Nature as a healer

A woman in the distance as she hikes in the forest.
Leigha Horton of Silvae Spiritus leads a guided nature and forest therapy walk Monday, Sept. 23, 2019 at Crosby Regional Farm in St. Paul. The guided walks emphasizes slowing down to connect with nature and focusing on the five senses.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

More of us spent time outdoors during the pandemic — at state parks, walking around the city lakes or digging in our yards and patio pots. It turns out that was probably good for our mental and physical health. 

A growing body of research shows what many of us long knew — interactions with the natural world can lower our stress and promote well-being. Walking in natural environments can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve sleep. Even just listening to running water or looking at pictures of a forest can provide some health benefits. 

Host Angela Davis talks to the founder of a nature-based therapeutics program and a holistic health practitioner about how nature is central to their healing work. 


  • Jean Larson is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, where she runs Nature-Based Therapeutic Services, a partnership between the Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum that brings programming to groups homes, schools and medical settings. She’s also a certified recreational therapist and registered horticultural therapist.

  • Rebeka Ndosi is a holistic health practitioner, licensed acupuncturist and herbalist and yoga and meditation teacher. She is fundraising for the Maji ya Chai Land Sanctuary, a Black-owned space in northern Minnesota where people will be able to draw on natural surroundings to recover from the stress and trauma in their lives.

  • Kari Kleven is a licensed clinical social worker in Minneapolis who provides individual and family therapy for children, teens and adults outdoors in local parks.

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