Reconnecting to nature key to recovery from trauma of pandemic, says Prince Charles’s doc

Prince Charles arrives at hospital to visit Prince Philip

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Dr Michael Dixon believes children will bounce back if they get out in the great outdoors. And he heaped praise on the Prince of Wales’s half-term campaign to get them more involved in the natural world, calling it “an absolutely lovely idea”. Dr Dixon also said the country must capitalise on the 750,000 people who volunteered to help during the pandemic – to create healthy communities of the future. He believes that patients encouraged to join voluntary groups will be better placed to see off the threat of modern ailments such as depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and loneliness.

His practice in Devon advocates a holistic approach to wellbeing with social prescribing at its heart. It looks beyond pills and procedures to connect patients to groups and non-medical interventions that will help.

Dr Dixon’s recently published book Time To Heal – Tales Of A Country Doctor chronicles how the relationship between GP and patient has changed as workloads increase and consultations become shorter.

And he said one surprising positive outcome from the pandemic had been the increased use of phone or video-call consultations freeing time to spend with more serious cases.

Looking ahead, he said encouraging us all to connect to nature was good for our future and the planet.

He added: “It’s an absolutely lovely idea, particularly for children. Some children, especially urban children, have become disconnected. Classically some don’t know where carrots come from.

“Increasing the connection with nature and the countryside is excellent for them and excellent for the countryside and sustainable farming.

“There is more respect for the land and those who farm it. For children, it gives them roots.

“They say your happiness depends to some extent on returning to the things that made you happy in childhood. If you never had those roots, then there is nothing to fall back on.”

Dr Dixon said connecting with wildlife boosts the mind and body of all ages.

He explained: “There is a difference between working out in the gym and going through nature.

“It’s about the mental health effect. We know that a walk is calming, quite apart from the physical effects, and can have similar effects to meditation and mindfulness.”

He called the army of Covid volunteers “quite extraordinary”. But he warned: “The great concern we have is when people go back to work we may find the volunteers disappear as things go back to normal.

“The health service is only sustainable if people look after themselves better and we also look after each other better in the community.

“That may sound like running the NHS on the cheap but it matters if we want a sustainable health service that still exists in future. If your life has meaning and significance – and if your days are fulfilling – then this is bound to reduce your call on the health services generally.”

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