Nature by Prescription

Anybody who regularly spends time outdoors knows it: nature does body, mind and soul good. In the Shetland Isles, the medical community finally seems to be catching on.

Research has found overwhelming support for nature’s many mental and physical health benefits, some of which include reducing blood pressure, aggression and anxiety as well as improving concentration and general well-being. Incorporating this knowledge into the medical field, however, has been a long time coming.

But now, inspired by the growing evidence that nature makes us healthier and happier and following a successful pilot program last year, the Shetland National Health Service (NHS) will officially role out a program that encourages doctors to offer “Nature Prescriptions” to patients who they deem candidates for this form of treatment.

This means that Shetlanders might be pleasantly surprised to leave a doctor consultation not with a scribbled list of unpronounceable medications, but with an imaginative pamphlet – peppered with local colloquialisms –  prescribing a seasonal activity regimen including “turning o’er a rock and seeing what’s there,” “Bagging Shetland’s 19 ‘Marilyns’” (hilltops) and “Going for a ‘hock’ in a tidepool.”

Nature Prescriptions is a partnership program developed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSBS) Scotland and delivered by the National Health Service (NHS) Shetland, and has quickly acquired international attention. Many local doctors are also enthusiastic to the initiative, and in an RSBS press release Dr. Chloe Evans, GP at Scalloway Health Centre explains why:

“The project provides a structured way for patients to access nature as part of a non-drug approach to health problems. The benefits to patients are that it is free, easily accessible, allows increased connection with surroundings which hopefully leads to improved physical and mental health for individuals.”


Photo: Sophie Dover/Shutterstock

Jonathan Fraenkel-Eidse