How to write yourself a nature prescription

Spending regular time in nature can have very beneficial effects on wellbeing and productivity and a new app is seeking to help people make the most of them.

 

There are many proposed methods to achieve greater mental health and work life balance, but a meeting last week heard of a very simple one. Incorporate regular time in the great outdoors into your daily work routine.

Jared Hanley, CEO and co-founder at NatureQuant, told the European Smart Work Network that the longer workers spend in nature, and the greener that nature is, the healthier they are and the less they cost the healthcare system. The idea is backed by many scientific studies which show that increasing people’s exposure to nature can have important health benefits, from boosting their immune systems to reducing anxiety and increasing longevity.

Hanley’s company has developed an app called NatureDose which allows people to ‘write a nature prescription for themselves’. The personalised app is able to contextualise the natural context the worker finds themselves in and prescribe a set amount of time per week – say, 60, 90 or 120 minutes – in that environment to bring the maximum health benefits. People can set their own goals. It recommends that that time be ideally taken in 20-minute sessions.  Hanley said taking longer in nature works better than lots of small doses of five to 10 minutes.

It follows on from a growing trend among doctors to write nature prescriptions for their patients. NatureDose does away with the need for a doctor and is scaleable for employers, Hanley told the network. The app also links to other innovations during the pandemic, such as the walk and talk meetings, designed to break the monotony of back-to-back zoom meetings.

Other benefits include greater productivity. Hanley said trials with the app showed a 45% increase in productivity for workers who spent 29 minutes outdoors in nature during the working week. Sixty two percent of workers said they found it helpful to step outside periodically to clear their heads.

NatureQuant has partnered with several other organisations, mainly research organisations and nature bodies such as national parks to build the app, which can be plugged into other wellness apps. One area it is looking at developing is offering a reward for spending time in nature, for instance, giving money to a charity of workers’ choice. NatureDose can currently only score activities located in the United States, but should soon provide global coverage.



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