[Gentle music in the background; birds softly chirping]
Female [soft-spoken]: Everybody has their own way to enjoy nature. Some people like getting out and shooting hoops. If you like biking, get that bike out of the garage; go for a ride. If you're a water baby, go find some water; stick your feet in; chase a craw dad. All of these things have an impact on you and your wellbeing. That's the bottom line. We need that balance. We need to return to our roots.
[Birds calling out; upbeat music]
Jill Pritchard: Hey there. Welcome to Nature Boost, the Missouri Department of Conservation's podcast that brings people and nature together. I'm Jill Pritchard. In this episode, we're exploring the undisputed connected between nature and health, which has gotten a lot of media attention in recent years. I think it's wonderful that research is saying, "Hey, get some fresh air; it's good for you," but I wanted to dig deeper. Why is it that just stepping outside can instantly serve as a mood booster? I sat down with Jefferson City based wellness practitioner Dianna Richardson. Dianna is a naturopathic specialist and has been practicing botanical healing for nearly 30 years.
Dianna Richardson: Some physicians will go into a specialty like cardiology. I went into specializing in botanical sciences, so how plants affect the human body, and nutrition.
Jill Pritchard: Whether you believe in the healing power of plants or not, Dianna says the impact the outdoors has on our mental and physical health is undeniable. It's something we need now more than ever in this digital age.
Dianna Richardson: We have youngsters with cell phones that spend more time doing screen time than anything else. That is overstimulation to the brain. As adults, we're just as bad.
[Background noise of a crowded room]
Go into a restaurant and see how many people are sitting across the table texting or on Facebook. We're overstimulating our brains. When we do that, that causes stress. That causes chronic fatigue. It causes all these negative responses. It is draining mentally, emotionally, and then it has a physical impact.
Jill Pritchard: The physical impact of large amounts of screen time include eye strain, blurred vision, headaches, reduced sleep, weight gain, risk of type II diabetes and heart disease and countless other health issues. Did you know the average American can spend 90% of their time inside? Adults spend up to 4 hours a day on their smart phones. Each American household watches nearly 8 hours of TV per day. We take a break from the internet on our computers only to hop on our phones to see what's happening on the smaller internet. We wonder why we have neck pain and trouble sleeping.
Dianna Richardson: We spend entirely too much time indoors in our own head. We worry about the things going on in our life, in our work. We worry about things that haven't even happened yet. All of those worries impact our health. We now know as little as 15-20 minutes, you can go outside and clear your mind. If you want to maximize that, go for the big numbers. Go for 90 minutes a day. You will completely turn off that overstimulated brain, and the important part of that is the physical response that goes along with it. Your cortisol drops. Your adrenaline drops. Depression falls away.
[Music playing and birds chirping]
All of a sudden, you are in the moment. Your entire focus has now become what's in front of you. All those other things are still in your life, but they have no meaning at the moment. Nature has that ability to bring us to a point where we stop the overstimulation.
Jill Pritchard: Tons of studies have proven how nature impacts us. Researchers found that hospital patients with a view through a window have a better recovery time and report less pain. A recent study from the University of Washington even recommends that city planners consider the health benefits of nature while planning for the future of their cities. And my personal favorite-- experts at the University of Vermont found that walking in a park can make you feel as happy as you do at Christmas.
[Whistling; Christmas music playing]
Despite all the latest media attention nature has been receiving, spending time outside for your health isn't a new concept. The Japanese have been practicing shinrin-yoku or forest bathing since the 1980s. I know what you're thinking. No, we are not asking you to get naked in the woods. It's more about simply unplugging and breathing in the natural world around you.
Dianna Richardson: If you have not tried forest bathing, get outside and go for it because it is literally soaking up everything the great outdoors has to offer just like if you were to do the old-fashioned soak in a tub, but you're soaking up all the good that living things have to offer us.
[Birds chirping; breeze blowing through leaves]
Go out on your deck. If you don't have a deck, go sit out in a chair. Just go sit under that shade tree. There's a reason it's in your yard. Enjoy those flowers that you planted. It's not about the work to keep a pretty garden. It's about the enjoyment. We need that bit of sunshine raining down upon us. We need the cool shade of that tree to encourage us to stay out there a little bit longer. And just watch how your health improves.
Jill Pritchard: And despite its name, forest bathing doesn't actually require a forest. When I used to think of the word outdoors, images of trekking through the deep woods decked out in LL Bean came to mind, and there's nothing wrong with that. But really, outdoors just means out your door. Nature can be found everywhere from rural to urban areas.
The first step is to getting out your door. If you're running short on nature time, take the next few moments to have a mock forest bath.
[Various birds chirping; splashing in water]
After the break, we will hear from someone you may recognize who has their own special nature connection. Stay with us.
