When you think “vacation” you might picture sunny beaches, all-night parties, laughs with friends, and probably also a few days lounging on the sofa and just catching up on your favourite TV shows.
No doubt, all of that stuff can be great in the right doses, but when was the last time that you used a vacation to really get away from civilisation as much as possible, and retreat into nature?
For some people, the idea of going for an extended camping trip (a week, for example) can seem pretty daunting, if not outright unappealing. After all, who really wants to have to deal with the struggle of going without easy access to hot showers, the Internet, and all the normal amenities of modern life, if it can be avoided?
Well, hold on just a second. When all is said and done, even if you’re not a natural mountain man (or woman) at heart, there are some real benefits to getting out of the city and into a beautiful natural setting such as Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, for a while. That is, practical benefits that can seriously impact your overall quality of life for the better.
Here are just a few of those benefits, to get you thinking.
Completely reset your circadian clock and eradicate insomnia within a few days
A huge number of us today struggle pretty immensely with insomnia, and weird, dysregulated sleep patterns. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling incredibly tired at 2 in the afternoon, only to feel wide awake at 2 in the morning, then you know all about this already.
There are a lot of reasons why increasing numbers of people struggle with getting enough sleep at the right times, and being awake at the right times, too. One of the key reasons is that bright light in the evenings suppresses the night-time release of melatonin, and tricks our bodies into missing the fact that it’s actually night-time, and that we should be winding down for sleep.
Here’s the interesting thing, though: researchers have found that taking insomniac subjects out into nature, for an extended camping trip, resulted in a total circadian rhythm reset, in roughly 3 days or so. Something about hiking around in the great outdoors, with the sun beating down on you during the day, and pitch blackness descending at night, really helps to set your body back on the right track with regards to its sleep-wake schedule.
If you’ve been tormented with a severely topsy-turvy sense of day and night for some time now, getting out into nature for at least a few days, without artificial lights, or tablets, laptops, or other digital devices, may work wonders to set you back on the right track.
Then, once your sleep-wake cycle has been properly reset, it’s just a matter of practising good habits when you get back home. In other words, dimming the lights in the evening, not using electronic devices within a few hours of bedtime, and so on.
Help you to slow the pace of your thoughts, get out of your own head, and appreciate the small things in life
Normal, everyday life can be extremely hectic, in all kinds of ways. Firstly, we have our jobs to preoccupy us, then we’ve got all the normal interpersonal stuff to deal with – arguments with friends and family, social obligations, remembering to buy birthday gifts, et cetera.
On top of all that, though, we’re also plugged into the “matrix,” in the sense of having the latest news headlines thrown at us 24/7, social media feeds to pay attention to, click-bait articles, and all that sort of thing.
One of the consequences of this is that we often feel completely distracted, burnt out, and confused, for a lot of the time. All of this can then feed a sense of anxiety, confusion, and discontent.
When you get out into nature, and do it without taking your smartphone and laptop with you, you “unplug” literally and metaphorically. The world takes on a slower and more peaceful pace, as you pay more attention to things like the weather, the tracks of animals, and the natural scenery around you.
This, then, helps to get you out of your own head, slow your racing thoughts, and remind you to appreciate the small things in life that you might take for granted over the course of your ordinary life.
Give you a new and helpful sense of perspective on issues that might have been hounding you in everyday life
Often, when we’ve got big problems that we are dealing with in our lives, and that take up most of our attention, it can be very difficult to find a sense of perspective and balance, nevermind identifying positive and effective solutions to the problem.
The issue here is, generally speaking, that we’re “too close” to the issue to detach ourselves a little bit, see it in any kind of objective way, and react accordingly.
Getting out into nature for a long camping trip put you in a completely different set of surroundings, and a completely different emotional environment and context. While this doesn’t necessarily “solve” anything outright, or remove the sting from the problem you’re experiencing, it does make it significantly easier to look at the whole situation from an “outsider perspective” and begin coming up with solutions.
When you’re surrounded by forest, mountains, and babbling brooks, your normal neighbourhood, apartment, house, workplace, et cetera, will naturally seem “further away” and maybe even more “abstract” in some sense. That’s a pretty good position to be in, generally speaking, when you’re concerned with seeing things from a fresh perspective.
A useful trick is to take a notebook and pen with you, and do some journaling, and flow-of-consciousness writing during your trip, in order to begin brainstorming and unravelling some of your thoughts and ideas, at the same time.