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Doctors prescribe ‘nature time’ to patients in Scotland

/ 03:24 PM October 11, 2018

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Doctors in Shetland, Scotland, have started giving out “nature prescriptions,” which involves advising patients to spend some time in nature to supplement their conventional medication.

National Health Service of Shetland (NHS Shetland) authorized the issuance of nature prescriptions on Oct. 5 for patients with mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, stress and other conditions, reports The Guardian.

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Patients who are prescribed their nature time will be given calendars and lists of activities ranging from bird-watching walks to standing still for three minutes just to listen to the wind. These calendars are drawn up by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and will show patients particular bird species and what routes to take to see them.

The concept of the program leans on evidence of the positive effects of nature on the human condition.

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“We would like this to be picked up by other areas or health boards. There is so much evidence that nature is good for us, and this is a simple way to get people outdoors and experiencing nature in a city or a wilder place like Shetland,” said RSPB Scotland area manager Helen Moncrieff.

The calendars will also vary per season. For example, a winter prescription focuses more on the elements such as the strong Atlantic winds.

“There are millions of different ways of doing medicine but we very much try to involve people in their own health, and people really like being empowered,” said Dr. Chloe Evans, who piloted the program at the Scalloway Health Center on the west coast of Shetland’s main island.

Meanwhile, NHS Shetland does not suggest doing away with conventional medication altogether in favor of being one with nature. Instead, the patients’ time in nature are meant to supplement their normal treatments.

Healthcare professionals around the United Kingdom have been encouraged to suggest leisurely walks in parks to their patients to help with treatment. The organization NHS Forest Project helps to create the green spaces for the patients, which will be dedicated for healthcare purposes.

“The physical and mental benefits of connecting with nature have been very well evidenced by numerous studies,” said NHS spokeswoman Makena Lohr. “It’s high time that the healthcare sector became aware of that.” Alfred Bayle /ra

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