enough to be able to get away and enjoy a rural break, take advantage of the lack of phone signal and Wi-Fi and embrace being more present as a result.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the constant amount of information and images vying for our attention. However, remember you have the power to be in the moment and enjoy your surroundings and time with loved ones. Switch off gadgets occasionally, remove instant notifications, and make a conscious effort to reduce screen time.
Immersion in nature counters the impact of online and urban living as it helps to calm the brain, and even increases production of serotonin, known as the ‘happy chemical’ which helps to maintain a balanced and positive mood. A good serotonin boost can also improve focus and concentration levels, lower levels of anger and anxiety, and promote higher confidence and self-esteem. So, if you are lacking these feel-good hormones, start planning a trip to nature asap.
On a camping trip, it is likely you will naturally do more exercise such as walking or hiking. Campsites near the coast, mountains or forests are a great option if you fancy a more active trip. Reap the benefits of getting your heart rate up and endorphins flowing by cycling, taking a hike, or paddling a kayak – we recommend checking out the various tours operated by Call to Adventure for those seeking a fun but challenging experience.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps to regulate your sleep and wake cycles. When working in artificial light for long periods your melatonin levels can be suppressed. Natural light outside exposes you to melatonin-friendly yellow light, which can help you achieve a more natural alignment of the sleep-wake cycle with sunrise and sunset. So, rely on nature’s natural light to wake you up, and you will rise feeling more refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
Develop outdoor skills
Camping means the removal of our modern home comforts and a return to simpler living. Your campervan will likely have electricity and gas, but you’ll need to be clever with how you utilise these resources. Build your outdoor skills and consider cooking over a campfire – if it’s safe to do so and within the rules of your campsite. You’ll gain knowledge of how to build a safe fire and how to cook with it, which will undoubtedly come in useful on any future camping trips.
Use a map to navigate on walks and bike rides (and teach your kids how to read one) rather than relying on your phone’s GPS app. If you’re pitching a tent, take the time to read the instructions and teach yourself how to do it, rather than relying on YouTube video tutorials. These valuable skills will come in handy at any stage in life.
The power of nature on perspective
The effect of the natural world on our mental health relates to how our senses connect us to the environment around us. Being immersed in nature allows our minds a break from gadgets and email notifications, instead stimulating a more primal area of the brain. Being surrounded by the wonder of the natural world can remind us that we’re just a small part of something much larger, making our worries seem less troubling.
Forest bathing, a technique used in Japan, is growing in popularity and encourages us to be at one with nature by using all the senses, and taking in the surroundings through the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet.
Watching water is particularly meditative – seeing the tides change or water from a river course its way across the land reminds us that the world keeps moving forwards, and we will progress in the same way.
Reconnection with loved ones
After 12 months cooped up within the same four walls, you and your bubble are likely looking forward to a change of scenery. The act of planning and going on a camping holiday among nature could be all it takes to refresh your perspective and help bring you closer together.
Camping can help foster stronger connections and bonds – we’re all more relaxed and care-free when on holiday, so more likely to enjoy fun and games that we normally wouldn’t have time or energy for. Another bonus is simply enjoying the happy memories made during the trip for years to come. We recommend packing a zero-waste disposable camera to capture memories without the need for your phone.