5 Ways to Prescribe Nature For Yourself For Improved Health and Wellness

5 Ways to Prescribe Nature For Yourself For Improved Health and Wellness

Girl in Nature


Everywhere around the globe, people are choosing to prioritize their health and well-being across all facets of their lives.

 

There’s less stigma around mental health issues and more open and honest conversations around body positivity. CBD oils are taking over the wellness industry, helping to alleviate stress and pain. “Wellness tourism” has become the fastest-growing travel sector, according to Lonely Planet, with a 10% rise in 2018, making it a $500 billion market. Today, there’s thought to be over 300 million yoga practitioners worldwide, with Americans alone spending over $16 billion on yoga classes, clothing, and accessories each year.

 

We’re also seeing more time and investment being placed in wellness in the workplace. Companies, big and small, are realizing that implementing workplace wellness programs and truly putting their employees’ health at the forefront will help reduce stress, boost productivity and engagement and, in the long run, save them money.

 

Overall, there’s an excitement and a curiosity for health, happiness, and wellness in the air, with new movements happening regularly and tech innovations paving the way.

 

And now there’s also more of a willingness and acceptance in alternative medicine as a way to achieve maximum health — without the use of harsh prescription drugs. A recent article in Outside Magazine entitled “The Nature Cure,” brought to light this new and exciting grassroots movement led by a group of American physicians.

 

Elderly Couple Walking Outside

 

Despite the explosive growth of wellness and yoga and meditation becoming more mainstream, unfortunately, the reality is that depression, anxiety, and obesity rates continue to climb in the U.S. In the article, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “one in three U.S. adults and nearly one in five children are now obese.” Health care providers are now moving outside traditional means — instead, they’re thinking outside the box to help their patients avoid getting heavier or sicker. They’re prescribing nature.

 

The “nature prescription” movement is growing with specialized research institutes for nature and health opening at medical centres, electronic health-record systems beginning to incorporate nature prescriptions as they would pharmacological ones and health insurers offering incentives for nature prescriptions.

 

So what do these nature prescriptions look like? Anything from general encouragement to get outdoors a couple of times a week to specific instructions for an activity, location, duration, and frequency. There’s even a mapping tool called Park Rx to help doctors find the nearest park for their patients.

 

“We are starting to think about nature not just as a place to recreate, but also as a social determinant of health,” says Robert Zarr, a pediatrician at Upper Cardozo Health Center and founder of the public health non-profit Park Rx America, in the article.

 

Although there’s no actual term for this, many would describe it as a “nature-deficit disorder.” There are real and incredible benefits of being outdoors, it affects the mind, body, and spirit in the best way possible — physicians who are passionate about nature’s power are trying to spread awareness to the general public.

 

People Camping

 

An article in Business Insider actually outlines 12 science-backed reasons to spend more time outdoors, calling it “essential” for human health. Studies have revealed that nature walks can improve short-term memory. Another study showed how camping out in a forest for two nights lowered levels of cortisol, a hormone often used as a marker for stress, as well as decreased heart rates, compared to those who spent time in the city. Being in nature has even helped to reduce inflammation, which is associated with illnesses ranging from autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer.

 

And “being in nature” isn’t limited to just camping or being in a forest — surf therapy has actually become a recognized form of therapy, with research proving its positive effects on one’s overall health and well-being. Waves for Change, for example, is aimed at providing child-friendly mental health services for at-risk youth living in unstable communities. Surf therapy and being in the ocean has also helped alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among war veterans. (A documentary film entitled Resurface explores the power of surfing to help heal the body, brain, and psyche from PTSD.)

 

Surfing

 

Doctors suggesting exercise and being outdoors as a way to improve health isn’t a new thing. But, according to the Outside article, what is happening right now is different. “It’s widespread, systematic, and, at least in aspiration, evidence-based. Though boutique wilderness treatments for trauma and some behavioral disorders have existed for years, the idea that your primary care physician, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or cardiologist might prescribe a park before a pill is quite new.”

 

Although we can’t ignore the fact that there are other factors keeping us healthy — a proper, plant-based diet, natural supplements, sickness prevention, and health checkups — there’s no doubt that spending a portion of our time outdoors and back in nature is a great healing force.

 

Prescribe Nature for Yourself


No need to wait for a doctor to get your “nature prescription” — motivate yourself to get started and find ways to get outdoors this season. Here are a few of our favourite ideas.

 

Plan a Wellness Adventure Trip

 

Yoga Outside

 

Google “wellness retreat,” and there’s no shortage of ideas and places to begin planning your next wellness-focused vacation. From retreat centres and itineraries specifically focused on nature walks and being outdoors to surf and yoga retreats, find out what interests you the most, book time off at work and truly dedicate yourself to immersing in nature — don’t forget to unplug and detox from your phones and the digital world.

 

Find Local Trails in the City

 

Biking Outside

 

You don’t need to fly across the world to recharge and bask in nature. Get your nature fill at a local park or trail. Research and find places you can try rejuvenating activities. Even in major cities like New York City and Toronto, you can find stunning hiking trails, unique standup paddleboard (SUP) lake excursions and even hidden waterfalls and landscapes to explore. There are lots of apps that can help you connect with nature. RunGo can help you find over 100,000 walking, running, or biking routes around the world. Traveling by foot is the best way to discover new parts of the city!

 

Gear Up for a Classic Camping Trip

 

Girl Camping

 

Whether it’s just a quick weekend getaway or a longer trip, you can’t go wrong with a classic camping trip with a group of friends, your family or even solo. Camping is the best — the fresh air alone is enough to make the entire trip worthwhile. We’ve mentioned that the colour green and being in an office full of plants can have both psychological and physical health benefits. Imagine that times a thousand in a vast and peaceful forest.

 

And planning doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Vitarock has everything you need to prep for an easy, safe and eco-friendly camping trip, from all-natural Citronella Outdoor Adventure Kit, biodegradable soaps and of course, healthy, tasty snacks to keep you fuelled throughout the day.

 

Learn How to Surf

 

Woman learning to surf

 

Anyone who’s taken a dip in the ocean knows the unspoken serenity and healing power of its waters. Surfing has been known to alleviate stress and anxiety because of its ability to achieve a “flow state” — when a person’s mind is fully focused and immersed in an activity, producing a feeling of enjoyment and peace in the process. This flow state floods the brain with neurochemicals, such as anandamide and serotonin — the same substances found in antidepressants. It’s actually one of the best forms of “nature prescription,” as it’s an effective substitute for strong drug medications, plus it’s often comparable to meditation.

 

The best way to get started is to search for a surf retreat for beginners that allows you to learn from certified surf instructors. They can help you with paddle and popup technique, surf etiquette and how to read waves, so you can surf a new break safely and enjoyably — and eventually on your own! There are surf retreats all over the globe, from Costa Rica and Nicaragua to Bali and Morocco. Barefoot Surf Travel is a great way to start your search.

 

Do Yoga Outdoors

 

Group doing yoga

 

The benefits of yoga are endless — from improving overall health to healing pain and preventing chronic illness. It’s no wonder why it’s become a popular form of exercise and alternative medicine. According to Yoga Journal, studies have found that yoga practice “lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise.” Take your practice to the next level by doing yoga outdoors. Not only will you have all the benefits from being in nature, but combined with meditation, pranayamas, and asanas would make it an unforgettable and inspiring experience.

 

Take charge of your health and head outdoors for nature’s healing — your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it.



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