Attentional restoration theory (ART) first proposed by Kaplan and Kaplan (1989) claims that urban environments suffer from an excess of stimulation that serves to dramatically capture our attention. People exposed to urban environments are forced to use their attention to overcome the effects of constant stimulation (described as hard fascination), and over time this in turn induces cognitive fatigue. In contrast, natural environments benefit from what the Kaplan’s term soft fascination, which refers to scene content that automatically captures attention while simultaneously evoking a sense of wellbeing. Generally speaking, natural settings do not pull at your attention relentlessly, forcing you to make decision after decision. Instead, they inspire quiet observation, appreciation and relaxation.
‘The natural world is often depicted as a restorative environment that replenishes one’s resources, while busy, crowded urban environments have often been considered attention and energy drains. Although these beliefs were long held as simply opinions and personal views, the last few decades have seen some empirical work on the idea that natural environments can restore and rejuvenate us, boost our attention, and keep us healthier.’ – Positive Psychology Program
‘When the demands of daily life get to be a little much sometimes all it takes is a brisk walk outside to simmer down and release some excess tension. The smell of fresh air and the subtle sounds of nature have the unique ability to cleanse our thoughts and help us escape. With more research into our connection with nature, science is always there to remind us that not only is spending time in nature a perfect way to unwind but is also an essential component to our mental health.’ – MindBody Vortex
It is obvious then that camping in a wilder, more natural location is the perfect way to invoke attentional restoration. People quite often are aware of the positive feeling of ‘escaping’ into nature without being able to express it in words. Camping also allows us to leave the clutter of things we surround ourselves with behind, thus removing distractions that can also cause stress. As humans we do have the ability to adapt and evolve but nowhere near as quickly as the rate of change that has happened in the last few thousand years with the development of cities, man-made materials and the infrastructure built from them.
In conclusion regular wilder camping trips – even for only a single night away – will help to keep the mind, body and spirit in balance and you may just have some fun too!