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Prescribing nature

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. [1]

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. [2]

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. [3]

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.

[1] http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5134438692814848

[2] https://www.edenproject.com/eden-story/our-ethos/eden-on-prescription

[3] https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/nhs-long-term-plan-explained

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