"Happy Campers" Turns Out to Be a Real Thing
Apparently, couch surfing does not, in fact, boost your mental health.
If you're having a bad day, you might want to consider breaking out the tents and sleeping bags. According to a new report, those who love spending time in the great outdoors camping are happier, more active, and feel less anxious than people who don't pitch a tent.
The study surveyed 10,992 people and dove into the benefits of camping. It turns out that the phrase "happy camper" isn't just a cheeky idiom—according to the findings, 48 percent of campers are happy compared to 35 percent of non-campers, and the campers "feel happy almost every day" even when they aren't camping.
The Outjoyment report includes data compiled by experts from Liverpool John Moores University and Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. Their teams built upon existing information about camping satisfaction published by The Camping and Caravanning Club.
This research aligns with other studies on the benefits of outdoors activities. A University of Michigan and Edge Hill University in England study found that taking nature walks was associated with much lower rates of depression. And a comparative study on "forest bathing" (the Japanese practice of spending time in the woods) by Environ Health Preventative Medicine found that "after forest bathing, those with depressive tendencies demonstrated significantly greater improvement."
Relaxing and unwinding in nature is a big reason why many opt to pitch a tent over other activities. The Outjoyment report found that 91 percent of those surveyed go camping because it makes them feel relaxed and that campers are 23 percent less anxious than non-campers as well.
Forty-four percent of campers would even go as far as to say they are "flourishing," defined as having optimal mental health, especially those who camp often. So it might not come as a surprise that 97 percent of campers surveyed said happiness is their top motivator for going camping.
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The mental health benefits of camping are part of the holistic health benefits many outdoors people find redeeming, as well. According to the results, campers are active by nature, with 98 percent of them enjoying outdoor activities in general: walking, cycling, and bird-watching were all additional outdoorsy hobbies campers engage in, too.
Forests, woodlands, beaches, and coastlines tied for first in terms of the main types of places people liked to go camping, with rivers, lakes, and canals coming in a close second. Twenty-six percent also said they enjoyed more urban green spaces, like parks and fields in city centers, meaning they're happy to set up camp as long as there is a patch of land.
Roughing it in the wild in a tent came in as the top camping setup preference according to the report, but those wishing to get close to nature without getting too close seem to opt for campervans, which came in second. Tent camping at a designated campsite and pitching a tent at a festival were also top choices.
If you're new to camping and want to seek out a bit of fresh air to boost your own happiness, many U.S. national parks offer campsites for an outdoorsy getaway. Glamping also offers the opportunity to connect with Mother Nature in style, no tent-pitching skills required.