Explore the Healing Effects of Nature with Captain Mike Nix, Key Life Charters. In addition to being a rock star captain of the Gulf Coast waters, Mike shares his journey from a desk job in Georgia to living his dream on Siesta Key, Florida.
Intro: Welcome to The Zen Leaderwith Lara Jaye. Whether you’re a leader at home or in the boardroom, Lara provides the tools to help you get unstuck in different areas of your life. Now here’s your host, Lara Jaye.
Lara Jaye:Good morning! I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader. Welcome back this morning. I hope everyone is doing okay. Today, we have an awesome topic, one of my absolutely favorites and have a super guest in with me for part of the time today. We’re going to be talking about the healing effects of nature. With me this morning is Mike Nix, Captain Mike I call him, a good friend. He is with Key Life Charters here on Siesta Key, Florida. Captain Mike, welcome. How are you this morning?
Mike Nix:I’m great. Thank you.
Lara:Great. I wrote extensively about the healing effects of nature in one of my chapters in my book More Than Enough and spending time outside, for me in nature, was such an integral part of my own personal healing, and everyday continues to be a source of great joy for me. I don’t know how to explain being out in nature, but it resets me back to me, Mike. Does that do that for you?
Lara:It does and I just think that you agree that being outside in nature and what you do is so huge. Mike, tell me a little bit. You and your wife run Key Life Charters on Siesta Key. Tell me a little bit about what you do on Key Life Charters and why are you so unique, because you are? You get that, what you’re doing out here.
Mike:Well, what we do is offer families and small groups of six and fewer people the opportunity to get out and experience nature, like you said. Siesta Key and Sarasota has so much to offer with wildlife and things that you can only see by water. For example, the dolphins and the manatees, and the bird life, and the vegetation, and the foliage that we have here. A lot of times when you’re driving around you just overlook or miss it because you’re paying attention to the road or you just don’t…
Lara:Well, we hope you are and we hope you’re… [LAUGHTER]
Mike:You just don’t have access to those places. So what we provide is it’s a total immersion type experience. So you get to not only do you see it, you get involved. You get in the water. You’re able to go and collect seashells, and get on some of the sandbars, and ride out into The Gulf, and literally there’s no telling what you’ll see on any day.
Lara:Right, it’s always different depending on weather and everything.
Mike:Right. Nature and wildlife is unpredictable so you never know what one day holds versus the next. One day you may go out and it just puts on a spectacular show. The next day it could be totally different.
Lara:You just never know. Tell me about the boat that you own that you take people out on.
Mike:The boat is glass-drawn 23-foot deck boat, so it provides ample seating for the groups that I take out. It’s easy to maneuver and get around. The other thing about it is it has an easy access from the front or the back, so you can pull up to sandbars and people can get out. It’s easy. I’ve not had any person out so far that can’t on and off the boat, and some boats that’s a problem. You just can’t… the bow sits too high or the sides are too high. This boat really affords you the opportunity to get out on some of the sandbars and beaches, and things like that, and experience it.
Lara:What I love, Mike — and if anyone is interested in contacting Captain Mike — what’s your website, Mike?
Lara:So just spelled out Key Life and then Charters, C-H-A-R-T-E-R-S.COM.
Lara:Okay. Again, go to Key Life Charters if you want to contact Mike or have any questions. What I love on your website is you let people kind of design their day or their time with you. Is that right?
Lara:How does that work?
Mike:Well, they choose. We offer a list of activities and they actually choose what they’d like to do. Sometimes they just leave it up to me, so I can kind of coordinate be it a four-hour charter or an eight-hour charter. I can coordinate all activities to where they’re at a certain spot at a certain time, able to get in everything before they have to go back to the dock.
Lara:They kind of tell you kind of what they want. We want to waterski or we want to find a dolphin, and then you kind of work around that.
Lara:We want to go to a tiki bar, whatever. [LAUGHTER]
Mike:Which, that’s a very popular…
Lara:That’s very popular. What are some of the other popular things to do on the boat?
