Photo of the woods and forest
January 7, 2021

Nature has several benefits that impact a person’s overall well-being, according to a new research article, NatureRx@UMD: A Review for Pursuing Green Space as a Health and Wellness Resource for the Body, Mind and Soul.

University of Maryand School of Public Health faculty members Dr. Jennifer Roberts (assistant professor, kinesiology) and Dr. Shannon Jette (associate professor, kinesiology) contributed to the American Journal of Health Promotion article, which explores three themes: “Admiration for Nature Can Save Us,” “In Nature, Nothing Is Perfect and Everything Is Perfect” and “Nature Is Always Dancing.” 

“Guided by the prose of esteemed novelist and naturalist, Alice Walker, we walk through this article by outlining the growing body of research demonstrating the health benefits of human interaction with green environments and the impetus for the launch of NatureRx@UMD,” Dr. Roberts said in an email. 

Admiration for Nature Can Save Us

The quoted phrase from the author and naturalist Alice Walker is a reminder that 1) By “respecting nature, we can quite literally (try to) save ourselves from endangering Earth’s natural life.” 2) People can understand Walker’s observation through encounters of “species, climate and natural resources, which ultimately impact the well-being and survival of humans for generations to come.” 3) Walker’s words offer an “impetus for the promotion and protection of nature’s longevity and diversity.”

In Nature, Nothing Is Perfect and Everything Is Perfect

According to the article, mental health is a major area of concern for college students. They often experience stress, anxiety, depression, which can result in substance abuse, and in some unfortunate cases, suicide. 

Suicide was the second leading cause of death among all adults ages 18-25, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. While colleges nationwide are incorporating more accessibility of counseling services geared toward prevention, more efforts are needed, the article said. 

“Coping health behavior strategies through natural environment exposures may offer a viable supplement to comprehensive evidence-based treatment for mental health concerns on college campuses," the article states. 

Spending time in nature as stress management, restorative and regulatory tool for student mental health and wellness can have a positive impact. 

Nature Is Always Dancing

On Earth Day 2019, the University of Maryland launched NatureRx@UMD. The program, initiated by Drs. Roberts and Jette, originated from the nonprofit ParkRxAmerica and was modeled after NatureRx@Cornell to encourage the university community to take advantage of green spaces on campus. 

NatureRx@UMD will serve as a “living laboratory for the greater UMD community” by highlighting ways of how the landscape and greenery of campus can play a crucial role in preventing or addressing mental health concerns among college students, they said.

One feature of the initiative will involve prescribing therapies via health care providers at the UMD Health Center. Another will include a Communications Team and Student Club, which will be led by students who will teach other students safety for outdoor activities and how to incorporate nature into their daily life.

To read the full article and learn more about NatureRx@UMD, click the links below. 

Related Links

Journal Article

NatureRx@UMD

Related People
Jennifer D. Roberts, Shannon Jette