Camping is not just for campers and giggles. Duh, It is for Karaoke!! That grin you get as you roll out a sleeping bag, bed or get a campfire going has some serious science behind it. Find out why…
When you’re camping, you can’t help but take deep breaths. It feels so good to fill your lungs with that pure, pine scent. Or sea smell. Or hot desert breezes. The point is, wherever you are, that clear stuff you’re sucking in is actually clear. Away from the smog and close quarters of a crowded city atmosphere, you’re getting a cleaner dose of the oxygen you need. Better breathing leads to increased health leads to more happiness.
Even the laziest, most relaxing of camping trips involves physical activity—probably more than a typical day at home. Taking a short hike, setting up an A-frame, or doing anything that makes you break a sweat releases endorphins that help you feel good.
Birds singing. Flowers blooming. Gorgeous sunsets. A crackling fire. Yes, camping is romantic. Time devoted to the one you love can make you feel happy, and certain. Also, you share bonding and love with those around you!
Successfully working with others can boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, so cooperation can make you happier—and there are plenty of opportunities to cooperate while you’re camping. Coming together as a team to set up camp, prepare a meal, or reach a summit as a group makes every member feel good.
As important as positive social activity is for your mental well being, you shouldn’t forget the power of being alone. Camping gives you room and time for both, so don’t be afraid to step away from your companions and take some quiet time for yourself. You’ll feel better if you do.
You know that you feel better when you’re well rested, and if you get the rocks out from beneath your sleeping bag, you’ll sleep hard on your trip. A day of fun can lead to a night of solid rest, and you can always get more in a hammock the next afternoon if you need it. Exhaustion leads to unhappiness, so be sure to schedule shut eye. Both your body and your mind repair themselves while you sleep. Fewer aches, pains, and mental issues can make for happier living. Note to self, maybe 4 am karaoke may cause sleep issues… Damn it Elroy!
Good food makes you feel good, and since meal prep is a significant part of a successful camping trip, you’ll probably plan more efficiently and meticulously than you do for your regular breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at home. Assuming that you skip the junk food (or most of it, anyway), you’ll be eating healthy and giving your body a good balance of protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and all of the great stuff that goes into building a happy body and brain.
Connection to Life
There’s a hum that you feel more than hear when you’re camping. It’s made up of millions of unseen insects, and the larger creatures that call the wilderness home, and the living trees themselves. Recognizing that you’re a part of it all, too, is a great feeling. It’s even better if you stand on a rock outcropping at sunrise and belt out some Elton John lyrics about the circle of life moving us all.
Ah, Vitamin D. You should always wear proper sun protection, of course, to keep your skin healthy for years to come. But assuming you’ve spread the ‘screen, enjoy some happiness-delivering rays. Natural light, and lots of it, makes people happier—even on shorter, cloudier days in winter. Spending some time under the center of our solar system is the perfect antidote for SAD: seasonal affective disorder.
Setting goals and meeting them triggers a reward center in your brain, giving you a chemical prize for a job well done. Everything about camping can be seen as one pleasure-pushing to-do list, from scheduling the trip and packing everything you need to picking a far off point and hiking to it over the course of an afternoon.
Sense of Scale
This may not apply to everyone, but it works for me: When I see a seemingly fathomless lake or rugged mountain or thousands of acres of trees that are older than I am, my problems suddenly seem a lot… smaller. Something about the landscape communicates to me that the world will go on, and that makes me happier if I’ve been feeling burdened or overwhelmed.
I don’t need to spell out the health and happiness-inducing benefits of leaving behind work, life stress, and anything else weighing you down to spend some time in the wild world. Just imagine stepping away from your desk and not seeing a bill or deadline or overflowing inbox for a couple of days. Instead, when you wake up, you’ll see trees. When you sip your morning coffee, you won’t have a boss looming over you. See? You’re smiling already.
Studies have shown that clutter and its related complications create anxiety. When you strip down life to the essentials—and just a few extras, for a little fun—you give yourself a chance to spread out and just be you. After a good camping trip, you may be inspired to give your own home a more Spartan makeover to create a happier living space for day-to-day activities.
Whether you take photos, paint with watercolors, or simply mentally store away the images and experiences from your camping trip, you’ll be stocked with fuel for happy memories for years to come. Camping pays off in the moment, as well as in the future.
Of course camping makes you happier! How could it not? Camping is always full of Eureka! moments, like when you get the first catch of the day, finally reach the top of that grueling ridge trail or you master that song “Ice Ice Baby”. Camping and smiling end with the same three letters, so there’s got to be some sort of mystical connection there, right?
See you soon Northside Bitches!