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Doctor’s Orders: Nature as a Treatment in Belgium

Nature as a treatment in Belgium, though it might sound odd, more and more medical physicians are prescribing their patients to spend time away from the city and go out in the great outdoors. 

This does not mean, however, that medicine and other forms of treatment will be disregarded. Rather, nature as a treatment in Belgium is meant to supplement what allopathic medicine can give to the patients. 

The country would not be the first one to do so. Doctors in Canada and the Shetland Islands in Scotland have already been prescribing their patients to spend time outdoors for years. Belgium is catching up on this practice.

Hans Keune, the coordinator of the Care and Natural Environment Department at the University of Antwerp, said that “as humans, we have an innate connection with nature. It has been shown that spending time in green spaces makes us more relaxed and creative.”

He said that spending time in the great outdoors can provide different benefits during the conduct of the activity. Pharmaceutical drugs, therapy, and surgical procedures are more targeted towards what they’re trying to cure. They often address one or a couple of specific conditions at a time. In comparison, having nature as a treatment in Belgium will address different aspects of the patient’s total well-being all at once. 

More doctors are seeing the value of nature as a treatment in Belgium and, as such, are prescribing it to their patients. Studies are also being developed as a number of general physicians are choosing this subject matter for their research. 

Nature as a Treatment in Belgium, Not Just in Words

Dr. Lotte Mortier De Borger is one of the general physicians whose interest in using nature as a treatment in Belgium has been piqued. Because of this, she is doing her thesis for her master’s degree on the relationship between nature and health. She intends to learn more about how nature can help improve the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals. 

More than that, Dr. Mortier De Borger also gave out an actual written prescription to her patients for them to spend time in the great outdoors. Patients who were under stress were advised to find solace in nature so that they could relieve their condition. Nature as a treatment in Belgium is often given as verbal advice to patients. But now, the doctor wrote it down. 

She said that “I talk to them about their lifestyle, and can then prescribe a visit to nature. Most patients respond very enthusiastically to that. The majority of people know that nature is good for them, but advice from the doctor, especially if it is written in black and white on a prescription, is something patients take more seriously.” 

Using nature as a treatment in Belgium can be beneficial for many health concerns. However, it will not replace what other targeted therapies and the like can give to patients who have conditions that need such treatment. 

Turning to the Great Outdoors Has Been Beneficial for Years

Depending on nature for its health benefits goes back as far as the middle of the 19th century. At that time, stakeholders decided to create public parks as they were motivated by financial reasons. Having more trees results in an improvement in the quality of air. Because of this, citizens in the area will not suffer the health consequences that bad air quality brings. Workers will remain healthy and be able to report to work in factories. With this, companies could operate without any disruptions, produce more, and earn more.

Studies over the years have proven that being around nature provides better actual health outcomes for individuals. They don’t just feel healthier, they also are healthier. 

nature as a treatment in Belgium shows positive health effects on individuals

Laura Lauwers, a scientific researcher at the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) and University of Antwerp, said that “they give people a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle and recharge their batteries. Green space creates mental space.” 

It is not just the treatment of certain conditions that the great outdoors provides. Spending time in nature can also reduce the risk of individuals developing certain diseases. As such, it can prevent them from actually happening in the first place.

What are the Benefits of Spending Time in Nature?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many regulations that prevent individuals from going out of their homes. Work, school, and every other activity had to be done at home and in front of computer screens. However, with the number of COVID-19 cases going down and restrictions becoming more relaxed, there is no need to stay cooped up inside the house. Rather, citizens can enjoy life outside once more. Going to the great outdoors should be at the top of your list of where to go next. Spending time in nature can help individuals feel, think, and be better. 

  1. Improves cognitive function 

Studies have shown that spending time in nature promotes the development of “working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attention control.” This can help individuals concentrate better on any given task and promote their creativity. 

  1. Improves mental well-being 

Spending time in nature can boost levels of endorphins and the production of dopamine. These are neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for feelings of “pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation.” They also act to decrease pain and stress. Overall, this makes individuals happier and have a more positive disposition in life. 

  1. Decreases stress levels 

Going into the great outdoors can also decrease cortisol levels and blood pressure. These usually increase when an individual is stressed. When individuals are in a fight-or-flight situation, cortisol levels increase, so that nonessential bodily functions are dampened and essential bodily functions are heightened. This will allow the individual to deal with stress. 

So, when you feel stressed, worried, or anxious, get up from your chair and go outside. Spend time in nature looking at the trees, hearing the chirping of the birds, and just letting yourself be fully present in the moment.

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