kids crawl over log over watering hole

Five Things Create Whole-Person Happiness

Camping achieves all five of them

We live on the edge of the mighty Morton National Park. This Autumn, my family stepped into nature’s paintbox and went wild.

On the first day, the children climbed a ten-foot eucalypt near our tent. There was a flat rock at the bottom. My little girl and boy lifted heavy stones and smashed them in two.

They examined the colours, categorised them into little piles, and rubbed them onto the flat stone. It became the bushland makeup tablet. 

Each morning, I was asked to make two selections. Usually, I chose cinnamon and lemon myrtle. Or cinnamon and peachy red. I uncovered my forearm and received my tribal stripes for the day. They were painted by my nine-year-old. Then I painted hers.

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Dr Tal Ben-Shahar is a happiness coach for the world’s biggest companies.

Dr Shahar uses the five-pronged acronym SPIRE to help people achieve whole-person happiness. Camping achieves all five.

Spiritual

All people, regardless of what we believe, need to do the thing that gives us meaning. Businesses have mission statements. Nonprofits have purposes. Same thing. 

For us, nature is our cathedral, so this is easy. 

It’s also the place of many gullies: home of the Gundungurra first peoples. You can feel the energy. We ask for protection when we go there, pay respect to the Elders, past, present and emerging, and acknowledge their rightful ownership.

steps cut into the national park at fairy bower

Physical

Walking through the bush is the ultimate in neuroplasticity, as well as muscle toning for the calves, thighs, and core. It’s the unpredictability of each step. As people with MS, we have to tread carefully but it’s good for us.

The lungs inflate with oxygen. The heart gets a gentle workout that triggers a blissful neurochemical cascade.

But it’s so much more than body health. Nature is good for our mental health. We need it. Humans need to be in nature some of the time, not a concrete jungle because we are part of nature. Like our brains, bodies, and spirits, everything is connected.

Intellectual

Einstein said if you want to understand anything better, spend time in nature and it will make sense.

The intricacy of a fern. The patterns in nature. 

In this place, there is sixty thousand years of indigenous history. Is it an oddly shaped rock? Or was it a grinding stone?

Relational

When you’re camping, you’re vulnerable. Everyone has to present. There’s no wandering off to do your own thing, you have to stick together. Help each other. You eat, drink, discover, swim, play, and sleep in a pile like newborn pups. 

We have a simple two-man tent.

Camping is like playing cubby houses for adults. It’s a leveller. The children become more grownup and the adults become child-like. We are all living in the moment, every moment, out in the wilderness. 

my daughter in state of mindfulness and sunlight

Emotion

Generally speaking, family life is Dickensian. It’s the best of times and the worst of times. But you get to do it all together. 

You don’t just see an incredible sunset. You feel the liquid gold sunshine, you witness the drama of storm clouds, shooting stars, the milkiness of our galaxy, the blazing apricot trail of a meteor. You experience the elements.

Nature is a gift to the observer. Pay attention and you’ll be rewarded. 

In Summary

SPIRE is useful to keep in mind so that we can fully use our minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits. This is what makes people happy.

Camping is an activity that lets you do everything. The benefits stay longer than the camping trip, they stick with us for weeks and weeks. We’re all calmer, kinder, more aware, and grateful for our comforts at home. And happy. Whole-people happy.

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