Mike:I would say probably the most popular thing is dolphin sightings. Everybody loves to see them, and I still love to see them no matter the fact that I’ve seen thousands. It never grows old.
Lara:It never grows old.
Mike:It never does. As you know, having been on the boat, I’m able to get them sometimes to do some acrobatics in the wake of the boat, which is an absolute thrill. That’s something you won’t get on some of the bigger tour operators. They just can’t produce the wake and you don’t have the closeness of the dolphins that are literally within range that you could almost reach out and touch them.
Lara:That’s amazing. On one of your blogs, and Mike, you write an awesome blog on your website, and I just really encourage listeners to go check this out, your blog. Because it’s not just about you’re not just a charter come hang out on my boat for a few hours.
Lara:You give them the full immersion and let them just really experience water life and life, and can give them the tour. But on one of your blogs, you write, “The longer we’re here, the more we appreciate all that is here and all that is in this area that has to offer.” Boating, fishing, kayaking, the beach, biking, are all tremendously fun activities and things that you try to do often. You write, “I would encourage you to take a little time and engage in an activity such as hiking, biking, walking, boating, playing golf or tennis. Just get outside. This place is incredible,” you say. Walking, running, biking, golfing, swimming — you mention paddleboarding — are just a few of these activities. You even write the old adage coming to mind, “A body in motion stays in motion.” Were you, yourself, always such an advocate of getting outside and enjoying the pleasures of outdoor life?
Mike:Well, a lot of my current outlook is the fact that I had a desk job for 20 years and didn’t have the opportunity to get out Monday through Friday like I do now. The opportunity now is to get out everyday and that was a big decision when we decided to do this was the fact that we wanted to do three things. We wanted to be outdoors, do physical work, and meet a lot of people. That’s how we decided upon the charter business.
Lara:We is you and your wife.
Lara:Donna. Tell me a little bit about how did you end up here because you’re not originally from here.
Mike:Right. We’re from the coast of Georgia. I was actually born and raised in Brunswick, Georgia, which is geography-wise is about an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida and an hour south of Savannah, Georgia. One of the more famous areas there is St. Simons Island, which a lot of people know about and started vacationing down here.
When I was about 10 years old, my family brought me down. Then when I turned 18 and started traveling on my own, this was one of the first places I came. Then I made it an annual vacation destination for my family and myself. I’ve actually got about 40 years’ exposure to the area, and it’s just a very unique place and I love it. I mean there’s nothing that compares to Sarasota area and Siesta Key.
Lara:Awesome. And you and your wife, you were living in Georgia and you decided, “Hey.” What did you decide? We’re just going to pack up and come here? [LAUGHTER]
Lara:What were you thinking?
Mike:Right, it was a three-year plan.
Mike:We had regular jobs. We had what a lot of people would strive for, which is security, but it just… we frankly got bored. It just wasn’t filling a need that we had. The need being to be an active lifestyle in a beautiful place and meet a lot of people, and give them the experience that we had when we went out on a boat personally. We wanted other people to experience that, and I think we’ve done a good job of that. Everybody that’s gone out with us has had a great time and laughter is the universal language, and to hear families’ just unabashed laughter on the boat and having the best time is the most rewarding part of what I do.
Lara:Oh, Mike, that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that. You admit. We’re in these desk jobs and you’re bored, and that’s where a lot of our listeners are right now. They’re doing the same day in, day out, and I really want to encourage them — even if it’s for an hour a day or a couple hours on the weekend — to get outside. Get outside. Do something different. Isn’t that what you needed to do for you guys?
Mike:Yes, and I’ve always done that. Even with the desk job, I would get out even at lunchtime just for an hour and sit on a bench at the side of the ocean on St. Simons and just soak in the sun. It just kind of resets your day, even. But the biggest thing is to just get outside and enjoy what’s here. No matter where you live, you can always find something that is just absolutely incredible that you’ve never seen if you’ll just take the time and quiet yourself and look around.
Lara:I love that, Mike.[00:10:00]We’ve got about a minute before our first break. Recently you went on a bike trip. That was just something a little different. How was that for you?
