Over 500 Kingston and Richmond residents with mental health problems have been prescribed time spent outside in nature by their doctors, as an alternative to more traditional forms of medication and therapy.
Dose of Nature is a registered charity in Kew which was established to promote the mental health benefits of engaging with the natural world. A Dose of Nature prescription is a ten-week programme which helps people explore the health benefits of spending time in nature, with the aim of inspiring lifestyle changes which will have a lasting impact on them staying mentally well.
The programme is suitable for those feeling depressed or anxious as well as those who have been through trauma, have Autism alongside anxiety and low moods, or are experiencing symptoms associated with a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.
We don’t dismiss the use of therapy and medication in treating mental illness, but a nature prescription is a genuine alternative to those things and gives GPs another avenue when treating people who unfortunately suffer with their mental health.”Dr Alison Greenwood, Director and Lead Psychologist at Dose of Nature
Patients who are found to be suitable are referred by their GP and first meet with a Dose of Nature psychologist, who discusses their needs. They are then matched with a trained volunteer who becomes their Dose of Nature Guide. Guides have specific training in supporting people to improve their mental wellbeing by engaging with the natural world.
Over the next ten weeks, patients meet their guide in a natural space once a week but are asked to visit nature independently every day. During their weekly meetings, the guide demonstrates a variety of exercises and activities to gain maximum health benefits from the time spent in nature.
Dr Alison Greenwood, Director and Lead Psychologist at Dose of Nature explained: “There is more and more scientific research that shows us the psychological benefits of being in nature. This doesn’t have to mean visiting large parks or forests, in fact for most of our patients it is more likely to be their garden, a local churchyard or a riverside towpath, or even their balcony. We also don’t expect those referred to us to be particularly physically active, but this is something that often improves as a by-product of the programme.
“We don’t dismiss the use of therapy and medication in treating mental illness, but a nature prescription is a genuine alternative to those things and gives GPs another avenue when treating people who unfortunately suffer with their mental health.”
Arlene Thomas-Dickson, Senior Transformation Manager Mental Health at South West London ICS, added: “Working with our voluntary sector in this way fosters healthy partnerships between organisations and best meets the needs of local people.
This project is really helping people who are struggling with their mental health to use and appreciate nature as a resource they can use to manage their wellbeing.”Arlene Thomas-Dickson, Senior Transformation Manager Mental Health at South West London ICS
As well as the time spent with their guide, patients are also given the opportunity to link with other people who have received a nature prescription and are encouraged to make independent arrangements to meet for walks or visit natural environments together.
Find out more and get a prescription
If you are interested in obtaining a Dose of Nature prescription, please contact your GP or other health professional.
GPs who are new to the charity can email Dose of Nature.