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Dance Lessons for the Lonely — on the NHS

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Doctors in England are trying out a new practice protocol that includes prescribing dance classes to lonely people. Other social activities that they can suggest for improving the loneliness factor are cooking classes, art groups and walking clubs, BBC reports. The national health service is adding to the social prescriptions by creating community cafes, art spaces and gardens, in the hopes of improving patients’ quality of life — and ultimately their health and well-being.

What a refreshing idea, to offer prescriptions to dance, play, participate in fun clubs, or simply stroll through the woods or a park, rather than to hand out a slip that takes you directly to a pharmacy! Just the idea of being outside is a great prescription for health in itself, as studies show that exposure to greenspace, defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation, has significant health benefits.

Exposure to greenspace is also linked to a lower risk of premature birth, as well as improved outcomes for neurological disorders, cancer and respiratory mortality. In Japan, they even have a thing called “forest bathing,” with at least one study showing that the forest environment was found to promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure and decreasing symptoms of depression, fatigue, anxiety and confusion.

The best news of all, though, is that you don’t have to wait on a doctor to prescribe this — all you have to do is choose to do it. If your argument is that you don’t have access to a park or a forest, you can create your own little garden space in your backyard. Even if you live in an apartment with no private grassy area, container planting is an option. You’ll also be pleased to find that if you do some gardening, you’re also slipping in some healthy side benefits that come from the movement and “exercise” that you get from that activity.

The bottom line is, nature heals, and being in social situations with others, be it dancing classes or art clubs or a walk with friends, is a proven health booster. If possible, though, seek to spend time in nature daily. This could be something as simple as walking down your tree-lined street, tending to that backyard garden or eating lunch outdoors in a city park.

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