Today’s Solutions: September 22, 2023

Here at The Optimist Daily, we’ve shared countless stories on the benefits of spending time in nature on many levels—emotionally, physically, and mentally. Well, health care providers in four Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario) are taking these findings seriously and can now prescribe time in nature, and even a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, to their patients to help improve their overall health through the country’s national nature prescription program, A Prescription for Nature (PaRx).

“Medical research now clearly shows the positive health benefits of connecting with nature,” says minister of environment and climate change Steven Guilbeault in a statement. “This exciting collaboration with PaRx is a breakthrough for how we treat mental and physical health challenges and couldn’t come at a better time as we continue to grapple with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on our daily lives.”

Gardening, taking walks in a local park or forest, and hiking can all be considered nature therapy, however, the more biodiversity, water, and “sweeping views of green space,” the better, says the Canadian news journal Business in Vancouver (BIV).

“We need to reduce barriers to nature,” says Vancouver family physician Dr. Melissa Lem, who, in partnership with the BC Parks Foundation, launched PaRx in 2020. “(The park pass) makes the message even more powerful and easier to follow,” she adds.

The Parks Canada Discovery Pass costs $72.25 for an adult and allows entry to over 80 national parks, marine conservation areas, and historic sites for a period of one year. This year, 100 adult passes have already been provided by Parks Canada, though there are plans to reassess the number in the future. Those living in proximity to the areas covered by the pass will be given priority, however, the program also plans to reduce transportation barriers so that those who are new to Canada or live in inner-city neighborhoods can also have easier access to natural areas.

“Next on our list is approaching major transit organizations… giving people free transit that, say, stops at a park,” says Dr. Lem, as reported by BIV. “We’re also hoping it will inspire other people.”

On top of relieving mental health issues, time in nature can also reduce chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and lung disease.

According to Guilbeault, the PaRx program will soon be available in every province and territory across the nation by the end of the year.

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