Doctors in Shetland have begun an innovative programme of prescribing walks in nature, wildlife appreciation, and environmental interaction as part of a programme to help those with mental health issues, chronic health issues, anxiety, high blood pressure and depression from October 5th. This programme is a form of social prescription to encourage people to participate in activities outside as seen in other programmes that encourage gardening and planting, yoga and other activities as a way of preventative health care.
Dr. Chloe Evans, a GP who piloted the programme at Scalloway health centre on the west coast of Shetland’s main island, said it supplemented normal treatments.
“There are millions of different ways of doing medicine but we very much try to involve people in their own health, and people really like being empowered,” Evans said.
“People are always thinking at some level about their diet or exercise or stopping smoking but finding out what works for them is the key. The beauty about Shetland is it has this fantastic wild landscape.”
Being in nature has many health benefits and there are numerous studies that show the effects on mental health and wellbeing from time outside. Combine that with mindfulness or moving meditation and you are on to a serious winner. One of the things I wrote about in my book was about doing breath counting while walking. Inhale for 4 steps, exhale for 6 steps. Then, increase that by one step each, and maybe again. I used this during a very disruptive and stressful time in my life.
It is great to see this kind of innovative thinking coming into the NHS, it is something that would be great to see extending to other parts of Scotland for Yoga or even some exercise classes to get people moving a bit more. We have been in talks in Dundee about getting Yoga as part of a social prescription to vary the treatment for cancer patients, people suffering from depression and other issues. What an amazing gear shift from taking a pill to solve everything!
Have a little look through the monthly guidebook released by Shetland NHS with the activities for going outside and maybe take some inspiration to go outside today! I know that we have made a point of it this week and the pups are loving it.