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Nature heals

Do you feel at peace in nature? In this article, we discuss how using nature can support health and well-being.
A parent and child explore a forest together which can support social well-being.
© Courtesy of Pixabay 2023.

Shinrin-Yoku, or forest bathing, is a traditional Japanese practice that focuses on immersing yourself in nature and being mindful using your five senses. So, how does this apply to naturopathic medicine?

Forest bathing has a long history of improving patient’s quality of life, but it wasn’t until it resurfaced in Japan during the 1980s that the practice of forest bathing took off. This practice focuses on exploring nature, such as bushwalking, hiking, walking in rain forests, and actively being mindful though using our senses to be present and aware of the moment while in nature. The healing power of green spaces in nature lies in their ability to soothe the mind, reduce stress, and promote physical well-being. The effects of forest bathing have gained research attention and have demonstrated positive effects in improving physical relaxation, boosting immune health, improving heart and lung health, reducing episodes and experiences of anxiety and depression, and generating gratitude and mindfulness Hansen et al., 2017.

While the practice of forest bathing is not linked to the evolution of naturopathic medicine, principles of the practice are embedded in naturopathic history, where Nature cure practitioners encouraged and prescribed patients to engage in nature. Further, biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson proposed that the healing power of nature Vis medicatrix naturae could be interpreted to include the healing benefits of being in nature and mindfulness engaged with the outdoor environment Logan & Selhub, 2012. While the naturopathic principle of the healing power of nature, Vis medicatrix naturae does not formally acknowledge this suggestion by Sir Thomson, collectively, the naturopathic profession continues to recommend outdoor activities and nature exposure to improve patient’s health and well-being and to restore vitality.

Green spaces in promoting health and well-being

Green spaces, whether urban parks, rain forests, or gardens, possess a remarkable and often underestimated healing power on both the mind and the body. Frequent exposure can have several benefits in contributing to health and well-being, but it can also function as an escape from the demands and stresses of modern life. In an increasingly urbanised world, recognising these natural spaces’ benefits on our health is essential. Several ways the healing power of nature can be used. Here are some suggestions that naturopaths may prescribe to various individuals.

Green space self-management approaches

  • Taking work and lunch breaks in nature areas such as local parks
  • Displaying green images and artwork in office and home spaces
  • Exercising or walking regularly outdoors
  • Trying walking meetings with colleagues
  • Family and friend outdoor picnics and meals
  • Weekend hikes and bush walks with family and friends
  • Maintaining indoor and outdoor plants and gardens

These are some simple suggestions that naturopaths may suggest in clinical practice for patient care.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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