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,

How Nature Helped This Postpartum Mama (and baby) Stay Sane

Being pregnant and having a child is such a blessing. I am very thankful for the amount of help and support I had during and after my pregnancy. But I will say one thing…… the 4th trimester is very hard. I was still recovering, having hardly any sleep, having a newborn and toddler to take care of. It can take a toll on anyone, just like it did on me.

However, for this pregnancy and postpartum I was more educated on certain things. One of those things is how wonderful and healthy it is to get outside during this time. According to the University of Pennsylvania, one in nine mothers experience postpartum depression. I was one of those mothers. I experienced postpartum depression after both of my pregnancies, but more so after my first pregnancy.

Every day, even if only for 5 minutes, I would try to step outside to soak up the sunshine or take a walk. I wanted/needed to get outside to take a deep breath of fresh air. It was relaxing for both me and my mind. Getting outside and getting out in nature can be so rewarding for both me and the kids.

Eugenia South, an assistant professor for Perelman School of Medicine, stated, “Nature can be leveraged as a health-equity tool, both in terms of making sure everyone has access to clean, safe green space but also encouraging people to spend time outside as a way to buffer life stress,” she says. “Nature isn’t a cure-all, but it can be a potential buffer, a way to prevent life stress from getting under your skin and leading to poor health over time.”

But getting outside into nature with my toddler and my newborn was very important to me. I know my toddler loves being outdoors, but my newborn can benefit from it too! The fresh air, sunlight, sounds, and sights are all good for his developmental skills.

“Babies thrive out-of-doors. They sleep better, eat better, look better, play better, and learn better. – Magda Gerber

All-in-all, getting outdoors and into nature can help a postpartum momma and children. Never hesitate to ask for help and take moments for yourself (if possible) where you can clear your mind and breathe.


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

Summer Safety Tips 101

Summer will be here before we know it! While this summer might look a little different than previous summers due to COVID-19, there are still many outdoor activity days ahead! You still need to follow the guide lines and regulations for COVID-19 like avoiding traveling when not necessary, washing your hands frequently, wearing a face-mask in public, and keeping 6 feet apart; however, there are still ways to social distance while enjoying the summer! Tennessee is absolutely beautiful and should be explored, so when you do, here are few things you should keep in mind when heading out!


Sun Protection. Sun Protection. SUN PROTECTION.


The summer usually brings people outdoors, so protecting your skin from sun damage is super important! Wear sunscreen and sunglasses folks. Cover up using lightweight, breathable clothing, stay in the shade, and plan around the sun as much as possible! Practice wearing at least 15 SPF sunscreen (shoot for 15-50+ SPF). It protects you from UV rays, prevents skin coloration and premature aging, and most importantly, reduces your chances of skin cancer (which is one of the most common cancers in the US). Just because you do not burn easily DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE IMMUNE TO SUN DAMAGE. Everyone is at risk, so make sure to apply it every two hours when outdoors, especially on your kids! Don’t forget to put it on your ears and lips – they can burn too!


Staying Hydrated


Summer brings the heat and humidity, especially in Tennessee. Staying hydrated during this time is so important! Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Make sure to drink water BEFORE feeling thirsty, so keeping a bottle of water with you will help encourage you to drink regularly, especially if you’re out in the sun. Create a water drinking schedule if you think that will help or eat H2O packed foods like celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and grapefruit. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or a heat stroke, so make sure to take it seriously!


Heat Exhaustion


Stay cool, heat exhaustion is no joke! This happens when your body is overheated and has lost an excessive amount of water and salt due to sweating. This is why it is important to stay hydrated, take breaks during physical activity outdoors, and make sure to not leave anyone (or your pets) in a car. If you see someone or an animal in a hot car, immediately call 911. When heat exhaustion occurs, the symptoms/signs typically will be feeling weak, nauseous, moist skin, muscle cramps, headache, and have a rapid heart rate. If this happens, the best thing to do is move the person into shade, give them water, and cool them down with damp cloths. If not treated, heat exhaustion can turn into a heat stroke, which would need immediate medical attention. When this occurs, the person will have a body temperature above 103 degrees, dry and flushed skin, confusion, rapid breathing, and convulsions/unresponsiveness. If you think someone is having a heat stroke, call 911, move them to cool place, and remove unnecessary clothing. Heat exhaustion can affect any and all ages so everyone needs to make sure to stay hydrated and cooled down in the hot summer sun.


Water Safety


Swimming during the summer is one of the best ways to have fun and cool off from the hot sun, whether it be a pool, lake, or river. Before going swimming, especially with children, you need to know about water safety. You and/or your children should learn water safety and swimming skills as soon as possible.  If you have your own pool, it would be best to put up some safety precautions like having a fence around the pool, keeping flotation devices near the pool, install drain covers, and have proper “no diving” signage. If your child is swimming, make sure to keep your eye on them, EVEN if they know how to swim (lifeguards are not babysitters). You should never swim alone and also should not leave your child unattended while swimming, even if it is for a couple of minutes. Drownings can occur at any age, but the younger, the greater the risk. They are also usually quiet, unlike in movies where you hear yelling and splashing. Never dive in a shallow area or in an area that you are unsure of the depth. You should learn  CPR and basic rescue skills just in case you are around when a drowning occurs. Taking the boat out is also a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. Each state has different rules and regulations when it comes to public waters so make sure to learn about boating safety and swimming around boats before you get out on the water! Children 12 years old and younger MUST wear a personal flotation device that is a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III, or V life jacket while on the open deck of any boat and ALL vessels must have an approved life jacket for EVERY person on board, no matter the age. If you are swimming in natural water (ocean, river, etc.) and get caught in a current, you would need to stay calm and not fight it, just float with it or swim parallel to shore. Having fun in water can be one of the best experiences, but even the best swimmer can make a mistake, so knowing some water safety skills is imperative!


