Nature therapy. What is that? The first time I came across anything remotely like this was in Japan when I learned about shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). I’ve always enjoyed a walk in a forest, but this was the first time that I came across the idea that it could be therapeutic in striking ways. The study conducted by Japanese researchers demonstrated increases in some of the immune cells circulating in the blood of people who’d taken a walk in a forest in the previous week.
Later I discovered that it wasn’t just forests which had such positive health benefits. Richard Louv, in “The Nature Principle” describes many and recommends thinking of time in natural environments as supplying us with “Vitamin N” (or “vitamin Nature”). He even claimed that an insufficient amount of time spent outside leads to “NDD” – or “Nature Deficit Disorder“!
David Suzuki has championed the idea of the 30×30 challenge which encourages people to spend 30 minutes in Nature every day for 30 days. Partly inspired by that some UK researchers studied the effects of the Wildlife Trust’s “30 days wild” campaign and found increased levels of health, happiness and positive connections to nature. They also claimed that these three qualities were inter-related, each one enhancing the other. I really like that.
Then, in the most recent issue of “Resurgence” magazine I read a piece about GPs in Shetland prescribing Nature to their patients, using a leaflet and a calendar produced by the RSPB. This work is just fabulous! You can read about it, and download a copy of their leaflet which GPs are using, here.
One of their innovations which I especially like is that as well as suggested activities in the leaflet, they have produced a calendar which gives people about ten suggested activities to try every single month. The activities are relevant to both Shetland culture and locations in Shetland AND they are tailored to be appropriate to each particular month taking account of the rhythms of the natural world and the cycles of the seasons.
Obviously, it being Shetland, there is no “forest bathing” mentioned (no forests in Shetland as far as I’m aware) but the larger benefits of all kinds of time spent outdoors and becoming more aware of the natural environment are the key to these publications.