Mike:Well, what we did was we left from Siesta Key. We left from our home and took about a 25-mile round-trip bike trip and got on the Legacy Trail, and went down to Venice, Florida, had lunch and some drinks.
Mike:And came back up Casey Key, which I would encourage any of your listeners to do that, to do a bike ride in this area. The Legacy Trail is great. You can Google up the location of where the trailhead starts. It’s an easy path. Casey Key is an absolutely incredible view coming north or south on Casey Key. It’s right along the Gulf. We just decided to do that one day and we had some people join us, and we had a fabulous time.
Lara:Just on a whim.
Lara:We’re going to go and have fun. It’s about getting outside, enjoying nature.
Mike:Right. So tomorrow is not supposed to be the best weather, but my wife is off — Donna is off — and we’ve already planned something for tomorrow.
Mike:We’re going to be out.
Lara:You’re going to be out.
Mike:We’re going to be out.
Lara:I love that. We’re going to take a break right now and we’ll be right back on The Zen Leaderhere with Mike Nix with Key Life Charters.
Lara:Welcome back. I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leaderhere on WSRQ, “The Voice of Sarasota-Manatee.” To find me, you can go to wsrqradio.comor larajaye.com. My guest today is good friend Captain Mike, Captain Mike Nix with Key Life Charters. You can find him at keylifecharters.com. Mike, right before break, we were talking about the biking, and we talked a little bit about you moved from Georgia down here. Now, you still have a place in Georgia, right?
Lara:Okay, but you’re down here full-time now?
Lara:Just hanging out.
Lara:[LAUGHTER] Retired from the desk job and living the life.
Lara:We all need, at some point, I feel like we make these decisions to what are we going to do for the rest of our life? What is it that’s really going to bring us joy? Is that kind of what you and Donna did?
Mike:Yeah, that’s exactly the point we were at. Like I said, we had desk jobs. We had regular careers for 20 years. We had the whole deal, the kids, and the homes, and the things, and a 9 to 5, 5-day-a-week type job. With the kids out of the house and on their own, for the most part, we decided that if we didn’t do it now, we’d never do it. We didn’t let the age that we were or the position we were in be an impediment to our ultimate goal, which was a search for a quality of life that exists that we found here.
Lara:Were you afraid? Any fear come up when you made this move? [LAUGHTER]
Mike:I was very afraid. My wife was not as afraid. [LAUGHTER] She was a little bit more bold than I was, and I was really the one that had done the same thing for 20+ years of my life. She had done different type things, so she was more apt to the challenge. I had started out in the insurance business at a very young age and stayed in it. So, a lot of the guys that I worked with and a lot of the people that I talked with thought I was absolutely off my rocker to do that. But at the same time, they said, “Man, I wish I could do the same thing.”
Lara:Right. It’s the fear of following your dream, but yet you did it anyway.
Mike:Right. Right. If you’re afraid of doing stuff, you’ll never do anything at all, so you have to overcome the fear. You have to address it head on, and it helps to listen, to read and to listen because that encourages you and gives you other insights of people who have overcome challenges. You can always find somebody who’s been through the same path you have.
Lara:Sure. You said that’s helpful.
Mike:It is very helpful.
Lara:And to know that, “Hey, if they can do it, I can do it, too.”
Mike:Right, right. One of the things — and it may seem silly — but Steve Harvey has a thing. You can look on YouTube and it’s a segment where he talks with audience after the show.
Lara:I’ve watched that. It’s amazing. Yes.
Mike:Right, right, and he says, “It’s on jumping.” He said, “If you’re going to work on a 9 to 5 everyday at a job you hate, that’s not living. You’re just existing.” That was a huge motivation for us. We listened to that every single day for months.
Lara:Before your move?
Mike:Before the move.
Lara:You were getting ready to jump.
Mike:I was getting ready to jump.
Lara:And you listened to it.
Mike:Everyday. Everyday we listened to that, multiple times a day. And that’s fine. You can listen to anything you want to listen to, but until you start believing it and applying it in your own life, it doesn’t do you any good.
Lara:That’s right. We have to believe it in our bodies, in ourselves, in our own mind and psyche, and then we get quiet and do that. Then the mind chatter comes up. “You can’t do that.”
Lara:“Well, who do you think you are to do that?”
Lara:Why should you be happy?”
Lara:So did all that happen to you, too?
Mike:Absolutely. Still does.
Lara:Still does. [CHUCKLE]
Mike:It never stops. It never stops. People that you talk to… it’s like if it’s not one thing it’s another. It’s always going to be something that you’re going to be self-critical of or you’re going to have doubt. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you do. In some people, that has driven them to tremendous success, but not happiness. What you want to do is get to that point where you, just like your book, you’re more than enough. I mean you are where you are and it’s as good as it’s going to get.
Mike:Because you’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
Lara:And we’re going to go for it. I had someone say to me oh, last fall. They’re like, “Well, you come off so confident, but really you’re just this scared little girl inside.” I’m like, “Uh-huh. Yes, I am.”
Lara:And I do it anyway.
Lara:It’s moving through that fear.
Mike:Yeah, and each charter that I have, you never know how it’s going to go. They get to the dock. There’s some apprehension because most people have never been on a boat and they don’t know the area.
Lara:Really? Most have never been on a boat?
Mike:Most have not been on a boat. They don’t have the experience. Many haven’t. A lot have. They just want a captain for the day. But as the day goes on and they loosen up, and they begin to enjoy themselves, it always ends the same. They end up having the best time.
Lara:I want to talk about what happens when you take someone out on your boat even for a couple hours, and I’ve experienced many times being out with you, you and Donna. I met you as a fluke when my assistant was in town and she chartered the boat. I got to be dragged along and I was so excited. I had just moved here and you had just moved here apparently.
Lara:We got to meet and talk; it was just the most amazing day. Of course, the dolphins found us.
Lara:Which it was great. We have some super video from that. I don’t know. Mike, you just do something so different that… I don’t know. It’s just you. It’s just you and how you bring people in and you hold them, and support them for the day, and show them around. It’s just so unique.
Mike:Well, I appreciate it. What I do is I just want to show them the best time possible. I want them to feel like the money that they pay for the time that they book me for was money well spent, and it creates a memory that’ll last a lifetime for them. I want to be one of the highlights of their vacation. I don’t expect it to be the end all of everything, but I want it to be one of the highlights, and a lot of people say it was the highlight of their vacation.
Lara:Absolutely. I love that creating memories. That’s what you do for families and for groups and people and lots of memories. I love that we can custom design the day. So, say we have four hours or eight hours, and you know the route from where we take off at the dock, from bar to bar, from tiki bar to tiki bar. [LAUGHTER]
Lara:Which I didn’t even know existed that you could get by boat to the different… being a newbie here in town. But there are a lot of things like that, and then you know where the snorkeling is.
Lara:You know where all of that…
Mike:Yeah. I mean, the thing I try to do is make it so that people don’t have to think; they just experience. Our slogan is, “Leave your worries at the dock.” Once you step onboard the boat, I take care of everything. You don’t have to lift a finger. I take care of all the details. You may see me out on the water and I may have an innertube, fishing poles, casting nets, snorkels, everything, but I like to be prepared.
Lara:Because you never know what the family is going to want.
Lara:Or the group is going to want to do.
Mike:In a full eight-hour day, they can get in all of that stuff, as well as the sightseeing. The sightseeing takes place when you’re traveling to your destination. If you’re going to a sandbar or a tiki bar, that’s where the sightseeing comes into play. It’s not a separate thing. A lot of people get confused with that. It’s just part of the boat ride.
Lara:It’s just part of the boat ride.
Lara:So, you stop amd take a restroom break.
Lara:Get some food if you want, whatever, and get back on.
Mike:Yeah, a tremendous amount of things here to see and do on the water. A lot of them, just like I said, you can get to some of stuff by land. Some of it you can’t; you can only get to by water. It’s just an absolutely incredible experience to be on the water. [00:20:00]
Lara:So, we talked about the dolphins. What are some of the other wildlife that you’ve run into out there?
Mike:Well, manatees are prevalent in the warmer water. They’re gone now because the water temperature is too low. The bird species here are incredible. Then if you get out on some of the sandbars, I’ve found dwarf octopus before.
Lara:Dwarf octopus? Okay.
Mike:Dwarf octopus, which is about the size of a quarter. Sea turtles that were as big as the bow of the boat, I’ve seen on multiple occasions. Just sharks, small sharks, and things like that.
Lara:Yeah, how big are the sharks?
Mike:Yeah. Probably about three and a half feet is the one I saw. But I tell everybody there’s sharks in every body of water. Every saltwater body of water has sharks in it.That’s nothing new.
Lara:That’s nothing new? So don’t be afraid.
Mike:Don’t be afraid.
Lara:Move through the fear, right? [LAUGHTER]
Mike:Right, right, exactly, exactly. Don’t let it stop you.
Lara:Don’t let it stop you. Can you remember one or two really fantastic days that just created a memory for you yourself?
Mike:Yeah. One of the best days I had was a family from Norway, which, by the way, people from all over the world visit this area and that’s such a nice thing. But they got to see it all. They got to see manatees. They got to see dolphins. They got to see sea turtles. They got to ride the innertube. I cast the net, pulled up 40 or so mullet — the kids just went crazy over that — and ended the day with a beautiful sunset as well as a lunch during the day. That was an eight-hour charter. Obviously, that’s something they had never done before and that was the highlight of their day, and their trip.
Lara:Wow! Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Mike:It was a great day.
Lara:I love your story, Mike, about you and Donna, and how you found each other, and you made this big leap into your new life, and you both are working everyday to build this business. But it’s really to build this new life of happiness and joy.
Lara:At the same time, you’re building community, helping others being able to enjoy their free time.
Mike:Yeah. We didn’t just come here to make money. We came here to establish friendships, relationships, get involved in the community because we love the place. We want to see it retain its character. We want to see it retain the beauty. It’s a special place. There’s no doubt.
Lara:That’s awesome. Listeners, you can find Captain Mike at www.keylifecharters.com. Mike, it has been an incredible pleasure to have you as my guest today. Thank you so much.
Mike:Well, thank you for having me.
Lara:Great! I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leaderand we’ll be right back after these messages.
Lara:We’re back. I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leaderhere on WSRQ, The Voice of Sarasota-Manatee. wsrqradio.comor you can find me at larajaye.com.
Today, we are talking about the healing effects of nature. This was a chapter in one of my books More Than Enough, and we just heard from Captain Mike Nix from Key Life Charters here in Sarasota/Siesta Key. We talked a lot about nature and being out and how important it is, even Hippocrates says, “Nature itself is the best medicine.” I’m sure that you would agree once we can get out of the air conditioning and just go outside and breathe, you feel so much better.
When I first moved here, my realtor said to me, “Don’t ever take this for granted. If you go a few days or even a week without getting a walk on the beach,” which I live near the beach on Siesta, “If you go a week without it, you’re taking it for granted. Get out there. Get out there and do that reset.” I really appreciated that advice. Because standing, if you have not ever stood on the ocean’s edge — and a lot of people haven’t — or relished the sounds and the feel of crashing waves, and what it does for your body. Maybe you prefer beautiful mountains. I love Sedona, Mount Shasta, Yellowstone, all the parks. Maybe hiking is your thing. How do you feel? How does your body feel when you’re in the midst of nature’s beauty?
For me, I feel balanced, centered, relaxed, even when I travel. Especially when I travel, I like to find places to hike or walk outside of the norm, especially when there’s business meetings. Often when I’m in LA, I walk the gorgeous Japanese gardens at the Four Seasons Hotel. Usually, just as I’m walking these gardens, I come alive. I wake up. I can feel my body resetting from the business meetings. The worries of the day melt away and I just soak up the incredible beauty that is all around me. Not far from that spot in those Japanese gardens, there are just beautiful mountains that I hike and explore as well. I really enjoy that.
Often on a daily basis, we’re handling life. We’re handling life as it comes at us, fast and furious. We spend our days putting out fires, which causes other emotional, physical, and psychological issues. A lot of times we can’t sleep at night. We’re clenching our teeth and we forget to breathe, especially we forget to deep breathe. Really, we forget who we are when we’re not getting outside more.
The stress from this pressure cooker of life increases in our body until we become anxious, angry, and possibly even sink into depression. All of this really is just from our everyday life of living. I can tell you even Monday morning I was answering emails and I was just feeling the stress build in me, and it took a couple hours, and I felt like I was ready to explode, you know? I’m sure that you all have had that feeling before where things are just piling and piling, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, and nothing is working.
I had a friend text me and say, “Hey, do you want to go for a walk on the beach?” Immediately I was like, “Yes, I need that reset,” and went out for a couple of hours and came back, and I had a completely different mindset. My body was relaxed. I got a walk in. I got some sunshine, got that important vitamin D. I was a different person because I was able to jump outside of my box, get away from the computer screen, get away from the phone, and have some quiet time on the beach with a friend.
You probably have experienced that as well, but we have to be in tune with our bodies, know, “Okay, I’m feeling agitated or I’m feeling this way,” or whatever. Instead of going trying to plow through something, if we can even get outside for five minutes or 15 minutes, something to reset ourselves is important.
I can say the past decade of my life, my personal life, has been honestly quite traumatic and no different than anyone else’s. It’s life. I did experience four of the top five stressors including family member deaths, divorce, moving, several moves [LAUGHTER], including across the country, and major illness.
If that weren’t enough, I also had computers stolen, became an empty nester, endured a flood, and I just felt like my life was so topsy-turvy. But to be honest, nature was an integral part of healing for me through this difficult period. I never thought it would be. Although I grew up on 80 acres in northern Indiana on a dirt road, getting outside was not my thing. I much rather be inside. I did like to camp a little, but nature, getting outside, I didn’t like bugs. I don’t like bugs. I don’t like to be cold. So for me to say that nature was healing, this is huge. But it really was.
A few years ago as the stress was just mounting in my life, I knew that I needed time for me and I needed to take a different route. I was at a point in my life where health challenges and past traumas were really affecting my daily quality of life. We were getting ready to enter winter months in Indiana and the polar vortex; we had had one year of that. We’re getting ready to have another one, and the cloudy days, just no sunshine combined with cold temperatures and snow just really affect me and made me, for me, even more depressed.
A lot of people love the snow and I say, “Great! That’s nature. Get out there. Enjoy it.” So whatever it is that nature that feeds you, whether it’s snow or snow skiing, or snowboarding. My brothers they jet ski, so water. [00:30:00]:All different things. But for me, I needed some warm sunshine, so I decided to be a snowbird a few years ago and flew south. I lived on Anna Maria Island and I’ve always been drawn to the beaches. For me, it was just a really easy decision and I knew that it would provide a natural location that would support me in healing, and I was just thinking, “Okay, two months. Get out of the cold. Rest, relaxation.” I was working. I could work from where I was at, and so I hung out on Anna Maria Island.
But the daily walks in the beach and viewing the sunsets over the ocean, relaxing on the island, it became just this part of a routine that supported my body as it healed from all of these past traumas. So, for me, as I walked on the sand, I envisioned. I would envision; it was kind of a meditative walk. I envisioned past traumas just washing out into the ocean depths with each step. As I stepped, each step I wanted to just let go of things. I felt emotions just being released from me.
Some days, as I was walking, I would just start crying and I could just feel things being released. Which no, you don’t see. You don’t see things being released, but I felt them. That’s what nature does. We feel it inside of us. So, who knows why the reason. The ocean and sunsets for me provided a background of beauty and support that they assisted me in so many ways.
Honestly, they did a lot of things. They helped me mend a broken heart. Being out in nature helped me release self-limiting beliefs, old patterns, and it helped me to enjoy life again and to reconnect with myself, my body and my own spiritual connection. All of that, did all of those things because I chose, for me, what fed me was to walk along the ocean’s edge and sunsets. For me, it’s just so important.
Author Wallace Nichols wrote about the fascinating connection between nature and healing, and I love this book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science that Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do. That really is the entire title of the book, kind of long, but he says, “Like a child depends upon its mother, humans have always depended upon nature for our survival. Just as we intuitively love our mothers, we are linked to nature physically, cognitive, and emotionally.” I love that book. If you can ever dive into it, please do.
But in the early 80s, a researcher in Paoli, Pennsylvania collected info about patients who had undergone gallbladder surgery over a nine-year period. I love the research on this. Basically the results are probably not going to surprise you. On average, those who faced a brick wall, patients who faced a brick wall, needed a whole extra day to recover before returning home. They were far more depressed and experienced even more pain. Interestingly, only a few of the patients who looked into the trees required more than a single dose of strong painkillers during the middle part of their stay compared to those facing the wall, who required two or even three doses. When we come back after a break, we’re going to talk even more about this. I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader.
Lara:Welcome back. I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader. You can find me at larajaye.comor on wsrqradio.com, The Voice of Sarasota-Manatee. In today’s show, we are talking about the healing effects of nature. Studies repeatedly have shown that hanging out in nature can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and sharpen mental states. It can even help those suffering from ADHD disorders, depression, addictions, insomnia, stress. Nature tends to bring out the best in each of us.
As Captain Mike was talking about earlier, for him even, he said it resets him. It soothes. It heals. It restores. It connects us. My older brother had an amazing experience with nature. Years ago, he had a landscape business and planted hundreds of trees in his backyard, and he told me that watching them grow was his church.
Recently, I’d spent several days hiking beautiful Mount Shasta in northern California. If you’ve not ever been there, I just really encourage you to make that trip. It was a last-minute add-on to a week of non-stop meetings in Los Angeles. The quietness of the forest of Mount Shasta almost immediately reset my body and mind. Hiking seems to be very healing for me, as it may be for you. The rhythm. I could just feel the rhythm as I was walking of putting one foot in front of the other, and it allowed my mind to wander a little.
I did a walking meditation to stay quiet and be still because I wanted to be present. I didn’t have my headphones on. I wasn’t listening to a lot of music, and I wanted to soak up every noise, every tree rustle while I was walking. I wanted to hear every step and every bird chirping. It didn’t take too long before I had forgotten about all the L.A. traffic that I had experienced and the drive up that was actually very overwhelming coming from Indiana, and not much traffic compared to California.
But as I hiked uphill on Mount Shasta, I began to dodge boulders and I noticed how different emotions surfaced. This is something we’re going to talk a lot about in The Zen Leaderis emotions and what to do with them because they’re going to come up. The question is: Are we going to stuff them back down? Are we going to numb and dumb ourselves? Are we going to just keep working and pushing through so we don’t feel our emotions? What are we going to do with our emotions? Are we going to drink? Are we going to overeat? Are we going to over exercise? What are we going to do with those emotions because they’re going to come up? We need to feel. We are made to feel. They’re going to come up. Again, what are we going to do with them? We’ll talk about more of those in some other shows.
But as I was hiking, I noticed different emotions and sometimes my thoughts made me laugh. Sometimes the emotions. But mostly as I was stepping, I was crying and I didn’t want to push the emotions down. I didn’t want to judge them or figure them out, and I would do one step. I noticed that my hiking pattern changed as I was feeling. Instead of walking around the boulders that were in my way, I began to step on them and it was like a push with each foot. It leveraged and it helped me go higher and further and faster.
I feel like what a beautiful lesson from nature, to step on the boulders in our life instead of trying to bypass them. These boulders that are seemingly in our way, they actually may be there to launch us even further at a faster rate. Instead of trying to sidestep the obstacle, I say embrace it. Put your foot on top of it and let it give you a stronger leverage to propel you into the future.