Bites and Stings


No one is a fan of being stung or bit by an insect, so what do you need to watch out for if you do? Mosquito bites themselves do not particularly hurt; however, mosquitoes can carry and spread the Zika virus and West Nile virus to other people through biting. Ticks also can pass along Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and the Alpha-gal red meat allergy. Specifically, the red meat allergy comes from the bite of a Lone Star tick which has a white dot on its back. This does NOT mean that you will contract these diseases from every mosquito or tick bite, but it is something that you should be aware of and watch for if you or your family member does get bit. Make sure to check yourself for ticks after exploring the outdoors. If you do find a tick on yourself or family member, use tweezers to take the tick off. When going outdoors, make sure to wear an insect repellent (preferably one that contains DEET). Wear light colored clothing, long sleeved shirts, or long pants when possible. Avoid walking barefoot; this makes it easy for ticks to crawl on you or for you to get stung by a bee or wasp. If you do happen to get stung, remove the stinger using gauze to wipe over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area, wash the the area with soap and water, and put an ice-pack on the area if it begins to swell. If know you are allergic to a bee or wasp, be prepared and carry an EpiPen (Epinephrine auto injector). If someone allergic around you does get stung, immediately call 911, administer the EpiPen if available, be prepared to give CPR if necessary while waiting for EMS.


The summer is one of the best seasons, especially for the kids on summer break! Have fun and explore the great outdoors while staying safe!

What Do I Do Now?….. Quarantine Style

Many of us are going on a few weeks of quarantining at home due to COVID-19. I am sure you have been able to catch up on all your favorite TV shows, clean the house for the hundredth time, or have attempted to keep the kids occupied while they are out of school. This post is here to help you stay positive and spark some interest in you all who have found yourselves bored, tired, unmotivated or  depressed since being quarantined. It is time to switch it up, try something new, learn a new skill, find different ways to boost your mood, and/or educate your kids.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” 

-Maya Angelou

 Stay Positive


  • Positive gratitude… Instead of focusing on what you currently can’t do, where you can’t go, or who you can’t see, focus on what you do have. Be grateful that you are able to get up each morning, that you have the ability to go outside, that you have a healthy family, that you are able to feed yourself and/or family, that you have a home, that you still have a job, or whatever it may be. BE GRATEFUL. In these hard times, we need to focus on the GOOD, not the bad or what we cannot control.
  • Keep a Routine… Though your normal, pre-quartantine routine has most likely been changed, you can create a new one for the time being. Remember that our current situation is temporary, but it is our new “normal” for now. Keeping a routine will help you feel more in control, less stressed and also help clear your head. Set a time to get up, to eat, to workout, to work, to watch your show (not all day), to play, to teach the kids or however you want your day to go! Create a schedule and stick to it! It will help!
  • Focus on the long term instead of short term…  Make goals for when we no longer have to be homebound. Reflect on yourself and determine what you really want in the next few months and/or years. Come up with a list that you want to accomplish in a month, 6 months, a year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. These can be as simple as “go to a state park at least 2 times a month” or as ambitious as “become the CEO of the company by…”. By creating these goals, you are able to escape our current situation and focus on what you want your future to hold and determine HOW to get there.
  • Surround yourself with positive people… Due to the current regulations to minimize travel and to encourage social distancing, do not physically go to other people’s houses or meet up. Instead, call them, Face time, Message, or use Zoom to contact them. Let your friends and family know that you are thankful for them. Having people in your life that can brighten your day (especially under current circumstances) or help escape the negativity that is broadcasted every day will help alleviate the anxiety, anger, loneliness, or just boredom that you might be feeling.  There is already so much going on in the world that you don’t need to have someone else bringing you down or making you feel even worse than before. On that note, YOU also do not want to be that negative person in someone else’ life. Be grateful and pass that optimism along to the next person.
  • When in doubt, listen to music that brightens your mood… Music is a powerful tool that can help turn your mood around. It is perfect to have playing when you’re cleaning, working out, cooking, dancing or playing with your kids outside.

What To Do When You’re All Out Of Ideas


  • Exercise physically and mentally… THIS. IS. A. MUST. For one, you are most likely way less active than you were pre-quarantine so you could most definitely use the movement right now. Secondly, exercising is a stress reliever and for some, a normal routine. Just because gyms are closed DOES NOT mean you cannot get in a good work out. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out some of these online classes for home workoutsHIIT workouts, YogaBoxingDancing or Stretching! If you can’t get yourself motivated to do a workout then aim for at least 30 minutes of MOVEMENT a day. This doesn’t mean you have to do burpees, but maybe 30 minutes of cleaning around the house, stretching, gardening, or a short walk around the neighborhood. Just get moving!!!
  • Fun family activities… backyard camping, backyard drive-in, bird watch, reading bingo, card games, board games (teach them chess, dominoes, and checkers), obstacle courses, charades, perform experiments instructed by Bill Nye the science guy, explore the Smithsonian resources , make your own hand soap, work on fine motor skills, make slime, explore outdoors
  • Jump back into or develop a new skill or hobby
    • Take up gardening, journaling, cross stitching, whittling, make a vision board, learn another language, work on a puzzle, get back into painting, try candle-making, crochet a blanket, cook those recipes you have been waiting to try, make a loaf of bread, learn to juggle
  • Have you organized the Tupperware and junk drawer/closet yet?… Maybe it is time to finally check that off the list!

During this time of uncertainty, keeping a positive, active mind and body are imperative. Make sure to limit the amount of time you spend on social media or watching the news. This will just cause more anxiety and is unnecessary. Have a routine to keep some normality in your/your families life. Try out some of these ideas out! At the very least, it will get you off the couch and trying something different!