Recreate Responsibly: Camping Edition

Ahhh sweet summertime.  One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to camp.  There’s nothing better than loading up all of the gear for some time in the woods, in the mountains, or by the water.  Whether you are an experienced camper or are trying it for the first time, it’s never a bad idea to remind ourselves how to be a responsible and respectful camper.  From setting up a campfire to chatting with our friends and family under the stars, we’re a part of the natural environment around us.  The great people at have put together some tips and reminders on how to make the most of your time in the woods.

We’ve highlighted our favorite four tips below, and you can read them all here:

Are you camping this summer?  Where ya going?

The Science behind HPHP

Say what?!  There is science involved in this simple app that I use to log my outdoor activity? 

Yes, it’s true.  The HPHP model was developed using the concepts of Behavior Change Psychology (BCP).  One of the BCP gurus, B.J. Fogg, explains that “Behavior (B) happens when Motivation (M) , Ability (A) and Triggers (T) come together at the same moment.

Behavior change psychology may sound a little “out there,” but it is simple and effective.  Behavior Change involves setting a goal, taking small steps to achieve that goal, keeping that goal even if you fail sometimes, and rewarding yourself. 

With each outdoor activity that you record with our app you earn points. As your points rack up, you can redeem them for physical rewards.  Slowly, and possibly without even realizing, you will start to see that “behavior change” in your life!  Small steps can lead to BIG CHANGE!  Some of our HPHP users have reported losing weight, battling depression, and reducing medication needed.

Our hope is that eventually the appeal for an external reward falls away, and that our users create lifelong habits and receive those irreplaceable internal rewards.

Be Well!

Have you tried Forest Bathing?

Forest bathing?  I will admit, I was quite confused the first time I heard this term.  However, I got the chance to experience forest bathing first-hand this past Fall at a conference in Colorado.

Forest Bathing, “Shinrin-Yoku” in Japan, is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to derive a whole range of benefits for your physical, mental, emotional, and social health.  “Shinrin” means forest and “Yoku” stands for bathing.  The idea took birth in Japan in the 1980’s and proved to be a very effective tool in overcoming the ill effects of a hectic life and a stressful work environment.

Connecting with nature allows the stressed portions of your brain to relax.  Positive hormones are released in the body.  You feel less sad, angry, and anxious.  It helps to avoid stress and burnout, and aids in fighting depression and anxiety.

Certain trees like conifers emit oils and phytoncides to safeguard themselves from microbes and pathogens,  These molecules improve our immunity too!  Breathing in the forest air boosts the level of natural killer (NK) cells in our blood.  NK cells are used in our body to fight infections, cancers and tumors.  Nature connections also strengthen emotional intelligence and self-confidence, leading to improved relationships and better social health.

The main principles are to go in silence and go slow.  Use your senses to find things in nature that bring you peace and happiness. 

Here are some tips to start your forest bathing practice:

  • The recommended time for forest bathing is at least 2 hours a week.
  • 20-30 minutes of relaxed time among trees provides you with multiple health benefits.
  • 3 hours a week of nature exposure allows our body to function at its optimum, sustaining health benefits for up to a week after.
  • Choose a Sit Spot.  This is a place you can visit frequently without too much effort.  Your aim is to visit daily, if possible, and to sit quietly.
  • Go Wandering.  This is a version of Shinrin-Yoku that is quite simple.  Go to a place where there are paths you can follow easily and simply wander.  Be relaxed, move slowly, and be attentive.

You can look for a Certified Forest Therapy Guide in your area and gather more info at:

Year-End Reflections from the Director

Happy Holidays to the wonderful HPHP community!  This month marks my three-year anniversary with HPHP and I simply cannot believe how time has flown.  Here at the end of an incredible and eventful year for HPHP, I thought I would tell you a little more about myself and give a fun recap of the past three years.

