Humans have always been connected with each other. It is deep within our nature to seek out the approval of others and to have them linked to us in some form or fashion. In the modern era that means we spend a lot of time, effort, and energy attempting to connect with friends, family, and even strangers online. Social media allows us to share our stories, photos, and video from our adventures and it gives people a platform to share thoughts and ideas. We now appear to be more connected to each other than ever before in human history.
This, of course, presents a unique problem for people. We have managed to evolve the world around us faster than we have evolved our minds and bodies. Humans are still very much “in the woods” when it comes to our evolutionary history. Given the whole span of human history, we have only spent the last few hundred or so years where we are not as dependent on nature in order to survive. This is where the problem comes in, for all the connections we have we need now more than ever to have a stronger connection with the wild, by unplugging.
What do I mean exactly by unplugging? I mean most of us rely on some form of modern technology for camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. We use the GPS to find locations or to geo-cache. We use our as cameras a lot but I personally use my phone to store maps and other information (like fishing locations) for easy access. So I am not talking about ditching these great tools to return to a more old school style approach.
What I mean by unplugging is getting away from the “modern” and connected world so that we have time to recharge and reset our own internal computers and systems. To really explain why we need to experience this lapse in connection, I will explain what happens to us and social media.
Time spent on social media is essentially a lot like a drug, and it’s quite an addicting one at that, so its hard to really see what I am explaining as a problem. When we are on social media we are all looking for instant gratification, we all want to feel those wonderful endorphins when someone “likes” or shares our posts. We all want that justification that what we say, think, and do is justifiable to others. It’s our constant search for approval and validation that drives us to stay on social media.
Going out into the woods and going away from all of that rests that system within us…you start to care less and less about that “online” validation because you have replaced that feeling with something else, more tangible. You get pride, self-confidence, and the ability to endure.
When we step outside of our modern lives and go out into the wild with just what we have on our backs to set up camp, fish, or whatever outdoor recreational activity you have planned, something happens. I can sit here and wax poetic all day about what that change “is” but really it’s quite simple and less poetic. When we are in the woods we live deliberately and in the now. Something we do not do in our “modern” lives.
Animals tend to only worry about whether or not they are alive right now, in pain right now, hungry right now or tired right now. They do not worry as much about tomorrow, they do not worry about yesterday, they really only ponder the day in the present. So when we enter the wild we sort of do the same thing, out of necessity. We worry about starting a fire, getting food prepared, fresh water, making our camp comfortable and secure. We start to return to a more stable and natural state. We start to care less about “time” and more about “now”.
When you are in the woods your schedule is dictated by the sun and the weather. Not you. You wake up when the sun is up, and go to bed when it is dark. If its rainy and nasty out you do a lot less outside than you maybe would when it is nice and sunny. So since it is out of our hands its easier to accept in the woods, because its nature and we all know you simply cannot fight nature. So you eat when you are hungry, drink when you are thirsty, rest when you are tired…you are living how humans were meant to live.
This allows our minds and bodies to reset. When we return to the wild and let go of the social pressures and drives that society places on us, we literally feel a weight lift off our shoulders. For a few hours, days, or even weeks at a time people retreat to the wild to re-group. So what exactly is re-set?
For starters, your body adjusts to sleeping when it is dark, and you being awake when the sun is out. So this means you are getting plenty of sunlight and all the positives that come from exposure to sunlight. You are getting a dose of sunlight can help your body naturally develop serotonin, which helps fight depression. The light enters the eye and this triggers a special area in the retina that causes the body to produce this wonderful and natural “drug”. Just being in the sun for a few moments can really impact your entire day so being out in the woods for a long weekend gives you a lot of exposure to those joy-joy feelings.
Since you are more physical throughout the day this drives you to consume more food and water. Generally speaking our diets and eating habits in the modern world are terrible. We eat when we can, not when we are hungry. We eat what is fast and available to it fits into our schedules. Since our bodies are more in control of our schedules in the wild, we simply eat when we are hungry. It might even seem like we are eating more while we are camping, and we probably are. Being in the sun, breathing in fresh and clean air, walking around, and just the simple act of being outside of the modern world just makes you feel more hungry. So since we are eating and drinking water more when we camp we have more energy due the calories and hydration.
Since everything involving being in the woods is at some level an expenditure of energy (making a fire, setting up a tent, hiking, casting a fishing rod, walking next to a creek) and since we are eating and drinking more “naturally” we rest better. Now, this, of course, will depend on how well you sleep in the bush, and how comfortable you set up your camp…if you do it right you will never feel more rested. You will sleep, a hard sleep. You are actually tired, and not wired from endorphins, caffeine, anxiety, and depression. Your mind will let you sleep because its had its entire day occupied with the “right now” and it will be too tired to let you worry about the “what ifs”.
Going out into the wild is essential for us for modern survival. We need to be tired, we need to be hungry because of physical activity, we need the sunlight on our face, we need clean air in our lungs, and we need to step away from the “plugged in” nature of our new world, and make attempts to return to the “unplugged” real world. Take the time, make the change, and you will see the difference.