Prescribing Nature for Health
Prescribing nature for health - a TED Talk by Dr Nooshin Razani
So often, our children’s access to the outoors is restricted and tightly controlled, curtailing their happiness, creativity and imagination. Prohibited by rules such as no running, no jumping, no games and keep off the grass, they are left feeling bored and reluctant to spend time outdoors. But, allow them free reign to play and they come into their own, building forts, playing cooperatively and creatively, learning to socialise and learning to co-exist with each other and with nature.
In addition, nature acts as a soothing balm, helping us to relax and destress, lowering our cortisol levels, our blood pressure, our heart rate and our breathing, easing anxiety and lifting depression. But often, those who would most benefit from spending time in nature, are those least likely to have access to any form of green space.
So, paediatrician, Dr Nooshin Razani (director for the Center for Nature and Health at University of California, San Francisco) set about collaborating with park wardens at the East Bay Regional Park District to prescribe nature to her patients and create a programme that would allow them to enjoy the benefits of quality time in nature.
The result, as she quotes one of her favorite kids, was “freedom!” and smiles all around.
Nature is something that is so important for all of us and yet, we now spend so little time outdoors. In fact, the average American spends only 7% of their time outdoors – usually consisting of the jump between house door to car door and car door to work or school door. Yet, just 15-20 minutes a day in nature can help us feel lighter and happier, inducing relaxation and reducing levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
Yet despite being something that we all need regardless of race, creed, wealth or background, access to nature, whether in the form of wilderness or urban green space, is unfortunately highly divided along these lines – with those who research shows would most benefit from nature, having the least access to it.
In summary, the most important points Dr Razani shares, are:
- Allow children to spend time in nature and they will start finding their feet, creating special forts or spaces where they can retreat and and recoup, spending time by themselves and with their peers, socialising and bonding. This activity lasts until about age 12 and is thought to help kids grow their emotional and physical maturity as they head towards adolescence.
- While we can benefit from any access to nature, including urban nature, the highest benefit comes when we spend time in green spaces and around trees – places which inspire a sense of awe. Here, blood pressure lowers and our breathing rate slows due to a shift from our sympathetic (stress) to our parasymathetic (relax) systems.
- Experiencing awe and the beauty of nature also helps us to move away from ruminating on our internal thoughts to paying attention to our external environment, which helps to ease ease feelings of depression and anxiety.
- So, find just a few minutes a day to go outdoors – take your children and yourself outdoors and allow them to explore – to interact with life – with trees, insects, rocks… whatever they are drawn to and allow yourself to slow down, breathe and enjoy the benefit of this feeling of being part of nature.
I hope you enjoyed this video as much as I did and that it inspires you to get out and push for accessible nature spaces within your own community.
If you would love to receive inspiration and ideas for your own nature connection and rewilding practice, don’t forget to sign up and join My Nature Nook Newsletter today.
Happy nature walking,