More Than 400 Doctors Now Prescribes Time In Nature for Anxiety

You’re probably not spending enough time outside. This group of doctors wants to change that.

There’s a reason the Japanese call time out in nature “forest bathing.” It’s more than just a hike, it’s submersion in nature —a cleansing in the most spiritual sense. And that can help prevent or bring relief from a range of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. It’s the same reason Ethiopia’s Orthodox church builds its churches inside forests — there’s an innate spiritual connection between humans and nature. When we lose that, we lose ourselves. And it’s why Park Rx America – a non-profit organisation with more than 400 doctor-members, is prescribing time in nature for mental wellbeing. 

Picnic in the park

(Re)Connecting With Nature

Founded by Dr. Robert Zarr, Park Rx America is a way for doctors across the country to help their patients connect with nature more often. It’s a platform listing over 8,500 parks across 43 states. At least 400 doctors and healthcare professionals are using it to write prescriptions for time outdoors. 

The stated goal of the organisation is to increase health and happiness whilst decreasing chronic diseases.

“After an excursion into a forested area, the level of natural killer cells, which are good, rises by almost 50%. And one month after that walk into the forest, it’s still elevated above baseline by almost 25%.”

Dr. Robert Zarr

The science shows that spending time in nature improves cognitive development, decreases anxiety and negative thinking, and lowers depression and stress levels.

This isn’t just an American initiative either. 

Doctors in the Shetland Islands have been prescribing time outside to combat chronic illnesses, like high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Partnering with the Royal Society of Birds Scotland (RSPB Scotland) last year, they created a calendar with outdoor activities to take part in as a way of boosting health and wellbeing. 

Walking in the park

How to get in nature daily

1. Go for a walk in the park 

Instead of meeting your friends in a cafe, take your coffee to go and hit the nearest green space. Don’t forget your travel mug!

2. Find your nearest nature reserve 

Take a sketchbook with you to record the types of plants or birds you see and look them up when you get home.

3. Have a picnic

Next time you’re entertaining, dine al fresco and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

4. Daydream out the window

If you can’t get outside, let your attention wander. Look up and watch the clouds as the move across the sky for a count of ten. 

‘It brings health and happiness into our lives in a way that being on a phone or being plugged in doesn’t. So overall, there’s a lot of evidence now that being outdoors, especially under a canopy, near the sound of water, listening to birds, you actually improve your health. Not just feel better, you get better because of it.’

Dr. Robert Zarr

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