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Photo: UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland

If you’re lucky, the next time you show up stressed out at a doctor’s appointment, your prescription might be a walk in the park… literally.

体育投注网址A new study showed that doctors could help reduce their patients’ stress levels, along with boosting other health benefits, simply by recommending that people spend time in nature.

体育投注网址 was published this month in the journal PLOS ONE.

Access to nature is a right for all

Much research has looked at the health effects of spending time in nature.

There are even people who specialize in leading people into nature for the sole benefit of their physical and mental health.

Known as forest therapists, these guides lead people on two- to three-hour walks, helping them to let go, de-stress, and open up.

from Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada.

Although this practice is sometimes known as forest bathing体育投注网址, walks can occur anywhere in nature — in a meadow, along a shoreline, or on a mountain.

Earley said that each walk involves a “series of invitations.” This might include “find something in motion and move with it” or “lie down on the ground and notice the world.”

This conscious interaction with nature is different from the way many people spend time outside.

体育投注网址“When we’re going on a hike, we’re kind of on a mission,” said Earley. “We’ve got an endpoint in mind.”

体育投注网址She said people she’s led on walks have welcomed the chance to unwind and decompress, and to be playful again. Others have loved seeing nature in a new way.

体育投注网址“All of those are beautiful responses, and all very different,” said Earley. “None of them are right or better.”

体育投注网址Not everyone has access to a forest therapist, though.

But Razani thinks that even small doses of nature have benefits — even at your local park.

体育投注网址“We would advocate for you to find green spaces that are near you,” said Razani, “where you can go for short daily doses of nature.”

Earley agreed. “Spending 15 minutes being quiet, just watching what’s going on around us, and developing a relationship with nature and ourselves is really beneficial,” she said.

The new study is also the first randomized controlled trial to look in “practical terms” at how doctors can encourage their patients to spend more time in nature.

体育投注网址“Often a primary care provider won’t screen patients for stress because they have nothing to offer them,” said Razani.

体育投注网址But giving patients a park prescription is easy for doctors to do, and can be effective for many people.

Razani sees spending time in nature as one of several coping mechanisms that people can use to deal with stress in their lives.

体育投注网址She said these kinds of tools may be “even more important” for low-income populations, which tend to have than the national average.

This makes access to nature not just a health issue, but also an equity issue.

Especially since stress can worsen other health problems体育投注网址 such as heart disease, asthma, and type 2 diabetes.

“It’s important to not frame nature as something that is inaccessible,” said Razani. “It is everyone’s right to have access to green spaces near where they live.”