Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy, speak at the meeting of the American Medical Women’s Association (check it out http://www.amwa-doc.org). He laughed as he explained that people often find his career path – from Goldman-Sachs to the Nature Conservancy – somewhat surprising. In fact, he argued that his stint in investment banking was the perfect segue to his current position. The connection, he believes, is that we need to “invest in nature.” He cited the many benefits to our health, economy, and well being when we spend money to support or revitalize the environment. Definitely an interesting and important perspective. He went further by encouraging the physicians in the room to “prescribe nature.” That is something I can definitely get behind.
I have to admit that when I go to a meeting, I rarely see much besides the meeting rooms and my hotel room. If I’m lucky I make it to the fitness center a couple of times. Between meetings, lectures, conversations and the time it takes to make sure I’m ready for the next day, there aren’t many free moments and I find myself increasingly exhausted as the meeting goes on. So after listening to Mr. Tercek, I scrapped my plan to go to the gym and instead decided to take a walk. I’m really glad that I did. The sun was warm, the breeze was balmy, and the air was definitely fresher than any I had breathed in days. I immediately felt more awake and recharged.
Whether we are treating our patients’ hypertension, stress, diabetes or varicose veins, by suggesting they spend some time in nature, we add an extremely therapeutic complement to their regimen. Being in nature can get us away from our stressful thoughts and environment, slow our heart rate and lower our blood pressure. As we look around and take in the trees, sky, water, wildlife, or whatever now surrounds us, the sense of wonder and appreciation widens our perspective, calms the immediacy of our perceived demands and puts gratitude in our heart.
As healthcare providers, our suggestions have power. Simply by prescribing nature, we can help our patients live happier and healthier lives. And they, in turn, may go on to protect our natural world. It’s a simple, yet very effective way for us to make an important difference in the lives of our patients and the world.