Growing evidence suggests that nature connection boosts our physical and psychological well-being and deepens our ecological sensitivity. This won’t be a surprise to many readers, nature connection is after all one of the core values of the Quiet Garden Movement, and forms the basis for much of what happens when visiting a Quiet Garden. What may surprise you is that increasingly doctors and healthcare practitioners are looking at prescribing nature connection to support mental health care.
The prevalence of mental ill-health is on the rise in the UK with an estimated one in four people experiencing a ‘significant’ mental health problem in any one year. With prescriptions at record levels and a huge demand for other therapies, the NHS is examining and commissioning different options, one of which is social prescribing. 
Social prescribing enables GPs to refer patients with medical, social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services such as exercise programmes, social clubs and nature-based activities – in the same way they would prescribe a drug, or refer a patient to a hospital.
The Eden Project in Cornwall has been running several ‘social prescribing’ projects, and the early signs are that the ‘prescriptions’ are working, with a pilot study having shown that over 12 weeks 94% of participants experienced an increase in wellbeing, and the GP surgery saw a 40% drop in associated visits. 
The NHS long-term plan says that referrals to social prescribing schemes will increase, and the range of support available will be broadened. It also recognises that voluntary and community organisations will have a significant role to play and can add great value to helping NHS resources go further. 
We might want to think about:
- How we can prescribe ourselves a regular dose of nature connection?
- What does this mean for my local community?
- How might our Quiet Garden and projects help in this work?
Share your thoughts below in the comments.
First published in Pause – Pentecost 2019, this version includes footnotes. http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5134438692814848  https://www.edenproject.com/eden-story/our-ethos/eden-on-prescription  https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/nhs-long-term-plan-explained