5 reasons why a UK camping break is good for your heart and soul

23rd May 19 | Lifestyle

Being outdoors has numerous health and wellbeing benefits, positive psychologist Miriam Akhtar tells Sarah Marshall.

Camping in District Lake in summer near Buttermere

Pitching a tent can be a daunting prospect when there’s a risk of wind and rain. But setting up camp in a field or forest is easier than it’s ever been – and time spent sleeping outdoors is even proven to be good for your health.

Camping In The Forest ambassador and positive psychologist Miriam Akhtar advises on how kipping under canvas is improving mental health concerns for many people in the UK.

 1. Nature is a natural cure

“When you’re camping, you directly connect with the natural world around you. Natural environments offer a range of benefits for our mental health. We have completely underestimated the way in which the human brain is influenced by the physical environment and, in particular, by the elements of water, forests and animals. Having less contact with nature, particularly in your younger years, appears to remove a layer of protection for the mind against psychological stress. So, creating time to spend outdoors should be a priority from an early age.”

 2.  Forest Bathing is the new spa day

“The Japanese trend of ‘shinrin-yoku’, or ‘forest bathing’ as it’s known, was first initiated as a government scheme in Japan to improve public wellbeing. The practice encourages you to go outdoors into the woods and use your senses to experience being there, soaking up the special atmosphere of the forest and its calming effects.

“This practice is all about tuning in through the senses, paying particular attention to the environment around you. What do the trees look like? Get up close and take in all the different shades and textures of the leaves, branches and the trunk. By spending time in the forest, you can draw on the therapeutic powers of nature and connect with the natural environment around you.

“Basking in a forest can reduce psychological stress, depression symptoms and hostility towards others. It can also lift the mood, improve sleep, increase vigour and help you feel more alive. There is also research which shows it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones such as cortisol, and boosts your immune system.”

3.  Activates autonomy and adventure

“Camping delivers one of our fundamental needs for wellbeing – that of autonomy. It gives us the freedom during our time off to be able to wake up and find our own adventures, without limits. This sense of freedom is rarely found in our daily lives, whether through work pressure or the chores at home. Even when going to a hotel for your holiday, you don’t have the complete freedom that camping has to do your own thing. When we sleep outside, under the stars or camping, it’s as though we press the reset button and we are more present to what’s around us, pulling our thoughts away from the stresses of modern life.”

4.  Tops up on Vitamin G(reen)

“Exercise is one of the most effective natural antidepressants, alleviating mild-to-moderate depression and lowering anxiety levels, which in turn helps to generate a more positive outlook on life. Taking it into nature adds extra benefits. Green exercise is doing physical activities like walking, running or horse-riding in a natural environment, all of which are accessible activities when you’re camping.

“Health professionals suggest setting your own pace and that if you ‘start low and go slow’ you’re more likely to enjoy it and do it again. It only takes around five minutes of getting physical in a green space for it to start producing positive emotions. Green exercise in a ‘blue environment’ – such as a lake, river or the sea – leads to the greatest improvement in mood.”

5. It gives you a digital detox

“Nature vs technology is a battle which is affecting all of us, with children being some of the most impacted by the tech at their fingertips. Nature offers an instant digital detox. Camping is a good way to support a child’s mental health, particularly if they spend a lot of time playing computer games or are suffering from anxiety. Immersion in nature, counters the impact of online and urban living, and calms the brain. For example, viewing scenes of nature is associated with higher alpha brainwave activity and increased production of serotonin, known as the ‘happy chemical’, which helps to maintain mood balance. Going camping is a form of wilderness therapy.

 For more information about Camping In The Forest or to find your perfect campsite, please visit campingintheforest.co.uk.

© Press Association 2019