If you want the health benefits nature offers, get out, get out often, and stay as long as you can. With nature, there is no such thing as an overdose: more is better.
After reading Florence William’s book, The Nature Fix, it hasn’t been hard for me to accept the critical role nature plays in our health and well-being. After all, it has been less than a quarter century since the balance of the human population became more urban than agrarian. Our ties to nature are strong and severing them has psychological and physical consequences.
The science of nature as therapy has found some interesting things. For instance, studies consistently report that exposure to nature reduces heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol, a naturally occurring stress chemical in our systems, is reduced after exposure to a natural environment and endorphins, the exercise-related “happy” hormones, may be released. Cognitive ability, being able to do complex mental tasks, improves after being outdoors.
Nature also makes us better people. Studies have found that everything else being equal, people exposed to nature improve in their ability to work with others. Other studies found that natural stimuli such as walks in a park can make us more generous and kinder. That is really a big deal and may be part of the answer to some of our social ills in urban areas.
Wilderness and its challenges have been used for years to help war veterans suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) and/or physical combat injuries recover and integrate back into society. Similar programs geared for children have been very successful in relieving symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
It doesn’t have to be a wilderness though to make a significant difference. In Toronto, Canada, researchers found that the higher a neighborhood’s tree density, the lower the incidence of heart and metabolic diseases. Neighborhoods with as few as 11 more trees than the average had an equivalent gain of $20,000 in income from the health boost.
It is also interesting to find that nature therapy works in as diverse places as crowded Seoul, South Korea, and the relatively sparsely populated Finland. The nature of nature therapy might be very different in those two examples, but the result is the same.
Studies have also found that there is no substitute for real nature. Nature programs on television may be inspiring, but they don’t elicit the beneficial physiological responses we need.
In Idaho, we are very fortunate in comparison to the big cities. It is a simple matter here to find nature in abundance and it factors into our daily recreation with relative ease. Many financially strapped urban residents in cities such as New York, Detroit and Los Angeles, may never even see a tree much less get the opportunity to get away to experience a park or garden, a natural river or forest. They suffer for that, often without recognizing it.
Nature can certainly do without us, but it is integral for our health and well-being. Simply put, we need nature in our lives. How much? The bottom line for some studies was this: Nature is good. More nature is better. You really can’t overdose. And, nature is often addictive. The more you get, the more you want or even need. So, get outside often. The activity you choose isn’t nearly as important as being there. Oh, and take a kid with you.
Help Idaho Wildlife
When we traveled across the state in October, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates.
C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles!
See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho