Can you imagine it? Getting a medical prescription for “3 nature strolls a week?”
I mean, we’ve all known the amazing health benefits of being in nature, but medical doctors don’t usually prescribe them so blatantly.
And yet, amazingly, doctors in Scotland can now officially give out nature prescriptions to their patients.
Doctors may now prescribe things like beach walks in the Atlantic winds or bird-watching. For the first time, these prescriptions are given to help alleviate symptoms of chronic or debilitating illnesses.
This new medical policy in Shetland, Scotland which started last October, is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK. Doctors are now authorized by the local health board, NHS Shetland, to give out “nature prescriptions” to treat mental illness, stress, heart disease, or even diabetes.
Doctors even provide a whole leaflet containing nature prescription suggestions as part of the program. The leaflets contain charming and even sometimes some funny suggestions like “really looking at a lichen” for the month of January and to “touch the sea” in April.
Quite unconventional things to do on doctor’s orders.
However, these nature prescriptions are not meant to replace conventional medicines. According to the program’s lead, Dr Chloe Evans, it’s meant only as a supplement to normal treatments.
“There are millions of different ways of doing medicine but we very much try to involve people in their own health, and people really like being empowered.
“People are always thinking at some level about their diet or exercise or stopping smoking but finding out what works for them is the key. The beauty about Shetland is it has this fantastic wild landscape.”
There are strong evidence that suggest nature provides positive benefits on mental and physical health
We live in a time where we spend more than half our lives stuck in an office cubicle. Even our physical exercises include working out in an enclosed gym. We rarely take walks. And we live in cities filled with buildings instead of trees.
This is probably one of the reasons why we are all prone to stress, which causes a lot of health issues.
But nature can reverse all that stress and more. Numerous studies suggest that being constantly in nature makes you healthier – emotionally, mentally, and physically.
There’s a thing in Japan called, Shinrin-yoku, which roughly translates as “forest bathing.” This Japanese practice of “taking in the forest atmosphere” has been the cornerstone of preventative healthcare in the country. And if you’re skeptical about it, you merely have to look at Japan’s life expectancy rate of 84.2, which is the highest in the world, according to the World Life Expectancy survey.
Not only does being in nature make you physically healthier, but it makes you happier and kinder, too.
Nature is soothing and healing, and you have access to it.
We’re all looking for ways to live healthier lives. And instead of looking at medical methods or complicated diet plans, why not do the one thing that is effective, cheap, and extremely accessible?
Don’t just get stuck in your office. Stop driving to work if you can walk through parks on your way. Take every possibility you can to take a break, immerse yourself in the world’s natural wonders, breathe, and let it heal you.
The world is beautiful, don’t waste your time and see it for all its beauty.