Stressed? Having trouble focusing at work? Can’t lose those stubborn 20 pounds? Skip the pharmacy and take a stroll through the park. Ecotherapy (nature-based exercise designed to treat mental and physical health) is increasingly popular. It entails activities like hiking an outdoor trail or absorbing some rays on a park bench.
DC Park Rx, a community health initiative in Washington, D.C., explores the effects of “park prescriptions” as a preventive measure to help treat everything from obesity to ADHD. Since its inception in 2013, the initiative has seen over 800 prescriptions and promising results in patient health, happiness and recovery time, according to the DC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although ecotherapy isn’t a quick or comprehensive fix-all, who can argue against the case for more fresh air? Add these tips to your routine and make note of any improvements.
1. Spend your lunch break outside—without your cellphone. If that’s not possible, opt for an hour by a window overlooking trees or a garden. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, writes that people have become “nature-deprived” and need a dose of the outdoors to restore their mind-body balance.
2. Do you commute via bus or train? Get off a few blocks away from the office and try to take a detour through a park or garden. Robert Zarr, M.D.—head of DC Park Rx—uses this method with a number of pediatric patients battling temper tantrums and obesity.
3. Join a community program. There are more than 150 community initiatives across the country intended to boost wellness with outdoor activities, such as Portland Rx Play and Kids in Parks TRACK Trails program, which started in North Carolina.
4. Start your own garden. Linda Buzzell, a California-based psychotherapist and founder of the International Association for Ecotherapy, says it doesn’t have to be an award-winning rose garden—even a potted plant in the window can boost happiness.
Related: 10 Simple Steps to a Happier You
This article appears in the May 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.