Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Christmas 2023: Nature and Nurture

Why I . . . run nature retreats for doctors

BMJ 2023; 383 doi: (Published 13 December 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;383:p2473
  1. Kathy Oxtoby
  1. The BMJ

Rachel Cottam, a GP, talks to Kathy Oxtoby about holding nature retreats and what they can add to doctors’ clinical skills

Standing under a 1000 year old yew tree at dawn, Rachel Cottam sees the birds waking up, the owls heading home, the mist rising out of the valley, and the vast expanse of sky slowly changing colour. She takes in the beauty of nature and reflects on its transformative powers—“the ‘healing’ that can come through connecting with ourselves, with nature, and with each other, which so easily becomes buried as we’re funnelled into the biomedical model,” she says.

Cottam, a GP, is a co-leader of mindfulness-nature connection retreats at the Coach House at the Sharpham Trust, near Totnes in Devon. Mindfulness is the cognitive act of being aware of the present moment: mindfulness practices might include mindful movement, mindfulness meditation, mindful walking, and extending mindfulness into everyday activities—for example, mindful gardening.

Time and time again Cottam has seen how nature’s powers have helped others, …

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