No matter how you shake it, many of us are living through stressful times. Work stress. Home stress. Health stress. Maybe all of the above? If you’ve found your stress levels escalating lately, maybe it’s time to escape into the great outdoors and take a camping trip.
Articles about wilderness therapy and ecotherapy regularly pop up in mainstream magazines, and scientific research suggests that time spent outdoors can help reduce anxiety and mild to moderate depression. Whether you buy a tent or RV, or rent a cabin or glamping tent, spending time in nature is indisputably good for your mental health.
Here are six reasons why!
Tiny living is good for the soul
Most of us aren’t minimalists and probably never will be, which means most of us own too much stuff and spend too much time taking care of it. Why not leave it all behind for a weekend of tiny living in a tent, cabin, or RV?
Embrace your inner Marie Kondo and only pack necessities and things that spark joy. Having less stuff to worry about means you can spend more time hiking, biking, fishing, and pursuing your bliss in the great outdoors.
Keeping an RV, tent, or cabin clean and tidy is also a snap because they’re such small spaces compared to our homes. When you strip life down to the essentials, we often experience a clarity of mind that’s hard to experience at home. A camping trip can be a time to relax and have fun, but it can also be a time to think deeper thoughts about our lives and reorganize our priorities.
Camping combats nature-deficit disorder
An increasing body of scientific evidence suggests that many Americans suffer from nature-deficit disorder, which basically means we’re spending too much time indoors and too much time in front of our screens.
What are the symptoms of nature-deficit disorder? Anxiety, obesity, lack of focus, and even depression. While one camping trip may not solve all of our physical and mental woes, a consistent outdoor lifestyle might. And regular camping trips should be part of any consistent outdoor regimen.
But, if you have limited time off or don’t feel like trekking cross country, just keep it simple and camp close to home. Small adventures can have big rewards for our mental health.
Camping gives us opportunities for exercise and healthy eating
Sitting inside all day can be tempting in a house or apartment filled with all of life’s creature comforts, but sitting inside in a small space like a tent or RV (depending on the size of the RV) can be much less appealing. Camping drives us into the great outdoors and keeps us there all day.
You’ll be much more likely to spend time outdoors if there’s a gorgeous view right outside your doorstep. Many campgrounds also have options for hiking, biking, fishing and swimming just steps away from your site.
Many other types of vacations often lead to paying for expensive and oversized meals in restaurants, but camping trips allow us to make our own food and keep it as healthy as we want it to be.
Camping builds self-reliance
Heading out to the campground for a tent, cabin, or RV trip doesn’t have to be an exercise in survivalism if you don’t want it to be. But camping should inspire all of us to become more self-reliant. If you want to embrace your inner Bear Grylls, you can plan a backcountry camping trip. Or you can choose a private campground with a pool and a hot tub. It’s all up to you.
Either way, setting up camp and preparing your own food over an open campfire can teach all of us to rely less on others and more on ourselves. Packing up at the end of a trip also requires a bit of sweat, but putting in a little hard work makes you enjoy all of the fun moments even more. If you’re traveling with kids, camping will also allow you to teach them lessons about stewardship and personal responsibility. These are lessons they can carry forward for the rest of their lives.
Camping allows us to be social or seek solitude
Camping is a great way to reconnect with family and friends far away from the distractions of the modern world. Spending evenings in conversation around the campfire can refresh your spirit and strengthen relationships with those you care about the most. But camping is also a great activity for those seeking solitude in a gorgeous natural setting.
If you need time to meditate and find your inner Thoreau, then find a cabin or campsite that’s far away from the madding crowd. Camping can be whatever you want it to be. Just pick a campground and campsite that help you accomplish your goals for the weekend.
Camping gives us a new appreciation for home
We all need to get away and escape into nature. It’s good for our bodies and it’s good for our souls. The journey to the campground is filled with anticipation and excitement. The time spent at the campground can be relaxing or filled with high adrenaline adventure—or both. But the journey home is also important.
When you return home after a camping trip, you’ll find that your spirit has been refreshed and the cobwebs have been brushed away from your eyes. The familiar environment of your home will feel warm and welcoming again. You’ll also have new energy to tackle the week ahead of you—and to plan your next great camping trip. Very few of us go just once. Instead, campers return again and again seeking better physical health and better mental health.
The campground is always waiting for us to return.
Jeremy Puglisi is the co-author of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors and the co-host of “The RV Atlas” podcast.