Why Psychiatrists Should Be Using Nature to Treat Patients

21st-century preventative medicine and the doctor who writes prescriptions for a walk in the park

Alexandra Piedoux

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A new public health trend is spreading rapidly across the globe: doctors have begun writing nature prescriptions for their patients.

One doctor in San Francisco has even taken the initiative to start up a nonprofit organization dedicated solely to fostering awareness and appreciation of the health benefits of nature.

It’s known as ParkRx, and acts as a resource for doctors to write nature prescriptions, aiding them in locating the nearest park to a patient’s home — akin to the way doctors locate the nearest pharmacy.

What’s fascinating about this idea is that it is so simple. Take a quick survey around your workplace, classroom, or local bar — most people will agree that being in nature makes them feel good. With the exception of those affected by seasonal allergies, for whom being out in the great outdoors in the thick of spring can be torturous.

Needless to say, it’s not that complicated. Get outside! It’s good for you. We already know this, right? Well, maybe.

Most people don’t differentiate between outdoor active time (playing organized sports or running outdoors) and outdoor restorative time.

While the former is definitely healthy, as regular exercise is vital to physical health and fitness, there’s a lot to be said for the latter — time spent meandering through a hiking trail in the forest, or meditating on the beach as the waves crash gleefully against the shore.

Or simply sitting outside on a park bench, being mindful of the birds chirping, the leaves on the trees shuddering, or the undulating blades of grass that lie beneath your feet.

Oddly enough, it is often our simplest interactions with nature that yield the most pronounced effects.

While its exact mechanisms are not adequately understood, scientific findings have demonstrated that nature has immense power

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Alexandra Piedoux

Exploring science communication at the intersection of environment and mental health, dabbling in mindfulness ☀️ Instagram: @apiedoux 🌱