Prescription of the month: A healthy dose of Nature

(The simplest and safest medicine there is)

There’s a new non-drug “prescription” making its rounds.

While some doctors are using it for their stressed-out patients, I’ve always prescribed it to you for countless health benefits. Since it truly works wonders for ultimate health and longevity.

In fact, I routinely report on the connection between health and getting outdoors in Nature (our non-drug “prescription”).

Studies show that being in Nature has significant positive influences on mental and physical health. There’s quite a bit of research revealing how it can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (the stress and “aging” hormone).

Some researchers believe there’s a link between lack of time spent in Nature and mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorders.

In fact, even small natural elements—such as a water feature on your balcony or a sitting area in your garden—can help improve mental and spiritual health.

In a study of older adults, ages 65 to 86, researchers found access to blue and green spaces, no matter the size, encouraged men and women to simply get out the door.1

“This in turn motivates them to be active physically, spiritually, and socially, which can offset chronic illness, disability, and isolation,” said lead study author Jessica Findlay.2

Not to mention, research shows that simply planting more trees on urban streets can improve the mental and physical health of people living in the neighborhood.3 (Food for thought if you’re lacking ample green space at home.)

Of course, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most people fail to explore the great outdoors, regardless of where they live.

The EPA reports that Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, with an additional 6 percent in enclosed vehicles. That means the average American spends just 4 percent of their lives outside, in Nature.4

Is it any wonder that chronic health problems are on the rise?

That’s why some enlightened doctors are fighting back. They’re actually writing prescriptions for “one hour of time in the park a week” or “a mile walk along the beach or in the woods every Saturday.”

The best part? Patients tend to take this message more seriously because it actually is a prescription…and easy to fill—rather than non-specific advice to simply “go outside.”

Of course, there’s nothing really groundbreaking about a Nature prescription. I’ve written before about how, as the U.S. became more urbanized during the late 1800s, doctors began prescribing a “Nature cure” (or a rest cure, or even a “west cure,” as the nation expanded) from common illnesses.

In fact, Theodore Roosevelt suffered from childhood ailments and took the advice to “go west” as a young man, which famously restored his vigor.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Central Park was created largely as a response to the growing health problems of the crowded, unhealthy conditions of urbanization.

In recent years, a “new” trend called forest bathing—which actually extends further back in Japan (as I wrote in the March 2020 issue of Insiders’ Cures)—has come on scene as a way to fully immerse oneself in Nature.

So, especially now, let’s revive these cures.

This month, I offer the following “Nature prescription”: Aim to spend at least 20 minutes outside in Nature daily (without toxic sunscreen, see page 1).

And please write in (feedback@drmicozzi.com), telling me your favorite ways to get out in Nature and soak in some summertime sun (and fun!).

Sources: 

1“Therapeutic landscapes and wellbeing in later life: Impacts of blue and green spaces for older adults.” Health Place. 2015 Jul;34:97-106. 

2 “Everyday access to nature improves quality of life in older adults.” Science Daily, 07/09/2015.  

3“Nature for Health and Equity,” Institute for European Environmental Policy (www.foeeurope.org) 3/21/2017 

4https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality 


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