What is a nature prescription and how can this help me during peri/menopause?
If you are experiencing peri/menopause right now, chances are you’re at an age that indicates you used to play outside when you were a kid! Since electronics, at-home delivery, and so many other factors have been created to give us more simplicity in life, we’ve forgotten to step outside. Our environment can be such a soothing antidote to so many symptoms during peri/menopause. Fresh air, grass, trees, the sun, and the sky can give you time away from TV, social media, and various other stressors in life.
Studies have shown that 70% of women experience mood swings and it’s one of the most common symptoms during peri/menopause! Anxiety affects 23% of women in peri/menopause, and if it isn’t dealt with it, can lead to depression. Many women have so many things going on in life, from work to taking care of children and maybe even taking care of elderly parents. Something as simple as going outside can sometimes seem like a difficult task.
The average American spends 7% of their time outdoors. In a study by Nature, it was found that 120 minutes a week outdoors will benefit most people. To some that may sound difficult for their schedule, but it doesn’t always have to be a national park getaway. What you need is a nature prescription!
What is a nature prescription?
Doctors, nurses, case managers, and dieticians (basically your health and social providers) often recommend that their patients go to nature to help with their health and well-being. That’s a nature prescription! Some providers even offer apps for accountability, where the provider can see that you have fulfilled their prescription as a motivator. In 35 States, providers are partnering with National Parks System to provide options for patients to follow when visiting a national park. There are currently two programs that facilitate nature prescriptions: Park Rx America and Walk with a Doc. Studies have shown that when people have exposure to the outdoors, it leads to better health mentally and physically.
How does nature help my mood swings/anxiety during peri/menopause?
Time in nature allows for a peaceful time of discovery. There is healing power in nature. Studies prove that after being outside anxiety can be reduced. Being outside also improves the immune system and sleep.
Nature could be the natural healing you need to help with your mood swings and anxiety during peri/menopause. Did you know that the sun is connected to our mood? Studies have shown that the sun boosts levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.
Are you not able to shut your mind off during yoga? Try taking a walk! While walking through a park or at the beach, notice the sounds surrounding you. Silence for longer periods can reduce stress, allowing us to shut out the world and daydream.
How can I get a nature prescription?
If your state is participating in nature prescriptions and your doctor hasn’t offered you this as an option, bring it up and see if your doctor can get this program approved so you can start benefiting from it. Your doctor can connect you with a ranger, who will be the nature expert that can point you in the right direction to take the best advantage of your nature prescription.
If my state doesn’t participate yet, what can I do?
If you are interested in participating in a park prescription, but your doctor has never brought it up to you, find out if your state is one of the 35 states participating. Share this information with your doctor and get started! If your state is not participating yet, call your local park and see how you can get involved. Find out what types of hikes they would recommend, and if guides are available. You can even reach out to your doctor and see if other women would be interested in participating.
Instead of sitting at a park for 10 minutes, it is recommended that a patient get a detailed task to complete while at the park. Some examples are:
- Prescribed time to spend on an activity at a park.
- Prescribed a park program from a park catalog.
- Follow a walk that a park ranger is leading.
- Walking a prescribed trail.
- Families spend 20 minutes screen-free at a park.
If you don’t have time to head to the park each week, here are some ideas to get a similar effect:
- Bring the feeling of nature inside. Add plants to your house or office. Wood and stone elements can also bring life to your home. A water feature can bring the soothing sounds of a babbling brook to help reduce anxiety.
- Step outside, take off your shoes and walk in the grass. It’s so simple, but reconnecting with the earth is magical.
- Work in your garden and take the time to smell the soil. Think about how that makes you feel.
- Get outside to work out! Join a group that exercises at the park, or just take your workout outside: run, walk, do an exercise video in your backyard. The options are endless and very beneficial.
- Take a walk outside during a break at work.
- Appreciate the beauty of the outside through a window.
- Flip through a nature book, or watch a nature program on TV if you can’t get outside.
Take time to experience the awe of the outdoors:
When we spend time in nature, we tend to experience awe. What exactly is awe? It is fear, happiness, and pleasure; a combination that takes the focus from internal to external. Studies have shown that after people experience awe, they are more generous, ethical, and often feel a deeper connection to others. Try to visit a beautiful park or beach twice a month and see how much “awe” you feel!
Mayo Clinic shares, “The healing benefits of being in nature have been expressed by many different cultures, poets, and healers throughout the ages.” The simple fact is, we just aren’t getting outside like we used to. Like Hippocrates said, “Nature itself is the best physician.” Maybe start by having a quiet cup of coffee outside in the morning. If you have grass, take off your shoes and enjoy the feeling before your day starts. Try and set up two times a month creating a special outdoor activity and see how it reflects on your mood. Maybe do one activity with friends/family and the other alone. No matter what you can do, you will benefit from your time in nature!