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Hot Day, Cool Breeze, Nice Fish

Despite the 95-degree heat, Atley Cook, 12, catches a 10-inch catfish on Monday at Engler Park in Farmington. The mercury was rising, but the park saw plenty of activity in its pavilions and playgrounds.

Work or school have you stressed? Need a break from the mundane? The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recommends taking a dose of nature at least once a day to refresh and de-stress.

Numerous studies have linked spending time outdoors to an increase in overall physical health. Being outside has been proven to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, fatigue, and reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

“I prescribe nature,” said Jefferson City-based Wellness Practitioner Dianna Richardson. Richardson holds a doctorate in Naturopathy and has been treating patients for nearly 30 years.

Research has found that the average American spends as much as 12 hours a day in front of a screen, whether it be scrolling through social media on a smartphone, watching television, or using a computer. Too much time on devices can lead to a weight gain, chronic neck and back pain, vision issues, and poor sleep.

"We are over-stimulating our brains with constant screen-time, which causes stress, causes chronic fatigue – all of these negative responses,” Richardson explained. “If we get into nature, we can undo a lot of that damage.”

Not only does nature help physical health, but it has a tremendous impact on mental health, too. Richardson notes that being outside helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

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“Right now in the world, 400 million people are struggling with some sort of mental health issue,” Richardson said. “A lot of symptoms associated with mental health issues can be improved simply by getting outside.”

One tremendous benefit of nature is sunlight. Moderate exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of serotonin, prompts the body to make Vitamin D, and can help with getting a restful night’s sleep.

“Most of us are inside, in a cubicle or office, anywhere from 8 to 10 hours a day,” said Richardson. “It’s not healthy. We need that sunlight and that fresh air. Even taking the long way home, a drive in the country can be beneficial.”

Reaping health benefits of nature can be as easy as spending time in your own backyard. Connect with the outdoors by planting native plants, reading a book in a hammock, or hanging a hummingbird feeder. Enjoy nature at a park by having a picnic, throwing a frisbee with some pals, or simply by getting in some steps with your four-legged friend.

Need more ideas on how to spend time in the great outdoors? Visit MDC’s Things to Do page at https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/activities to discover everything from floating and fishing, to geocaching and woodworking. To learn more about outdoor skills and activities, check out MDC’s free programs at https://mdc.mo.gov/events-s3.

Interested in exploring more of Missouri’s natural areas? Download MDC’s new mobile app, MO Outdoors, available through Google Play for Android Devices or the App Store for iPhone devices. Learn more about MDC apps at https://mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/mobile-apps

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