Funnily enough, my background is in architecture.  I practiced as an architect for many years before leaving to work in community development and wellness.  I like to joke that, as an architect, I used to spend my days designing buildings and now I spend my days encouraging people to leave the buildings and get outside!  I first became involved with HPHP in December 2019, just before the world shut down.  Before that, I worked for another Tennessee non-profit wellness organization, through which I already knew about the incredibly cool HPHP program.  I used the HPHP app myself!  The first Reward I earned was the athletic t-shirt.

My husband and I have three children and live in my hometown in middle Tennessee.  Before we had kids, we used to joke and say to each other “What if our future children don’t like the outdoors and to do the things we like to do?”  As it turns out, we were blessed with two reluctant outdoorsy children. 😊 We like to laugh about our oldest daughter’s famous quote: “The thing I don’t like about hiking is all that walking.”  After lots of trial and error (and trail tantrums), we finally found that mountain biking is an activity that we all love.  We have had fun growing our skills and visiting trails all over the southeast lately.

When I began working for HPHP there were around 3,000 app users.  Today we have over 11,000!  Here are some more fun HPHP stats from the last 3 years:

  • 339,115 activities logged on the app from December 2019 – December 2022
  • 3,250 rewards earned in that same timeframe!
  • The top 3 activities logged are: Go for a Walk, Go for a Run, Go for a Hike
  • The month with the most activities logged was October 2020 with 14,590 activities logged!

This October I had the opportunity to attend the SH/FT Summit in Fort Collins, Colorado.  It has been incredibly eye-opening to finally get to attend state and national events, and to learn from others doing incredible work in the “Nature-as-Medicine” community.  It was a bonus that we learned that HPHP was the SH/FT award winner while I was there!

The SH/FT Summit was focused on the crossroads of Health and the Outdoors and was the perfect place for us to promote Healthy Parks Healthy Person and learn from others doing similar work across the country.  Here are some highlights:

  • Healthy equity = nature access!
  • Much of what we focus on is how to make the healthier choice the easier choice.
  • There is evidence for a “Nature Pyramid” much like the Food Pyramid.
  • Some cities and other placed-based entities are creating Trails Health Calculator Tools to measure the impact of trails on population health.
  • The movement of utilizing the outdoors as a conduit to health is turning into a groundswell and is spreading like wildfire across the country and globe!

You have probably read the recent news that, as of July 1, HPHP has transitioned outside of Tennessee State Parks and is now a 501c3 non-profit!  This is exciting and a little bit scary too.  It is exciting because it means the program is working and needs more freedom to continue to grow and serve our state!  It is a little bit scary as we leave the comfortable nest of support that Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation provided us.  As I look back, I am ever so grateful that Ryan and Tennessee State Parks took a chance on this program, and on me.  Looking forward, I know big things are coming and I am so grateful to have you all on the ride with me!

Happy Holidays, and we will see you in 2023!

Much love,

Exciting News: We Won a National Award!

Healthy Parks Healthy Person is the 2022 winner of the SH/FT award, which honors organizations, initiatives, and individuals from around the U.S. who are helping advance and promote equitable access to nature and the health benefits of time spent outside.

The winner was announced at the SH/FT Summit in Fort Collins, Colorado in October, and our Director Stacey Levine was there to receive the honor.  This was really exciting since the other entrants were also doing wonderful things at the intersection of health and nature.  What an inspirational group to be around!  We came back from Colorado with lots of new ideas for HPHP!

Thank YOU for being a part of the HPHP community. We are doing great things!

To read more about the SH/FT Award, visit:

To learn more about HPHP, visit:

To read the official Press Release, visit:

What Are You Reading?

We thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite books that encourage us to get outdoors!  Fun fact: The idea to start Healthy Parks Healthy Person was inspired by some of the concepts in the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  Here is a short list of some books we have read, and some that are on our to-read list.  We encourage you to visit your local library or support your local bookstore when searching for these.  Feel free to share YOUR favorite nature-based book with us on social media!

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson

Balanced & Barefoot, by Angela Hanscom

Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, Evan McGown

Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, by Linda McGurk

The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams

Vitamin N, by Richard Louv

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed