by Dr. Jennifer Hammersmark, PhD, RCC
Do you remember camping as a kid?
Maybe you were lucky enough to belong to one of those families who were into camping. Or perhaps you were like me and had a friend whose family was willing to take you along. Whichever it may be, if you have ever been camping, you will already know that camping is a form of therapy all unto itself.
As a kid, camping provides special types of freedoms that kids don’t typically get to enjoy in their home environment: running around the campsite grounds unsupervised; making new friends; swimming in a lake at leisure. These are all good, healthy, outdoor activities that expand our imaginations and create confidence. Learning how to set up a tent and participating in campsite chores can also bring coherence to a family unit and proud feelings of tasks accomplished. Building a fire, or something as simple as hand washing the dishes after a meal, all contribute to growing self esteem and confidence.
As an adult, camping is one of those rare situations that naturally lends itself to the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness, as we all know, is the art of being in the present moment. If one is too often focused on the past (“I should have done this; I shouldn’t have done that”), this can contribute to depression. We are ruminating on things we can not change. Alternatively, if one is too often focused on the future (“I wonder what this will be like; I wonder what will happen”), this can create anxiety. We are worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. I have heard it said that Worry is a misuse of imagination, or Worry is praying for something you don’t want to happen. You get the drift.
Focusing on the past = depression.
Focusing on the future = anxiety.
However, focusing on the present = peace. Camping is by and large naturally being in the moment. What helps this to occur is being in nature, with no electricity, no devices, no laundry or any of that housework looking at you . . . Ahhhh, feeling better already?!
So consider trying some camping with your family this summer. If you already enjoy this activity, put it on the calendar and make it happen. If you are not a camper, consider joining a family that does — at least once. You can often borrow the essential equipment you need so that you do not need to put in a large investment.
Try it! You just might like it!
Jennifer Hammersmark, Ph.D., R.C.C., of The Counselling Group, has been working in the mental health field since 1984. She has a Doctorate Degree in Psychology and is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors. Jennifer enjoys working with individuals, couples and families and considers it an honor to walk with people through their pain and on their healing journeys.
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