Nature Heals Initiative

Jean Larson instructing students gathered around in the sensory garden

The Arboretum's Nature Heals Initiative brings the healing power of nature to the public with intentionally designed and implemented educational programs to improve the body, mind and spirit. In nature, we feel content, connected, energized, resilient and safe.

Our new Nature Heals Initiative reminds us we are all interconnected (both people and planet) and that access to and engagement with nature is a human right. The goal of the Nature Heals Initiative is to bring an awareness and understanding of why we feel so good when we are in nature and how you can continue this practice at home. 

AWE Walks

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A Wonder-filled Experience

During each AWE walk session, led by a professional from Nature-Based Therapeutics, you will be guided through grounding breathing exercises and a discussion on how our brains work in nature before heading out on a sensory walk to interpret the natural environment in new ways. A takeaway "MiniZine" (a miniature magazine) created during each walk will serve to remember the experience and provide people with tools that san be practiced in any natural outdoor setting and can become a part of one’s daily routine.  

AWE walks have the goal of raising awareness of how our bodies and minds feel best in nature.  Think of these awe walks as a reset button for the human brain. Experiencing awe provides us with several benefits, like shifting our perspective, increasing our curiosity and open-mindedness. This shift allows us to feel more connected to humanity, which spurs altruistic behavior. It seems that seeing ourselves in perspective, seeing ourselves as small in comparison to nature and what it encompasses, invokes a sense of connectedness with other living beings like nothing else we encounter in our man-made world can do. 

Register for AWE Walks

Forest bathing (shinrin-yoku)

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Shinrin-yoku (translation: forest bathing i.e. making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest) is a Japanese mindfulness practice that invites nature to be your healer through guided awareness and mindfulness exercises. Research has found immersion in forest environments lead to lower concentrations of cortisol (a stress hormone), lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, and greater parasympathetic nervous system activity. 

During sessions, visitors will experience shinrin-yoku with trained guides throughout the Arboretum grounds. 

Register for forest bathing

People walking amongst red maple trees

Try it on your own!

  • Bring nature inside: Decorating indoor spaces with live plants and/or setting your screensavers to nature scenes are simple ways to bring nature to you. You can also sign up for any of the Arboretum's many horticulture classes.
  • Try gardening: Gardening can be a fun way to increase your physical activity and increase your contact with nature. The Arboretum offers year-round gardening classes to build your green-thumb skills.
  • Take breaks outside: Even if you're short on time, consider taking a walk at the Arboretum. Bringing your attention to the view of trees, the sound of birds or the feel of wind can help you be mindful and decrease stress.
  • Leash up your dog: Check out the Arboretum's Dog Commons with your favorite furry friend. The on-leash dog trails are available to those with a Dog-Added Arboretum Membership.

Want to learn more? 

Discover the science behind nature’s healing power with fascinating explanations and peer-reviewed articles for a deeper understanding of this well-documented, but often underutilized therapy modality. 

Get Connected

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For additional information about the Nature Heals Initiative at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, contact Sarah Palm