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Camping for the Naysayers- not me ..not ever




This week, I want to encourage those of you who have always been naysayers about camping and getting out in nature . When I suggest that nature offers answers and relieves stress, you might roll your eyes and imagine that I want you to become a tree hugger who hangs paper towels out to dry or chant in the woods amongst wood nymphs.. Alternately, you might think that I expect you to hike 110 miles of rough terrain and bushwack through the woods. Forget those ideas, I am neither a big advocate of alternate lifestyles nor an extreme hiker. Rather, I am one who believes in finding the healing parts of nature in practical easy ways. Nature helps all of us emotionally, cognitively and physically. It can fit in well whether we carry a full time job, have a myriad of kids or just are too busy to wander off for days in the woods.


Honestly, I did not used to be an outdoors enthusiast, and It took just one family trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to squelch my interests. I smile as I recall how my cousin and fiancee wanted to go on a “fun and wholesome” hike. I imagined a simple walk in the woods of maybe three miles. Their ideas were different and we trekked a good eight to ten miles. Unprepared, without proper boots and definitely not in the elitist athlete’s shape, I returned from the experience with blistered feet, exhausted and cranky. I swore that I would never repeat that kind of experience again: miserable. After suffering through that Gatlinburg nightmare, I learned that no one needs to be a hard core hiker to get out and benefit from nature. A walk on a level well mulched path can do wonders! Forget the heroics, I want to share with everyone no matter what age or shape that it can be easy and rewarding to get outside.


As a CEO, I don’t get to spend as much time outdoors as I would like. My husband, Rusty, works here in construction in St. Louis, and I work primarily at home with the exception of a few business meetings. We don’t live in our campers and only camp on some of our weekends. However, despite our urban/suburban living and forty to fifty hour work week, I have learned a few great ways to incorporate nature into my life every single day without fail. It helps me maintain a good perspective and stay focused so that work is less stressful. At times when work gets really tough, it is my salvation.


At this point, you may be thinking, “ yeah,, no way is nature going to do that for me.” You might just want to hand inside all day and enjoy chips and screen time on the weekends. My hope is that you will think twice. In no way, am I suggesting you give up the pleasures of the couch or salty snacks but I do think there are ways to fit in nature whether it be for a few hours or a full weekend.


Below are some of the reasons nature is great for everyone:


First off, nature has been shown to help people with even the mildest cases of depression and/or anxiety. I know that I have had good days and bad days, and I think all of us go through hard times. Studies have shown that being outside can regulate serotonin that affects moods. For some, It can alleviate tension and for others it can fight depression. Nature’s an opportunity for a quick reset- no drugs, no psychoanalysis and no out of pocket deductible.


Another part of nature that is healing is that it makes one feel part of a greater whole. When I go outside, I realize that there are lots of things I cannot control. There are billions of things happening that have nothing to do with me, and it feels good to lose my self importance to something larger. In awe of the outside world, my business cares become insignificant ( even if just for forty five minutes)! Just this morning, I saw four deer trotting through the neighborhood, and I loved that they were following their own life. They could care less about me. When I am outside, I think of myself as an individual and as more connected to other living things. Nature is a kind of community of its own.


As well as feeling like I am part of a greater universe, nature quiets my brain. No worries...I am not going to propose that you start meditating every morning. However, I do think that nature has been a way to slow my brain and take it down a notch from overdrive 24/7. Nature can put me in a sort of daydream state, and I get lost sitting by a lake and focusing on my serene surroundings. That break allows me for a chance to recharge and reset. It also seems to restore my ability to be attentive once I go back to work.


Nature lends itself for some amazing sleep because it resets our internal clocks to a natural cycle. The light outdoors is much brighter and covers a broader spectrum of light than indoor light and this difference leads to a better night’s sleep. While camping, people can have several days to reset as they can go to bed when it is dark and get up at sunrise. Some functional doctors I have talked with actually recommend camping as a way to overcome sleeping problems.


Lastly, while those of you who are still skeptical about camping and getting out in nature, I want to mention that the camping community is really great. Most of the people are really nice and not judgmental. Unlike the grocery store, everyone is friendly and no one is in a rush. When I was a first time camper, people always offered to help. Now I find myself helping newcomers ,and I love it. Over the years we have met so many different and interesting people and we now have friends around the entire country. It is a good kind of community. No one cares about what you do or about how much you make; everyone is just enjoying nature together.


So naysayers, please think twice. I went from swearing off hiking and spending too much time indoors in the office to loving the outdoors as a happier, saner person. I promise that camping can be easy, affordable, not physically demanding. It can help you sleep, balance your work life, keep your sanity and make you more appreciative of your surroundings. Importantly, you don’t need to give up working hours.



Happy Camping,

Jessica

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