While looking after our personal well-being has never seemed more important, given the global health crisis, one little-known wellness practice merits more attention: 'green care.' This concept can be summed up in one phrase: taking care of your body and mind by calling on the benefits of Mother Nature.
If you are not familiar with the term 'green care,' perhaps the following examples will speak to you. Hugging trees, walking barefoot on the ground, comforting yourself by caressing animals? What do these activities have in common? Each of them allows you to give yourself a moment of well-being by privileging contact with nature.
More than a philosophy, 'green care' is gaining ground in many countries. This is notably the case in Austria, with the ' Green Care Wald ' program, launched in 2014 by the government. The initiative is aimed at forest owners, who are encouraged to open up their forests to people seeking recreation. The aim is to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of Austria, as well as to create additional sources of income.
Health care professionals also rely on nature, with methods that can be used for both children and adults. One of the best known 'green treatments' is horticultural therapy, i.e., gardening sessions that can be prescribed to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's in the elderly, but also for eating disorders such as anorexia or to help children manage their hyperactivity.
'Green care' has also been suggested as an alternative to care in conventional health facilities, which could help to solve some of the thorny problems of medical deserts.
In a review article on the topic published in 2017, American researchers at George-Mason University in Virginia suggested that 'green care' could prove to be an effective approach to providing mental health care in the United States, particularly in rural areas that are generally underserved by more traditional mental health facilities, but have an abundance of farms, livestock and green space.
An innovative and ingenious solution that could be applied to many countries, where medical deserts remain a major problem.