How a dose of nature can keep us healthy in mind and body

Looking up at a Tulip Poplar.  Photo taken and Provided by Sandra Loprete PhotographyIf there were a free, readily available medication to keep your mind sharp, improve memory and perhaps even protect against dementia, wouldn’t you want a dose of it?

This remedy exists, but it’s not a pill. It’s a place. And you’ll find it as close as the nearest park.

Medical science is rediscovering what landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted suggested two centuries ago: that nature has the power to heal us in body, mind and spirit.

Olmsted put his theories to work, designing Central Park in New York and nearly a hundred other parks in cities across America. In an 1865 report on Yosemite National Park, he argued that spending time in nature is “favorable to health, vigor and intellect.”

Current research shows how right he was, and physicians have taken notice. Some are even giving their patients “nature prescriptions” for everything from obesity and high-blood pressure to diabetes and ADHD in children.

This fledgling area of health care has a name. It’s called Ecotherapy.

A few of my newfound pleasures are the Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit and the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum in Short Hills.

Those are my places of sanctuary. Where’s yours? It’s waiting for you nearby, and I encourage you to find it.

You don’t even need a note from your doctor. This is one time when it’s totally OK to self-medicate. Find a park near you and visit it regularly. Your brain will thank you for it.

Looking for a slice of nature in New Jersey? Check out this listing of parks and forests on the Visit New Jersey website.

Tony Dearing. NJ Advance Media. July 4, 2016. 


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