Doctors are Finally Prescribing Nature for Chronic Disease
- By: Jordyn Cormier
Think about how you feel after spending the day outside. Tired, maybe, but also deeply satisfied. Our relationship to nature is primal—we thrive on it. Spending time in green spaces is absolutely crucial to human wellness. Luckily, doctors are finally starting to realize how powerful nature can be—especially when it comes to those with chronic health issues. Yep, they’re even prescribing it.
Doctors in Scotland’s Shetland Islands are now issuing ‘nature prescriptions’ as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. And it’s not just doctors telling people to get outside and go hiking/biking/swimming or do some hardcore outdoor exercise. These aren’t high intensity prescriptions. Doctors are telling patients to get outside into forests, appreciate passing clouds, feel the exhilaration of wind on their face, skip stones on ponds, and go birdwatching.
Yes, birdwatching is now a doctor-issued prescription.
In the Shetland Islands, if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression or even diabetes, odds are you’ll get a nature prescription. Of course, doctors are not prescribing time in nature as a total alternative to traditional health care, but they’re prescribing nature supplementally.
Spending time in nature is a subtle treatment—compared to traditional meds, the only side effects are dirty fingernails and a feeling of profound serenity—but it really works.
Countless studies have shown that concentration improves, attention span increases, risk for depression decreases, stress hormones go down, inflammatory markers decrease, and blood glucose levels even drop. Nature is an incredibly powerful balancer of the body.
Scotland isn’t alone in accepting nature as a conventional medical treatment.
Even here in the U.S., there are big shifts happening in our relationship with nature. Some doctors in California have started prescribing nature to patients with profound financial or social struggles to help reduce stress and boost happiness.
Meanwhile, REI is donating $1 million to a new academic initiative called ‘Nature for Health‘ to fund research on how to get more people access to green spaces and to fully document the benefits that come with having easy access to green spaces. The study is focusing especially on underprivileged communities or in demographics who are generally underrepresented in the outdoor community.
WRITE YOUR OWN NATURE PRESCRIPTION
But spending time in nature hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet. According to the EPA, the average American spends just seven percent of their life outdoors.
It’s clear that we all need more nature in our lives, but you don’t need to fly to Scotland to get yourself a prescription. Just step outside and empower your own health. It’s probably the most life-changing prescription you’ll ever get.