The mental health benefits of spending time outdoors have been well documented. In fact, thanks to successive pandemic lockdowns we all learned the hard way that being forced to stay indoors is bad for our mood. But what is it about being out in green spaces that makes us feel so much better? And does it follow, then, that glamping is one of the most mentally healthy holidays you can choose?
Obviously we think the answer is yes. But let’s ask science!
What does the data say?
Back at the beginning of 2022, a joint research team from two UK universities conducted a study to find out more about reported mental health benefits of camping, glamping and caravanning.
Campers and glampers are more likely to report good mental health than non-campers. They are less likely to be anxious or stressed, and they score significantly higher levels across six key dimensions of psychological well-being. Not only that, regular campers report significantly higher levels of nature connectedness than those who choose not to camp.
So what is it about glamping that make such a difference to our mental wellness?
There has been lots of interest in recent years about the benefits of spending time outside of the house. In fact researchers have concluded unanimously that it benefits us physically, mentally and emotionally.
From increased vitamin D and serotonin to a boost in immunity. Studies have shown that time in nature — as long as you feel safe — is an antidote for stress. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels. It can calm the nervous system, boost the immune system, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood.
In fact time outdoors is so important, researchers concluded that, “Nature is not only a nice to have, but a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function”
We work in offices, we spend our free time chilling with Netflix. We spend more time than previous generations indoors or in urban areas with limited green space. Our ancestors used to understand the benefits and the beauty of being surrounded by nature. But somewhere along the line many of us have forgotten just how natural it is to connect to the world around us.
That moment of quiet, simply watching the trees sway and the birds swoop and glide, can have a profound calming effect on both mind and nervous system. Paying attention to all of our senses and noticing the details around us, gets us out of our head and reminds us we’re just a small part of this world. And importantly, it gives our brain a well-earned break from the constant assault of thoughts, feelings and stimulation.
This study published in the journal Landscape Research even found that wildlife encounters themselves – “ observing and interacting with wildlife in their natural habitat” – can improve
people’s feelings of well-being and relaxation.
It’s not just about us! Children are also spending more time in the home than previous generations. We only have to compare our own childhoods to those of our children to notice the difference. The rise of screen-based media and fears related to safety can mean that for many children the only time spent outside is during school breaktimes.
One study published in The British Journal of Sociology tracked trends from 1975 to 2015, finding that children now spend significantly less time outdoors. And much of the time they do spend outside is engaged in organized sports and activities rather than unstructured play – something
psychologists say is extremely important for the physical, social and emotional health of children.
Glamping provides the perfect opportunity for hours of safe, unstructured play.
It makes sense that campers and glampers – those staying in campsites or more remote settings – are more likely to spend time walking, hiking or engaging in physical activities. But, did you know that exercise done in a natural environment actually gives you more of a boost than physical activity that takes place indoors?
A 2019 study found that exercising in natural settings could have more positive mental health effects than other types of exercise. Outdoor exercise environments were felt to have a greater stress- reducing effect due to the more calming environment and natural lighting.
So, whether you’re rolling down the hills with the kids, you’re heading off for a wander to a local landmark, or you’re just doing a spot of yoga on the veranda in the morning. The fact that you’re in the fresh air and surrounded by nature means you’ll be getting more mental health bang for your
buck, so to speak.
We’ve all heard the expression ‘a change is as good as a rest,’ and it rings very true when it comes to a glamping holiday. Yes you still have the kids to look after. Yes there are still meals to provide. And yes, almost certainly someone will injure themselves and you’ll need to perform first aid duties on a grazed knee.
However, you’ll also have a world of activities available to you that you wouldn’t normally do. You could visit pretty local villages for coffee and cake, soak up the view at a National Trust property or simply unwind in the relaxing hot tub with a glass of wine.
Whatever you choose to do, getting off grid and away from the day to day routine of normal life can give you a healthy dose of brain space, an opportunity to take stock, and downtime away from the constant demands and ‘should dos’ of home life.
In short, you might just find the space to breathe a little bit deeper.
Why is it we sleep so deeply when we’ve spent the day out in the fresh air?
There are actually lots of reasons.
One study found that “naturalistic sounds can increase the tone of the parasympathetic nervous system”. Put simply that means that when we’re surrounding by sounds of nature – whether that’s birds singing, leaves rustling or the sound of raindrops on canvas – we’re scientifically more likely to relax and sleep soundly.
While another found that taking natural light into the eye first thing and spending the large part of the day outside helps to reset our natural circadian rhythms. This means that while glamping we naturally produce sleep hormone melatonin earlier than we would if we were inside our electrically lit home. So say hello to a blissful early night!
Other studies find that an increase in fresh air improves sleep and concentration by reducing CO2 levels in the bedroom. And of course, all of the anxiety and stress-reducing benefits above should also contribute to good, sound sleep for all the family.
Plus, if you’re staying with us at Hadspen Glamping we pride ourselves on the comfort of our beds.
It’s not a secret that excess screentime and social media use can increase anxiety and stress levels as well as impacting feelings of self-confidence and overall happiness. The constant barrage of incoming information, phone notifications, pleas from kids to use the iPad and ‘just one more thing’ emails from the boss are wreaking havoc with our ability to focus and take a much-needed mental break.
Many studies have found that “using phones during our leisure time interferes with our ability to psychologically disconnect from work and recover from the stress and demands we face on a daily basis.” They conclude that choosing to unplug gives us the time and space we need to decompress and recharge. The impact is far-reaching, helping us to feel better mentally and be even more effective when we return to work.
So what better reason to ditch the screens? We promise, if you’re glamping with us you’ll be so busy you won’t even notice!
If you went camping or caravanning as a child, there’s a good chance you look back at those times with nostalgia. Long summer holidays spent running barefoot with new friends, cheeks freckled, hands grubby, playing out until long after your normal curfew. And there’s a reason you look back so fondly.
Multiple studies have found that campsites, more than any other type of holiday accommodation, create special memories and actually improve family bonds. And building on these, one 2022 study, looked into whether taking part in family-led nature-based activities throughout childhood improved the quality of our relationships with other family members as we enter adulthood.
The answer was a resounding yes.
Interestingly, the same effect was not found from families engaging regularly in sports or other entertainment activities.
So there’s a reason we say the family that glamps together stays together. Actually we don’t say that, but maybe we should.
Fancy a mentally healthy holiday with us at Hadspen Glamping?