We already know that there’s lots of benefits for your daughter when she spends her summer at sleepaway camp. But it’s becoming increasingly evident that one of the most important benefits of all is restoring a holistic balance to her health in relation to the stressors and synthetic aspects of the modern world.
Anyone who spends time camping will tell you how wonderful it is to be out of doors — the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the adventure!
They’ll also tell you how refreshing and restoring it is for body and soul. After a long, strenuous hike, when one summits the peak with a panoramic view, or reaches the waterfall cascading down a rock face into a crystal clear pool mirroring the world above, the sense of wonder, awe, and accomplishment comes on strong and unmistakably.
After a long weekend trip or perhaps a week in the woods, one really feels rejuvenated, adjusted, and reconnected with both the natural world and oneself. And this view isn’t simply the musings of nature enthusiasts, but of scientists.
The data is in!
Spending time in natural light and away from electrical lighting makes a big difference in how our bodies function. For most of human existence, people relied on the natural light cycle to dictate sleeping and waking habits. Modern technology (phones, TV, computers) has certainly made disrupting that cycle much easier and more tempting.
Spending so much time in artificial lighting delays the increase in melatonin levels (that chemical we produce to help us fall asleep). Disrupting our natural cycle, according to this and many other studies, is “associated with negative cognitive performance and health outcomes,” including daytime sleepiness, reduced school performance, mood disorders, and more.
How do we remedy that in our modern world? What’s the prescription? Go camping! Unplug! Side effects may include better sleep, more energy, higher performance, and being happier.
If the science tells us two days is good, and a week is better, imagine three weeks of living in a tent, unplugged with no electricity. That’s how you reset your circadian rhythm!
“What about flashlights,” you ask? Even when flashlights were introduced, the results were still astounding because of the exposure to natural light all day.
Rest, Renew, Restore, Revitalize
We all need to have a healthy sleep cycle, but kids need it the most. This is just another reason why summer camp is so powerful for young people. Up and outside during the day, asleep and rejuvenating at dark.
Sigurd F. Olson, a favorite author of mine, wrote, “I know now as [wo]men accept the time clock of the wilderness, their lives become entirely different…When one finally reaches the point where days are governed by daylight and dark…and becomes completely immersed in the ancient rhythms, then one begins to live.”
For now, I’m going to open the blinds and windows, let the sunlight in, and dream of summer on the Greenbrier.
I hope your daughters will also be there, basking in the sun by day, singing around the primal fire by night, and falling asleep under the heavens, with only tree cover, moonlight and stars above the tents, nature’s symphony whispering and glimmering and making her new again.
For a lifetime of health that begins now, camp is a key ingredient!
— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls