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Take a Dose of Nature and Call Me in the Morning

I have always found nature and the outdoors to be restorative, and now doctors are actually prescribing it!

In the October/November 2010 issue of National Wildlife magazine, Dr. Daphne Miller, a family physician and associate clinical professor  at UC-San Francisco, describes physicians' use of "park prescriptions."  These "park prescriptions" are basically recommendations to spend time in greenspace doing some form of light movement.  Dr. Miller reports that "doctors around the country are medicating their patients with nature in order to prevent (or treat) health problems ranging from heart disease to attention deficit disorder." 

As the days get shorter and colder, it can be tempting to snuggle up indoors with a cup of hot chocolate.  And that could be fine retreat.  But getting out and getting some fresh air, even for just 5 or 10 minutes, can be incredibly energizing.   An infusion of sunshine and oxygen can do wonders for your mind, body and spirit - even on a cold day. 

A study by researchers in Japan found that the Japanese practice of "forest bathing" (basically, spending time in a forest) found that "forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments." 

Another study, by Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances E. Kuo of the University of Illinois, found that a 20 minute walk in a park improved concentration in children with ADHD more than a comparable 20 minute walk downtown or in a well-kept neighborhood.  And, even those of us who do not suffer from ADHD have felt the effects of attention deficit - think of those times when you have been multi-tasking for hours and suddenly cannot seem to focus on anything.

For those of you who remain skeptical of the effects of nature on health and well-being, I've included a few links to the research below - a Google search will turn up many more. 

For those of you who already know the benefits of nature, stop reading and get thee outside!

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”  -John Muir