[Birds chirping; water flowing; music]
Male: You really wanna go there?
Female: If you want more outdoors where you can go deep, climb high, or take aim, there's an app for that. The MO Outdoors app has lots of places to hike, fish, hunt, and more. Search by location or favorite activity. Download maps. Check out new areas and mark your favorites. Just download the MO Outdoors app and go there. Discover more at MissouriConservation.org.
[Birds chirping; music]
And welcome back to MDC's Nature Boost. We're talking about nature's impact on our health. So, did hiking save the radio star?
Jeff Burton: Hey, it's Jeff Burton, and I'm very, very excited. Any day is a good day when you get to hang out with the Missouri Department of Conservation and go out to one of their conservation areas. You don't have to be on the radio to do that. Follow me on the socials; it's JeffBurton1057.
Jill Pritchard: For Jeff Burton of the Rizzuto Show in St. Louis, hiking his local trails was a definite health boost. Once he dialed into nature, he found mind and body benefits. We caught up with him outside of Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood.
Jeff Burton: I have Crohn's Disease, and pre-hiking Crohn's Disease, I mean, I was okay, but one of the things they told me from the very beginning about Crohn’s Disease or really any autoimmune disease is that you can't burn the candle at both ends. Also, you can't have a lot of anxiety because it messes with your stomach. When you get out in the beautiful woods and hear these birds and see the trees and everything, you just relax. You calm down. You put a smile on your brain is one of the things I like to say.
As far as my Crohn's Disease, I am in remission for my Crohn's Disease. For me, I have high blood pressure, and they wanted me to take pills for my high blood pressure. For me, hiking has worked. I don't take pills for my blood pressure. I come out here. This is a beautiful place. This has got to help your mind. In exchange, it's going to help your body.
Jill Pritchard: If you're interested in exploring nature but unsure where to start, hiking can be a great beginner activity. All you need is a good pair of trail shoes or hiking boots, weather-appropriate clothing, and some water. Of course, if you plan on hiking for several hours, bringing snacks, navigation tools, and a first-aid kit is probably helpful but baby steps, okay? I would also recommend bringing a trail buddy. Hiking by yourself can be empowering, but it can also be intimidating and a little lonely the first time. Having a friend with you is not only great if you're accident-prone like me, but it can make your hike more enjoyable having someone to experience it with. Whether you're alone or with a friend, hiking can be a great way to blow off steam after the the 9 to 5.
Jeff Burton: When you're leaving work, if it's a bad day, a lot of people will go hit Happy Hour, and that's fine, but if you're going to go home and you have all this anxiety or this anger towards your boss and your work, you can go home and take it out on your family, or you can come out here and take it out on the trails because one of the things I love to do is I'm always by myself when I'm on the trails, so I will talk my problems out loud. I will talk to the trees as I'm going by. Most of the time, they don't talk back which is good. I would rather come out here and run and hike and talk my problems out here than take them home and take them out on my family. They don't deserve that; I don't deserve that, so I come here. I get it all out here; I go home, and I'm a normal person.
Jill Pritchard: Not only is Jeff benefiting from the outdoors, but he's inspiring his radio listeners to do the same.
Jeff Burton: I got an email from a listener the other day. He and his wife went out hiking for the first time in years and years and years and years. They wanted to do it for health benefits, as far as losing weight that sort of thing, and they also wanted to spend time together. They said over the years it's tough for them to spend quality time together, like one-on-one time together. They went out in the woods and got lost. They spent plenty of time together. He went on to tell me in the email, "Thanks, I got a lot of quality time with my wife, a lot more than I thought I was going to," but they were happy. They got lost for a little while, but they enjoyed it.
Jill Pritchard: If hiking doesn't sound like your thing, no worries. Have you tried kayaking? What about bird-watching? Maybe archery? Even barbecuing outside counts.
Dianna Richardson: Whatever fits for you, your personality, if you're like some people who are afraid of nature, then don't force yourself to go out into the middle of a wilderness area. You're not going to enjoy that. If you decide to put your dog on a leash and go out for a walk, you're still going to get a benefit. If you decide to go walk around your yard with that morning cup of coffee, you're going to get the benefit.
Everybody has their own way to enjoy nature. All of these things have an impact on you and your wellbeing. That's the bottom line. We need that balance. We need to return to our roots.
Jill Pritchard: What are you waiting for? Get outside and let nature nurture you, mind and body. If you're still unsure where to start, check out MDC's places to go and things to do page on our website at MissouriConservation.org. You can always take us with you on our new mobile app, MO Outdoors.
A big thanks to my guests, Dianna Richardson and Jeff Burton. Thank you for listening to Nature Boost. This is Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation urging you to get your daily dose of the outdoors.
[Music; people enjoying time outside; laughter]
[End of recording]