Finally, doctors are “prescribing” time outdoors again. For years, as this article in Slate mentions, doctors were sending patients to beautiful spots in rural areas as therapy for both infectious and emotional disorders.

Think of Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (a sanatorium for tubercular patients), or various books praising the “moral treatment” for mental illness which often meant that people worked outdoors on a farm to get better. These were prescriptions from a previous era, and with our new wisdom about chemicals in the brain, we seem to have forgotten some of the basics.

Just as we have a movement toward the “paleo-diet” to get us back to our cave-person roots, we need a movement to get children and adults back into nature. From getting bright light, to smelling and seeing “nature” in vivo, we feel calmer and have lower blood pressure when we are outdoors, preferably with growing plants around us. We are able to concentrate better.

Have you ever talked with New Yorkers about how precious their parks and trees are to them? It is just a little hint about how much we need the natural world. There is little encouragement in today’s productivity-minded world to get outdoors for a part of each day, but awareness of the benefits of time outside is growing with each news article and blog post.