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Written by Debra Kellstedt, DrPH, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

What if there was a medication that could reduce your blood pressure, help you feel more focused, and increase your physical activity—all at the same time? Doctors would be prescribing it right and left. Indeed, some doctors have begun to prescribe regular doses of nature to their patients. There is evidence that spending even two hours a week out in nature can provide numerous health benefits (White et al., 2019). Some of these benefits include less stress, better sleeping, improved mental health, increased social connections, lower blood pressure, increased physical activity, and overall greater happiness (Frumkin et al., 2017).

The Transformative Power of Outdoor Hours on Health

How does this work? How can a few hours a week outside lead to health and wellness? An international team of researchers theorized there are three ways that nature, or green space, can improve health (Markovich et al., 2017). Greenspace can reduce harm. For example, having increased green space in an urban environment can cut human exposure to the harms of air and noise pollution and heat. A second way green space can improve health is by restoring our capacities. Spending even a few minutes outside, immersed in nature, can help restore attention and calm people down. Finally, being in nature can build capacities. Studies have found that when we are outside, we are more physically active (Jimenez et al., 2021). And when we are outside with other people, we have stronger social connections (Jimenez et al., 2021).

Integrating Nature into Daily Living

Given all these benefits, what is holding us back? Sometimes it is hard to carve out time away from our work our screens and our to-do lists. Also, getting outside may feel overwhelming with planning for the weather and packing the right gear. But getting outside does not have to mean spending a whole weekend hiking or camping or white-water rafting. We can incorporate bits of nature into our everyday lives. Research has shown that even having photos or paintings of nature on our walls and indoor plants on our desks can bring us some of these health benefits (Jimenez et al., 2021). A short walk in a wooded or grassy area, away from traffic, can be just the right antidote to a stressful work meeting. Eating a meal outside or planting some flowers are simple ways to help us feel happy and satisfied. Starting with small doses, and in short bouts, prioritizing time in nature can lead us down a path toward overall greater health and happiness.

Give nature medicine a try!


Frumkin, H., Bratman, G. N., Breslow, S. J., Cochran, B., Kahn, P. H., Lawler, J. J., Levin, P. S., Tandon, P. S., Varanasi, U., Wolf, K. L., & Wood, S. A. (2017). Nature contact and human health: A research agenda. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(7), 075001.

Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021). Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(9).

Markevych, I., Schoierer, J., Hartig, T., Chudnovsky, A., Hystad, P., Dzhambov, A. M., de Vries, S., Triguero-Mas, M., Brauer, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M. J., Lupp, G., Richardson, E. A., Astell-Burt, T., Dimitrova, D., Feng, X., Sadeh, M., Standl, M., Heinrich, J., & Fuertes, E. (2017). Exploring pathways linking greenspace to health: Theoretical and methodological guidance. Environmental Research, 158, 301–317.

White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., Bone, A., Depledge, M. H., & Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 7730.

*Image Source: iStockphoto, DanielBendjy