Living with Chronic Pain

Prescribing Nature


Technology, remote work, and urban living have caused a decrease in the amount of time spent in nature. Spending time outdoors has proven to be beneficial to physical and mental well-being. Individuals should spend no less than 120 minutes, or two hours, outside each week. This can be done all at once, or spread throughout the week.

Nature occurs in all forms, shapes and sizes. Green spaces include forests, parks, trails, etc., while blue spaces include rivers, oceans, lakes, etc. Increasing the time spent in nature could include a walk in the park, a hike in the wilderness, or sunbathing on a beach.

Benefits of spending time in nature

Being outside in the sunlight, while breathing fresh air, improves both physical and psychological well­-being. Benefits of spending time in nature include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Better sleep quality. Direct sunlight helps the body differentiate between daytime and nighttime. Spending time in the sunlight decreases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, improves quality of sleep, and enables the body to feel tired at night.
  • Reduced depression and fatigue. Less depression and greater energy levels may result from improved sleeping patterns. Sunlight also helps the body increase vitamin D in the blood, which improves mental health and helps protect against diseases.
  • Promotes physical activity. Gardening, washing a car, taking a leisurely stroll, or working out boosts motivation to be physically active in the future. Nature can provide an interesting and relaxing atmosphere as opposed to gyms. Outdoor physical activity also seems less strenuous.
  • Improved breathing. Surprisingly, indoor air pollutants are higher than outdoor pollutants. Therefore, spending time in nature lowers the risk of respiratory issues. An open field with high air circulation is healthier than areas with high roadway traffic, buildings or factories.
  • Enhanced mental and emotional health. Computers, phones, coworkers, televisions, heavy traffic, etc., tend to compete for attention of thoughts, which can increase levels of stress. Being in nature provides time to unwind and recharge, reducing mental and emotional stress. Nature enhances moods, increases happiness, decreases stress, and improves attention.
  • Boosted immune system. Nature provides air circulation, which can dilute the presence of viruses. The immune system is also boosted, as unharmful microorganisms found in nature help prepare the immune system for more serious infections.
  • Increased emotional well-being. Spending time in nature eases worries, anxiety, fears and sadness. Quiet time outside can also provide a sense of awe. Exploring nature can result in happiness, peace and optimism.
  • Heightened cognitive functions. Interacting with nature promotes cognitive functions. Memory and attention are enhanced when spending quality time outdoors. Concentrating on the soothing sounds of nature encourages improved cognitive skills.
  • Strengthened overall health. Blood pressure plays an important role in good health. Relaxing in nature can reduce blood pressure and the risk for cardiovascular disease. It also enhances the ability to overcome mental fatigue and stress, which increases overall health.
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