There is a new prescription on the market and doctors are prescribing it with increasing frequency. Patients are seeing an improvement in their moods and they’re feeling healthier, fitter, and stronger. What’s this new prescription doctors are handing out like candy? It’s a Green Prescription and they’re simply telling you to go play outside.
What are Green Prescriptions?
Doctors are always recommending that their patients get more exercise but now they’ve started to actually write prescriptions for it and they suggest we do it in nature. This may involve a hike through the woods, spending time at the park, helping to plant new trees, or any other activity that can connect people with nature. Unless you’re a total fitness buff, going to the gym is a drag for most people. Doctors are finding that people who get their exercise outside are more likely to enjoy it and therefore more likely to stick to their routine.
Doctors have also started prescribing Social Prescriptions, meant to encourage those with depression, anxiety, or just plain old loneliness to get out there and connect with people. Social isolation can have a significantly negative impact on mental health and instead of giving their patients pills, doctors are encouraging them to get out into the world and be part of their community. Many doctors are doubling up on these drug-free prescriptions and are suggesting people spend more time in local parks or community green spaces to get the most out of both nature and healthy social interaction.
Gardening for Exercise
One of the most common Green Prescriptions doctors are handing out to their patients is a suggestion to take up gardening. This could be achieved by starting a garden in their backyard, setting up a greenhouse, or becoming involved in a community garden. Regardless of how you’re gardening, the fact remains that it can be a sweaty job. Between weeding, lifting heavy bags of soil, hauling gardening equipment around, and pruning all those beautiful flowers, you’ll find that gardening can keep you active and outdoors for hours. Want more exercise? Grow a bigger garden!
Get Involved in Community Gardening
If you’re feeling a little lonely, plants can often act as quite a comfort. Many people who garden feel very connected to their plants and this can sometimes even feel like a form of socialization. Plants can’t chat back to you though, and community gardening can be an incredibly fulfilling way to create some human connections. Many cities have plenty of community gardens already established but if there are none in your area, talk to neighbors who you think may be interested, look for available land in your neighborhood, and petition your city to get one started.
There is a great deal of cooperation and planning that is required to successfully grow a community garden. As a member of a shared gardening space, many individuals find a certain comfort in being needed and depended upon for the role they play in making that garden grow. As any gardener knows, watching something you’ve planted rise up out of the ground and grow into a healthy, thriving specimen is one of the most rewarding feelings. Now think about sharing that experience with others who are as invested in the garden as you are and those good feelings are amplified infinitely.
Eating Fresh Produce
Social interaction and exercise aren’t the only ways that gardening can be good for your health. Start eating all those vegetables you’ve been growing and you’ll improve your diet as well. Eating fresh, locally grown veggies from your own garden not only provides you with a ton of awesome, organic nutrients, it also acts as the best encouragement to keep eating healthy. It’s so fun to eat what you’ve grown and it’s tragic to see all your hard work just rot and go to waste. Grow a bunch of your favorite fruits and vegetables and not only will you be more encouraged to stick to a healthy diet, you’ll also save a bunch of money on your grocery bill.
Changing Our Outlook on Nature
As Green Prescriptions become more common and people start heading out into nature to improve their health, how we feel about the environment will start to change as well. The more society connects to plants, trees, and the natural world, the more we’ll begin to respect our planet and all the green life that’s growing on it. An overall shift in how we see nature will have a huge impact on environmental protection, sustainable farming practices, and natural resource conservation. With a global shift in how we feel about nature, we may be able to stop the damage that is being done to our environment and, with time, reverse and repair the harm that has already been done.
Whether you need more exercise, more social connection, or maybe you just need a way to de-stress, doctors are suggesting the outdoors are a cure for what ails you more and more often. Nature is hardly a cure-all miracle drug, but it’s definitely a cheap and easy place to start. It costs you nothing to spend a day in the park or hike on a local trail and you have everything to gain by giving it a try. Starting your own garden can be done very cheaply and when gardening in a community you can even share cuttings of each other’s plants to avoid buying new ones from a nursery. You may find that once you get a little fresh air, a bit of exercise, and meet some people within your neighborhood, other symptoms or stresses you had will lessen bit by bit or simply fade away entirely.