Doctors in Scotland Are Now Prescribing ‘Nature’ to Their Patients

(ANTIMEDIA) — In an age of technology and constant immersion in the digital sphere, a new initiative in Shetland, Scotland is encouraging individuals suffering from chronic illness to spend more time in nature.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has teamed up with the National Health Service in Shetland  to promote “Nature Prescriptions.” Doctors in the region can now officially prescribe “nature” to their patients.

According to a statement from the RSPB:

From reducing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stress levels, rates of aggression, obesity. It can be used when treating Type II diabetes or depression or when recovering from operations, and it has been proven over and over again to provide relief from anxiety. Plus it’s free and easily accessible to all. It makes complete sense to work with the medical profession to connect people with nature.

For example, a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that “people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression,” Stanford News reported at the time.

The goal is to reconnect people with the outdoors, the organization says. “We wanted to develop something that gently reminded people that they are part of the natural world and that invites them to go out and seek a personal connection,” the statement explains.

The group has produced a leaflet, as well as a calendar of seasonal activities. The program, launched earlier this month, has drawn support from the medical community.

“I want to take part because the project provides a structured way for patients to access nature as part of a non-drug approach to health problems. 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,” said Dr. Chloe Evans, a general practitioner at Scalloway Health Centre.

The goal of the initiative is to help people connect with nature due to its benefits on overall health but also to encourage more physical activity.

As the RSPB explained:

The benefits of physical activity are well documented, with regular physical activity reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes, diabetes, cancers, depression, anxiety and sleep problems.

There is now a body of evidence that people with a stronger connection to nature experience more life satisfaction, positive affect and vitality at levels associated with established predictors of satisfaction, such as personal income.

It’s widely understood that connections to nature come from more than physical activity or exercise in the outdoors alone and that’s the crux of the project.

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