The Way I See It: A prescription for nature

Getting outside is good for everyone — your mental and physical health will benefit, so turn off those screens

Drug commercials can sound so appealing and also very scary, listening to the description of the side effects of taking the medicine.

There is a spoof of these ads floating around the Internet, a prescription for nature.  It follows the same format of the prescription drugs, with an individual describing their situation and an appropriate voice-over.  It is fantastic, and in our area we could potentially use this medicine several times a day or spend full days indulging, or I suppose having a healthy overdose.

“Nature may decrease work catatonia.”  “Increase nature and experience increased euphoria, being in a good mood for no apparent reason.” And the important closer, “ask your doctor if nature is right for you.”

It’s a spoof, but the reality is that being outside in nature has great benefits. The exercise that often accompanies being outside will have healthy side effects; the quiet can help still busy minds, and enjoying natural beauty is soul food, like art and music. The sunshine, vitamin D, fresh air: all have great benefits.

I thought about our need for these commercials because we are not getting out in nature enough. Spoof or not, it is a great reminder to get outside and turn off the screens that dominate so many of our lives! I know for me I look forward to my daily walk in the woods with my faithful companion, Indiana Jones.  Weekends spent outside are really important for my health — physical and mental.

The walks are a time to unwind. I often do this alone and use the time to decompress after a long day spent on the computer and telephone. I can also enjoy the company of a friend or my darling and have conversations with few distractions other than: “look at that nest, the shape of that tree, the clouds, the colour of the lake, the ant trail moving across our path — is that a bear?”

There is a nature day coming up where families are encouraged to get outside for an hour. Get out for the day and spend hours outside.  It can be a cheap and cheerful way to spend time together as a family. Beaches for picnics — just because it is too cold to swim doesn’t mean castles and gigantic sand reptiles can’t be built. Or hikes with buckets to pick up pine cones, stones, weird sticks, leaves, etc. Then make an art project or place them in a special box to be found 10 years later when you move, to remember that special day in Kal Park. However, if an hour is all you can manage enjoy it!

If what we need is a prescription for nature, then doctors: please write them. Our kids need the time outside and we as adults do too. I remember hearing the story of an older man describing his joy of listening to birds. Every day he walked so he could hear birds and he did this no matter where he was. He had climbed mountains, canoed rivers and enjoyed city parks around the world, and no matter where he was he always paused to listen to the birds. By focusing on listening to the birds, the noise inside his head calmed down. Those quiet moments allowed him to get perspective.

My oldest had Grant Bingham as a teacher; he often held classes outside. Walk to the river, write poetry — English; draw what you see — art; discuss the river and all within — science;  hike back — PE. I went to a one-room classroom and many of my studies occurred under a big tree, or at the neighbouring farm, or by the pond which we skated on in the winter.

Like the apple a day, find a way every day to enjoy the amazing wonders that are there for your enjoyment and benefit right outside your front door.

Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.