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Park Prescriptions – The New-Found Way To Beatstress

Whether it’s going out for drinks and having a few beers, taking a prescribed medication, or working out at the gym, there are many ways that individuals use to kick back (or forward) in order to get their stress levels down. But there’s a new craze to help us out in the everlasting battle against stress. While it’s not some kind of ‘magic pill’ and probably won’t turn your life around overnight, researchers have found a small but steady drop in the stress levels of people who have visited parks and nature spots.

And recently, a study was conducted that showed how doctors could reduce their patients’ stress levels, by quite literally prescribing a walk in the park. By getting out of the house and spending time in nature people can not only relieve stress, but it comes with a whole host of other benefits.

According to Dr. Nooshin Razani, study author and director of the Center for Nature and Health at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Childrens Hospital Oakland, “What we learned is that nature can help with stress.” She adds “and that a doctor’s office is an appropriate place to talk to people about stress and talk to them about the importance of getting outside.”

The study was carried out at a paediatric clinic in Oakland, California and featured 78 children from low-income households, and of a wide variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Stress levels were measured via the use of cortisol levels in the saliva.

It’s not only stress reduction that was observed. People that get out and visit parks can also expect to experience reduced levels of loneliness and an increase in physical activity. They also experience what’s known as ‘nature affinity’ where they develop a love and respect of nature.

It’s also been noted that children from low-income families, especially those living in urban environments have a great deal of difficulty getting out into nature, due to a lack of parks in the local area and a lack of knowledge and support from parents.

Realising the mental health benefits of being in nature, some circles of psychologists are exploring this even further. In fact, ‘forest therapists’ have come to the aid of many individuals who require nature to benefit their physical and mental health. A forest therapist will guide people and lead them on walks for a couple of hours, helping them to let go of any tension and open up.

If you don’t have access to a forest therapist, then you can always take things into your own hands. You don’t have to go deep into a forest to be in nature. You can find a local park and spend time there. Spending 15-20 minutes or so should be sufficient. Spend time watching what’s going on around you. Just look and listen and you’ll come away developing a relationship with nature that will enhance your quality of life.

Since stress can lead to many additional health problems, a park prescription is becoming a more viable option for doctors to use to help patients in need.

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