Have you ever gone for a walk in a park, forest, or beach and noticed something special happen to your body?
Maybe you've noticed a change in your mood or a sudden burst of energy levels. And if you spend time in nature often, you may unconsciously be reaping the benefits that being outdoors has to offer.
While some people feel pressured to do certain activities that get their blood pumping while outside, there are doctors who believe that by simply being present in nature, you could help your body tackle or cope with various conditions.
Nearly half of Americans suffer from some kind of chronic or debilitating illness, and these numbers show no sign of slowing down.
Of course, many of these people who have these diseases require prescription drugs to help them get through the day, but some doctors think more can be done to help them fight or cope with whatever they're suffering from.
In what's believed to be the first time in the UK, doctors in Shetland, Scotland will be authorized to issue "nature prescriptions" to patients with mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
How does it work?
Any doctor can tell their patients to exercise or spend more time outdoors, but what's special about nature prescriptions is that patients will be given calendars and a list of walks.
Tasks on the calendar include things like dining with the family outdoors, touching the sea, looking for tracks and signs of animals, and taking notice of the clouds.
So, just like how you're prescribed a certain dose of medication, you'll also need to fulfill your nature needs.
"There is overwhelming evidence that nature has health benefits for body and mind," Karen MacKelvie, a community engagement officer for RSPB Scotland, said.
"We saw an opportunity to design a leaflet that helps doctors describe the health benefits of nature and provides plenty of local ideas to help doctors fire-up their patients' imaginations and get them outdoors."
By no means are nature prescriptions supposed to replace conventional medicines, but it could serve as a meaningful supplement.
“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,” Chloe Evans, a doctor who piloted the program at Scalloway health center on the west coast of Shetland’s main island, told The Guardian.
As MacKelvie pointed out, there have been many studies that prove the benefits of spending just 30 minutes every day outdoors.
According to researchers from the University of East Anglia in England, people who are exposed to more greenspace are also more likely to have a better quality of life.
"We found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration," the lead author of the study, Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, said.