I recently read a fascinating true account of Jill Neimark’s journey back to life after being left incapacitated by a devastating environmental illness. How did she do it? She lived outdoors by camping in a State forest. Her recovery seems in part due to exposure to natural sunlight, clean food, and fresh air free from toxins but also due to connecting daily and mindfully with nature’s subtle quiet energy.
This quote from her story really spoke to me: “…living outside changes you. You slowly unspool from civilization, and the more you embed yourself in nature, the deeper the alchemy. Most of us sense this; it might be why camping, hiking and wilderness adventures seem to be an ever-greater obsession.”
There’s some interesting research in this area examining what might be happening on a biological level. This short YouTube video outlines a little gem of a research project done at the University of Colorado by Kenneth P. Wright Jr., Ph.D. and some of his graduate students in the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab
In brief, they took baseline measurements of sleep patterns (time and duration of sleep) and melatonin levels on study participants. They then sent them off camping for a week where they were exposed to natural light and dark cycles. Researchers then took the same sleep measurements post-camping. The results suggest that artificial light changes our internal clock in potentially unhealthy ways. The good news is that you can reset your internal clock by spending time outdoors during natural light and dark cycles and by limiting your exposure to electrical light in the evenings.
The researchers recommend increasing your exposure to natural light by starting your day with a morning walk, raising the shades at home and work to let natural light in and taking a break from working indoors and going outside. They suggest decreasing your exposure to electric light at night by lowering the lights before bed and dimming the light on your electronic devices. More and more research is pointing towards the ill effects of disruptions to our internal clocks so take advantage of these easy lifestyle changes. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m going camping this weekend…
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