The Common Sense of Prescribing Nature

In the mad rush of our days, I try to slow things down by watching the PBS News Hour. It is a much more calm, paced interviewing style, lacking the ticker tape of distractions at the bottom of the screen, and most dramatic banter. There are often very personal interviews where the journalists take the time to truly listen (what?!) and investigate what’s going on. Even the transcripts are enjoyable to read.

Tonight’s episode featured a bit on physicians and nurse practitioners prescribing nature to an assortment of members from their communities, notably urban children. Outside of personal expectations from the patients, the clinics organize guided group bus trips to parks, whether they be city or national with rangers and all. They are even reimbursed by insurance companies for these wellness prescriptions.

The most touching interview involved an Air Force vet who was really suffering anxiety from her experience in the service.

From the transcript: Air Force vet Vercinia Vinzant saw the world as a threat before this program. After 22 years of service and some heavy trauma, she could barely leave her home.

I don’t know if people realize how important it is for people like me to be able to learn how to live in the world again, because trees are forgiving. The grass doesn’t judge you. The grass doesn’t care how squirrelly you seem to be that day. It doesn’t care. When I first started this, I’m like, oh, come on, seriously? Going outside is going to help what, really? But, amazingly so, it does help.” – Vercincia Vinzant as interviewed by Cat Wise for the PBS News Hour.

I think this sums up the fact that children need to be outdoors. Not just outdoors playing sports, but out in nature. The interview states that there is scientific data supporting that time outdoors decreases cortisol levels.

Studies have shown that exposure to nature can lower rates of everything from anxiety and depression to more surprising things like preterm labor, asthma and nearsightedness.

But why nature is beneficial is not entirely clear. Some suspect that natural stimuli, the swaying trees, rushing water and singing birds, might reset our fight or flight response, which is too often switched into overdrive by the stresses of urban modern life.

That rest, in turn, gives the body’s psychological, digestive and immune systems the break they need to function normally.” – Cat Wise for PBS News Hour.

The ‘nearsightedness’ bit is a surprise, is it not? Or perhaps in our sedentary world of screens and vehicles, maybe just common sense.

Banner photo by Pixabay (

Leave a Reply