For whatever reason, hiking and being out in nature seemed to escalate the kind of healing achieved, for me, especially in processing emotions. By the time I had left Mount Shasta after several days, I felt transformed. I mean, I was so centered, grounded, relaxed, quiet. What better place to release some of these past hurts and sadness than surrounded by God’s beauty, whether it be on the water with Captain Mike or… I love paddleboarding and kayaking. What better place? Maybe it’s snow skiing for you, waterskiing. Maybe it’s just walking at your local park, which I used to do a lot of that in Indiana.
But science-wise, there are so many scientific reasons why you should be spending more time outside. You probably know that, but again, to get us away from work, away from email, away from the computer. So, one of them… I’ll tell you 11 and we’ll talk briefly about some of them. #1: Improved short-term memory. In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test and divided into two groups. One group took a walk around some trees, and the other half took a walk down a city street.[00:40:00]When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among the trees did almost 20% better than the first time. Again, those who had taken in city sights instead did not improve. Again, improved short-term memory. #2 Scientific Reason: It restores mental energy. Isn’t that what we all need? We need more mental energy and we need more physical energy. You know that feeling where your brain seems to be sputtering to a halt, the mental fatigue, because we push. We try to push ourselves. One thing that can get your mind back into gear is exposing it to restorative environments like being outside.
A third scientific: Stress release. Really, we all know that. Head for the trees. One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone, as we all know is used for the marker of stress — than those who had spent time in the city. We know that.
Reduced inflammation. Which “inflammation” is a big buzzword now; it’s a natural process the body uses to respond to threats like damage. Being outside reduces inflammation. #5: Better vision. Can you believe that? Better vision from being outside in nature. At least also in children, a fairly large body of research has found that outdoor activity actually has a protective effect on the eyes reducing all kinds of things. So, that’s amazing scientific research.
#6: Improved concentration. We know the natural environment is restorative and the one thing a walk outside can do is restore your waning attention. In one study, researchers worked to deplete participants’ ability to focus. Some took a walk in nature, some took a walk through the city, and the rest just relaxed. When they returned, the nature group scored the best on a proofreading task. Again, we need to realize that there are so many benefits to getting outside.
#7: Sharper thinking and creativity. I tend to do my best work after I’ve been outside on a walk or watching the sunset. I agree, sharper thinking and creativity. Going for that exercise, whether it be just exercise or just sitting and watching a sunrise or sunset.
Also researchers… #8: Possible anti-cancer effects. That’s amazing. #9: Immune system boost. 10: Improved mental healthy. 11: Reduced risk of early death. The health effects of green space are wide ranging and studies can’t prove cause and effect still, but they still show strong associations between access to nature and longer, healthier lives, which is amazing. I mean, that is what we all want.
Nature heals. Being in nature or even viewing scenes of nature reduces anger, fear, stress, and it increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally; it contributes to your physical wellbeing. We’ve talked about this, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the stress hormones. Nature heals. Nature soothes. It can help us cope with pain. Nature restores.
One of the most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general wellbeing, which is so important. Nature connects. According to a series of field studies, time in nature connects us to each other and the larger world. If you’re a person who doesn’t normally spend time outdoors, I challenge you to start even with a 15-minute walk outside every evening. I want you to notice how you feel before and after. Do you feel more centered, balanced, grounded? There are hundreds of other studies outlining the benefits of spending time outdoors. What’s important to note from all of the scientific, all of it, is the overall consensus is spend time outdoors with others everyday. This will provide the needed restorative experience your body craves. Your body craves it. All of our bodies crave it to be in balance.
That’s what a family beach vacation does. Soak up the grass, flowers, sun, waves, mountains, rocks, streams. Let them balance you and reconnect you with the true you, which is, for me, that’s just complete self-love and taking care of yourself. I love talking about nature and the healing effects of it. It’s been great being with you today, and I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader and we’ll see you next week.
END OF TRANSCRIPT [00:45:17]