By Glen Prevost, Special to The News
Do you feel better after spending time in nature? It may be more than just a feeling.
Dr. Conrad Sichler is a Burlington-based medical doctor who uses nature as a healing tool.
“I have many patients who find solace in nature,” he said. “People are using (nature) all the time, even though the medical profession doesn’t really think about it.”
Depending on your problem, Sichler may even write you a prescription for a walk in the woods. He is not opposed to prescribing pharmaceuticals; they make up about half of the prescriptions he writes. The other half is “everything else,” – including nature.
“I try to see conventional medicine as a tool,” explained Sichler, who said he tries to strike a balance when working with patients. “Another tool is walking in the woods, another is group therapy, meditation, hypnosis, and imagination.”
Sichler sees people as more than just a bunch of anatomy. He views people as social, psychological, and spiritual beings. The social and spiritual parts, “in the broadest sense, are that of nature,” he said.
“We often think of nature and health when something bad happens, like a natural disaster, but if it weren’t for the plants around us, we wouldn’t be able to breathe,” said Sichler. “So obviously clean water, healthy food and some contact with nature are pivotal to someone’s health. We can’t separate them.”
Even folks who don’t think they have a deep connection with the earth can benefit from this approach.
“Someone doesn’t have to have a certain philosophy to benefit from nature because our connection to the earth is so long standing that it is beyond any set of beliefs,” said Sichler.
When asked how to balance urban space and green space, he suggests people need to access wilder green spaces within about five to ten minutes of their home.
Sichler sees the proposed Dundas EcoPark as a way to meet this need. At 3,325 acres, the park would form the western part of the Cootes to Escarpment Park System and be a large wild space very close to the city. It will include the north and south shores of Cootes Paradise, a provincially significant wetland, and part of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere reserve.
The Hamilton Conservation Foundation is heading up a $5-million fundraising campaign to help acquire significant natural lands within the Dundas EcoPark, the largest in their history.
While nature is important for the health of all people, Sichler said it is very important for children.
“Wouldn’t it be great if, as children, we could have a relationship with something natural, as opposed to something that is only manufactured?
“It is really important for children to get outdoors at an early age so they can see and feel and smell this inheritance they have been given,” he added. “This is their legacy and it is their heritage to live in and benefit from.”
For more information on the Dundas EcoPark, or to donate, contact the Hamilton Conservation Foundation or visit DundasEcoPark.ca.