It's been a rough couple of years for a lot of people, and more people than ever are suffering from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure are also on the rise, which can be attributed to higher stress levels in some people. There are lots of different treatment options out there, from therapy to medication. But some doctors are taking a more organic approach to treating chronic and mental illnesses. Doctors in Scotland have begun prescribing a surprising and relatively simple treatment that they believe offers a lot of therapeutic benefits: nature.
Doctors in the Shetland Islands, located in the United Kingdom, have started prescribing time outdoors in nature to their patients. Activities like hiking, bird watching, and walking on the beach can enhance regular medical treatment for conditions from high blood pressure to stress or anxiety. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland has even partnered with the local health board in the Shetland Islands to create a calendar of therapeutic outdoors events that could be described to patients. They call the initiative Nature Prescriptions.
There is so much research that shows how beneficial nature can be for the body and mind. The Nature Prescriptions initiative gives doctors another avenue of structured treatment to explore, one that doesn't involve drugs or other traditional methods of treatment. A quick scan of the calendar, which can be accessed as a PDF on the initiative's website, gives you an idea of what sorts of activities doctors are prescribing to their patients. Dinner outside with your family, providing nesting materials and a nesting box to local birds, and cloud watching are just a few of the recent events.
We don't know about you, but when we're feeling particularly overwhelmed or stressed out, going outside and sitting in the quiet of the yard, breathing in fresh air, and just appreciating the outdoors really does wonders. In fact, a study conducted by Australia’s University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions found that spending just 30 minutes a week outside can reduce your risk of heart disease, stress, and depression.
So if you're feeling stressed or anxious, head outside for some nature time. It's good for you in so many ways, and it may just help you manage some of your mental health issues.
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