‘We should take wandering outdoor walks so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.’
Seneca, died in AD 65
This ancient wisdom is getting a modern-day update with Park Rx America – a non-profit organisation in the United States that is prescribing time in nature for mental wellbeing.
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 8500 parks across 43 states. Nearly 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
> lowers depression and stress
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.
‘The benefits to patients are that it is free, easily accessible, allows increased connection with surroundings which hopefully leads to improved physical and mental health for individuals.’
Dr Chloe Evans
So how can you incorporate nature into your daily routine?
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!
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.
Trade the tablecloth for a picnic blanket
Next time you’re entertaining, dine al fresco and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Check out our favourite recipes here!
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
Next time you’re out and about, we’d love to hear from you. Tag us on social and let us know where your walk is taking you.