Article Images

The Green Road at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center could be a powerful tool to help heal soldiers dealing with PTSD.

Photo credit: Lisa Helfert

The beneficial impact of nature as a healing element is well-documented. Spending time in the great outdoors tends to reduce stress and anxiety, leading to a soothed mind that creates a better foundation for physical and mental healing.

Article Images

A private patio at Skyland Trail's Young Adult Treatment Center provides options for clinicians to take groups or one-on-one therapy sessions outside.

Photo credit: Creative Sources Photography/Rion Rizzo

In Japan, for instance, a practice called Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a prescription for extended walks through forested areas. In a study that compared patients while walking through forested areas versus urban areas, the patients showed lower blood pressure, lower pulse rates and lower cortisol levels after spending time in more natural surroundings.

Frederick Foote, a retired U.S. Navy physician and founder of the Healing Through Arts program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, is a passionate advocate for nature’s power to help heal patients who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He worked closely with the Institute for Integrative Health to create the Green Road, a wild garden that trails through the center’s grounds. It was completed last year, and the Healing through Arts program will begin monitoring the effects the trail may have on patients dealing with PTSD.  

Skyland Trail, a nationally recognized nonprofit mental health treatment organization, recently opened its Young Adult Treatment Center at the Rollins Campus in Atlanta. One of the center’s standout features is its Mark Wynne Outdoor Venue, a unique recreation program that provides outdoor music, group sessions, exercise and other activities. It also contributes to the center’s holistic healing mission.

Article Images

Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center's two rooftop gardens provide views of the Cincinnati skyline.

Photo by ©Tom Rossiter

Employees of medical organizations also can benefit from access to nature. Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center opened two rooftop gardens that provide views of the Cincinnati skyline and a meeting space for up to 100 people. The outdoor spaces are landscaped with native plantings, pergolas, benches and infinity fountains for respite and rehabilitation for both patients and staff.

Simple as it may seem — especially when compared with the remarkable inventions of modern medicine — many organizations are still demonstrating nature’s power to help heal patients.

View survey results