A hike a day keeps the doctor away

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Ever notice how much better you feel after spending time outdoors? Studies show that a boost in mood and overall sense of wellbeing is just one of the proven benefits of stepping out your front door and into the natural world. This phenomenon is well-known and has inspired a new partnership, one between the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland and doctors in the Shetland Islands. Beginning this month, doctors in Shetland (who are known there as “GPs”) have a new tool available to use at their discretion. It’s a “Nature Prescriptions” calendar developed by the RSPB Scotland, and it encourages patients to step out of doors and experience nature up close.

Lauren Peterson, Health Improvement Practitioner for the National Health Service Shetland said in a statement, “Through the Nature Prescriptions project GPs and nurses can explain and promote the many benefits which being outdoors can have on physical and mental wellbeing. The fantastic leaflet resource which has been produced by RSPB Scotland assists in highlighting the many benefits which are to be gained from being outdoors in the natural environment. It also provides inspiration in the forms of different ideas of what to do out in the fresh air which may help to 'Nature Your Soul' at different times of the year.”

The calendar offers simple ideas that can be easily re-created in your own backyard. The idea isn't to hike the Grand Canyon; it's to implement small, meaningful experiences in nature on a regular basis. There’s no pressure here, just an invitation to experience. Prescriptions for January include: “Step outside—be still for three minutes and listen,” “Count the birds in your garden,” and “Get out ‘whatever the weather’ and feel the exhilaration of wind and rain on your face.” February ideas include drawing a snowdrop and making a bird bath. April and May bring a few warm-weather prescriptions, including “touch the sea” and “turn o’er a rock and see what’s there.”

You can download RSPB Scotland’s Nature Prescriptions calendar here. Follow along with the pamphlet’s guidelines to add more experiences in nature to your daily life, and if you want to try dreaming up your own experiences in nature, check out some of our favorite ideas in The Best Natural Wonders in the South. Plan a visit to a natural wonder near you, or just step into your own backyard and take a closer look. The wonders are all around.

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What outdoor activities would you add to your own nature prescriptions? What you think about implementing additional doses of nature in your everyday life?