Forest Medicine for Your Mind & Body

This week’s post comes from teacher naturalist Mary Jacobsen, who has introduced a new series of adult classes called Shin-Rin Yoku.

P1190010OKswI’m addicted to Drumlin Farm! If I’m not climbing up to the Drumlin, checking out the progress of the crops, or visiting Midnight the pony every few days, I start to feel forlorn. I started my addiction as a volunteer at Wildlife Care, cleaning enclosures and feeding the raptors on Bird Hill. That wasn’t enough, so I became a Teacher/Naturalist as well, and have been shepherding children through the farmyard and around the forest trails for the past 5 years. I’m always happy at the farm. I’m also a clinical social worker, and have counseled people in my therapy office for more than 20 years. I always wished I could find a way to bridge my indoor and outdoor worlds.

Last year I discovered the missing link to bridge my worlds when I read “Your Brain on Nature,” by Eva Selhub, M.D. and Alan Logan, N.D. The book is a fascinating summary of the extensive body of research supporting the idea of forest medicine—nature’s positive impact on health and vitality. Specifically, Shin-rin Yoku, a Japanese term meaning “forest bathing,” caught my eye.


Our multi-tasking screen culture wearies and stresses us. By contrast, nature restores calm and well-being to our minds and bodies. Forest plants, especially conifers, emit essential wood oils and airborne chemicals to protect themselves from insects and decay. Medical studies show they benefit humans as well. Researchers have measured the healthful impacts of walking mindfully (i.e., not just being outside, but being fully present in the moment) through a forested area, ranging from reduced blood pressure and lowered stress hormones to enhanced cognitive function.

Mindful forest walking sounded so peaceful, appealing, and healing, that I decided to offer three forest walks at Drumlin Farm this spring. The first walk took place on April 26. We took a gentle hike on sanctuary trails, stopping periodically for sensory activities to attune to the sounds, aromas, colors, textures, movements, and living presence of the surrounding landscape. At the end, we gathered to share white pine tea which we harvested during our walk, and to briefly review our experiences so participants could repeat them on their own.

If you’d like to experience the calm and well-being of Shin-rin Yoku, please join us for one or both of our upcoming walks. A word of warning is in order, though: you, too, may become addicted to Drumlin Farm!

Leader: Mary Jacobsen, LICSW & Teacher Naturalist at Drumlin Farm.

When: May 17 and June 7, 1-3 pm. Each walk will be a new experience, so participants are encouraged to come to both walks.

Cost: $20 for Mass Audubon members, $24 for nonmembers

Registration: Register online or call 781-259-2206

3 thoughts on “Forest Medicine for Your Mind & Body

  1. David Whitlock

    The idea that spending time in the natural environment is restorative is compelling, based on my research on the human microbiome, which also involves nitric oxide.

    Lately I have started trying to rationalize Buddhist teaching with nitric oxide physiology. I can’t make this time, but perhaps we could meet/talk at another time?

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