Ecotherapy for Mental Health Awareness Week.
The mental health charity Mind recently commissioned a report which has shown that being outdoors, whether it be growing food, gardening or undertaking conservation work, has a hugely beneficial impact upon mental health. Camping is one of the best ways to get outdoors and have fun whilst easing mental stresses and strains.
The Guardian says that ‘we are twice as likely to be emotionally distressed if we are urban rather than rural (and four times more likely to suffer schizophrenia). Part of the reason for this is estrangement caused by lack of exposure to natural sights, sounds and smells, to dislocation from the natural rhythms of the seasons, of night from day. Ecotherapies work because they reconnect us with nature; its external reality but most fundamentally, our inner natures.’
Of course, ecotherapy must not replace medication or other forms of therapy for mental health, but can be a very useful addition to more mainstream therapies.
Camping is the ideal ecotherapy, covering so many elements that are calming and confidence boosting. The purpose of packing for an adventure, forcing our brains to become organised. Then the camaraderie of our companions; the fun of a road trip, giving us a sense of togetherness.
Add to this the challenge and reward of setting up a camp, erecting your living space, and creating a cosy place to sleep – simple acts of self-care, with the basics of survival the focus, rather than any other mind-clutter. Then simply sitting by the fire and watching the flames flickering, with the stars shining above – can there be any better form of mindfulness?
Often, the fact that campsites are in the middle of nowhere, no WiFi or 3G, means that you are forced to take a screen break - which has also been shown to be beneficial to mental well being.
To wake to birdsong and dew, being immersed in the depths of nature, and to have the freedom of an OS map and a good pair of boots...heaven.
I can still recall my many camping experiences, they are so firmly and fondly fixed in my memory banks, because they have always been good times in amazing places.
I’m planning this summer’s trips now, and can’t wait to get out there.
Do you find yourself more relaxed when camping? Do you sleep better outdoors? Have you noticed a change in your children's behaviour when they spend more time outside?
Let us know how the Great Outdoors benefits you and your family.
- Siani Driver