If you’re a patient of Dr. Shimi Kang, you might walk out of her office with an unconventional prescription. Dr. Kang is a Harvard-trained doctor, researcher, author and professor who has studied the health benefits of nature. Through her research she’s discovered how our well being is affected by immersing ourselves in nature, and that’s why she’s known to give prescriptions such as:
- A daily dose of sunshine
- A daily walk in nature
- A daily dose of planet earth
Dr. Kang was one of two keynote speakers at the recent NatureCity Festival held in Saskatoon this spring. She and the other speaker, Cam Collyer of Evergreen, spoke on the topic “Healthy by Nature.”
Here were a few of our takeaways from Dr. Kang’s talk…
- Sunlight has been proven to improve mood and reduce depression.
- People who walk through parks and green spaces are less stressed than those who walk on busy city streets. Walking has more powerful health benefits when it’s done in nature, as it leads to greater vitality and improved mental health.
- Being immersed in nature facilitates adaptability and neuroplasticity (the ability of our brain to change). The ability to adapt is the difference between flourishing and extinction.
- The Japanese have long understood the heath benefits of nature and even have a term for getting a dose of nature. They call it forest bathing. Their studies have found that short, leisurely visits to a forest demonstrate reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness.
Dr. Kang also spoke about her book, The Dolphin Way. It’s a guide to raising healthy, happy and self-motivated kids. She addressed the book’s title, explaining that dolphins are social beings that live and travel in groups. Using the acronym POD, she explained dolphin behaviour and how those behaviours are vital for human health as well.
“P” stands for play. Play offers us socialization, creativity and a rush of endorphins. Play is one of the few elements of life where we’re not being evaluated. Today, children’s play is often highly structured, full of rules and lacking in creativity — not to mention expensive (any parent with a child who plays hockey will be nodding their head). Play is beneficial when it’s unstructured as it allows kids to be creative and learn through trial and error.
“O” stands for others. Just like dolphins, humans are social creatures. Feeling connected to others is good for our health and well being. Studies have shown that being socially disconnected is as much of a death risk factor as smoking.
“D” stands for downtime. “If you’re wired from morning to night your brain doesn’t have time to unwind and you won’t perform at your optimum level,” says Dr. Kang. Nature can facilitate our downtime, whether it’s gardening, walking through a park or staring at a tree.
The Cole’s Notes version is simply: Nature keeps us healthy, happy, adaptable and successful. Get your daily dose of POD today.