Everybody is talking about The 3-Day effect right now.
The 3-Day effect is a look at the science behind why being in the wild for a minimum of three days can make us happier, healthier and more creative. Scientists have proven that 3-day + immersions in nature reduce anxiety, enhance creativity and boost overall well-being.
We agree that an awareness sets in, that the desert is now your new reality. The ritual of unloading and loading the camels, setting up camp, gathering around the fire, sharing meals, etc. is now your day-to-day existence. It’s a bonding experience. Your old reality fades away.
The best ideas flow after 3 days.
Cognitive neuroscientist, David Strayer, an avid backpacker noticed that some of his best ideas emerged after three days of camping out.
“Having hiked around the desert for years, I noticed in myself, and from talking to others, that people think differently after being out in the desert. Their thoughts are clearer, they’re certainly more relaxed, they report being more creative,” says Strayer.
Our own nomad storyteller, Mohamed will tell you that when he wants to write a story, he heads out on his own into the dunes in order to find creativity and let it flow.
After 3 days you are re-calibrated
Strayer wanted to find ways to test what he started calling “the 3-day effect,” a kind of neural reboot that might boost creativity. “I wanted to try to understand what was going on inside the brain,” he says.
So, for a study published in 2012, Strayer administered tests to 28 backpackers before and found a near 50% improvement– which is huge! says Strayer.
What caused it? Strayer believes the frontal cortex of the backpackers’ brains got a much-needed break. When the attention network is freed up, other parts of the brain appear to take over, like those associated with sensory perception, empathy and productive day-dreaming.
“That first day in nature, your mind is recalibrating and you start to notice things a little bit, to unwind from the modern world,” says Strayer. “You notice cloud patterns, sounds and smells, and it becomes really acute. You don’t need a watch anymore. You forget what day of the week it is.”
The new reality begins on that third day.
The Strayer team’s results caught the attention of some other neuroscientists who tried to replicate the tests and they were confirmed: The campers showed a 50 % improvement after the trip.
An older study suggests the cognitive surge isn’t just a vacation effect. In 1991 psychologist Terry Hartig and colleagues tested campers as well as people taking sightseeing and other types of vacations, and found increased performance only in the campers.
Now Strayer is drilling down further to a part of the attention network, the midline of the frontal cortex, where theta waves become active when we are performing demanding cognitive tasks. He already has data indicating those waves quiet down out in nature, but not, notably, if you’re using your phone at the same time.
His advice: Go outside for three days, and turn the phone off.
“I think it takes the first two days and nights to wash away whatever veneer of civilization you have brought with you. The new reality begins on that third day.”
By Day 4 you are a nomad
My personal experience matches this exactly. The first two days are about adjusting and adapting to the changed environment. They are the least comfortable days because although everything is exciting, it is also hard. Day 3 is like an awakening! Everything takes on a clarity and your heart starts to sing.
By day 4 – you are a nomad and it feels so fantastic. After that there is no stopping you and the experience is so soul soothing, nobody ever wants it to end.