Doctors are increasingly prescribing time in nature to promote mental and physical health – post

The combination of the Greek prefix –BIOS (“life”) with the suffix –philia (“Friendship and Intimacy”), the term was first coined by German physiologist Erich Fromm biophilia in 1973: “The passionate love of life and all that is alive.”

The term has been adopted more commonly to mean, “the innate human instinct to communicate with nature.”

“There’s an entire field of study called Biophilia,” said Brent Power, MD, a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. “This means that we are connected to nature and that these studies have already demonstrated that time in nature can improve anxiety, blood pressure, and focus in children with attention problems.”

There has been a growing trend of physicians prescribing time in nature, or “garden recipes” to their patients to improve mental and physical health.

“I’m a big believer,” Bauer said. “I prescribe nature to my patients a lot.”

ParkRx is a program that began in 2013 when the Golden Gate Institute, the National Park and Recreation Association and the National Park Service met with a group of health care practitioners to discuss recent findings that natural prescriptions improve mental and physical health.

This group ended up creating resources to support an emerging movement of prescribing practitioners in the park. Since its founding, the number of park prescription programs has increased across the country.

ParkRx conducted a 2020 census of 37 of these programs across the country and found that 24% of park prescriptions are issued with a specific health goal while another 78% are used to promote public health. Specific health goals are often managing anxiety and depression or lowering stress levels.

According to Bauer, written prescriptions enforce accountability and more effectively push patients out of oral recommendation from their healthcare practitioner.

Walking Trails in Rochester

A view of the small island located in the Quarry Hill Nature Center Pond and the trail connecting it to the main natural area on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Post Newsletter

“This actually takes it to another level,” Bauer said. “I’ve seen a lot of people come back and say ‘That’s what brought me back to the outdoors. “

To test whether actual green space brings mental and physical health benefits or rather if only exercise is beneficial, scientists conducted studies to see if a person strolling through an urban environment sees the same health improvements as someone hiking through nature.

A 2015 study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences It found that participants who went for a nature walk experienced lower levels of rumination, or negative thoughts about themselves, and reduced brain activity in the brain region associated with mental illness compared to those who walked in an urban environment.

The researchers believe this indicates that access to nature is “vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.”

According to Bauer, there was another study conducted on children’s attention span. There were three groups that each took a 90-minute walk: one through nature, one through semi-urban areas, and the last through the downtown perimeter.

“It turns out that in the urban area with the downtown area, the attention of the children was much shorter. When they got to nature, their attention improved.” Bauer said. “Nature always wins.”

For people who live in urban areas who may not have easy access to walking trails or parks, there are some things people can do to simulate being in nature that bring similar benefits.

According to Bauer, playing videos or audio recordings of nature sounds can bring similar benefits to being outside.

“We did a study in Mayo a long time ago with nature sounds after surgery, so we had people who would stay in the hospital (for) three or four days. Some of them had a quiet period of relaxation. Some listened to nature sounds,” Bauer said. Performed better in terms of managing pain and anxiety, and those who actually heard recorded live nature sounds did statistically significantly better than those who spent the same amount of time being quiet.”

While Bauer said this doesn’t give the full benefits of being outside, it’s a way to get some health improvements if it’s not possible to be outside.

Another way to simulate being in nature is to have natural elements in your workspace, such as a picture of a waterfall or a wooden desk.

“You will have more productivity. You will have some better mental health outcomes,” Bauer said. “I think there are a lot of ways to take advantage of that nature.”

The reason being outside in nature is so effective at achieving good physical and mental health outcomes in the United States is that many of the health problems seen in its population are related to lifestyle and not getting enough exercise or spending time outdoors.

According to Bauer, part of boosting overall health comes from eating a better diet, getting more exercise and getting a higher quality of sleep. Bauer said he believes people should add enough time outdoors as part of their overall health routine.

“[The researchers]found that if you can get about 120 total minutes per week in nature, that seems to be about the sweet spot,” Bauer said. “Obviously more could be better, but if I say ‘what’s the thing to shoot? “I try to get my patients outside in nature for at least two hours every week.”