The Shuswap Memorial Cemetery Trails is one of several trail systems people can enjoy in Salmon Arm. (File photo)

The Shuswap Memorial Cemetery Trails is one of several trail systems people can enjoy in Salmon Arm. (File photo)

Column: Prescription optional for outdoor healing

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

I’ve been self-medicating as of late, and though my doctor doesn’t know, I’m sure he would approve.

Sometimes a change comes about that makes you realize you’re maybe not living your best life. At the end of 2021 we adopted a dog. Being a puppy parent is a new thing for me. Though there have been little challenges, the overall experience has been immensely rewarding.

One benefit has been a recent but much-needed change in workday routine. Over the past month or so, I’ve been making a concerted effort to break away from my screen and the never-ending duties at work to get home on time to have dinner with my family. After, we take the dog for a walk on the nearby Shuswap Memorial Cemetery Trails.

This new routine has been glorious. The stress of the day honestly melts away as we connect with each other, and have fun with the dog, while walking the cool trails beneath the forest canopy.

OK. I know going on walks through the woods is not technically self-medicating.

But the effects of this routine make me appreciate the program launched by the BC Parks Foundation, which has local physicians prescribing outdoors time to improve overall health.

“Park prescriptions” are intended to improve a patient’s health by connecting them to nature.

Benefits of time outdoors, according to parkprescriptions.ca, may include, but are not limited to: reduction in stress/anxiety levels; reduction in risk of developing heart disease; a memory boost, creativity and work satisfaction; reduced inflammation; improved concentration.

Read more: B.C. patients can now get a prescription for a Parks Canada Discovery Pass

Read more: Researchers at UFV looking into effects of pandemic on activity and mental health

“We’re seeing a really strong response from health care professionals across the spectrum of disciplines,” said Andy Day, CEO of the BC Parks Foundation. “For example, I was talking to an ophthalmologist who said she’s been seeing a strong increase of eye problems in kids because they’ve been spending so much time in front of screens. So, she prescribes nature to them as a very effective intervention to make sure their eyes are getting the kind of complexity nature offers.”

Some may know this form of nature therapy as “shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing, which has been found to have beneficial physiological and psychological effects.

Though I am by no means qualified to prescribe anything, I can certainly attest to the benefits of spending more time on our local trails, and less time in front of a screen.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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