What Should I Expect?

Dr. Mia Wintheiser, MD, will guide you through a series of activities, called invitations, designed to reconnect you to nature in a simple, open, and sensory way. These activities include periods of rest and reflection, time to wander and explore on your own, and time for whole group sharing.

The invitations depend on the season, time of day, weather, and unique features within the natural space, whether that be forest, prairie, wetland, or lakeshore. If it is windy, an invitation may invite keen attention on the wind and how it moves. If a chorus of birds are singing, the focus may be on the diversity and beauty of birdsong. In a field of flowers, an invitation may involve exploring one’s sense of smell or touch.

Each participant’s experience of the forest and nature therapy walk is different. Some people simply describe the walk as “fun” or “relaxing.” Others feel strong emotions or may remember something important or meaningful to them.

A forest and nature walk is not designed to be strenuous or physically difficult. We may spend time in a small area of land or walk only a short distance. This is intentional and keeps participants focused on the senses: visual observation, listening, smelling, and touching nature in an attentive manner.

“I had a memory of my mother and how she used to lay in our hammock with me and read my favorite books. The swaying in the breeze and warm sun. You didn’t have a care in the world. I haven’t thought about that in years.”

-- Community Participant

In Person or Virtual Walks

Most forest and nature therapy walks are at city/regional parks or nature reserves where everyone meets together at a certain place and time. I usually stay within the Twin Cities metro, but on occasion have gone to outstate Minnesota to guide a walk there.

Virtual walks are a different experience than in-person walks, yet because geographical distances are eliminated, people anywhere can participate together. If your friends or family are spread out around the country or world, a virtual walk can be a wonderful, shared experience. 

Most guided walks are 90 minutes to 3 hours, with three hours offering the optimal experience. Research shows that three or more hours spent in nature gives your mind and body the most benefit. It can take a while to quiet the mind and immerse yourself into a new place.

Groups of professionals may incorporate forest therapy walks as part of wellness and resiliency programs.

Preparing for Your Forest Therapy Experience

When you contact me, I work with you to select a good location. In general, I choose clearly marked sites that are close to parking and restroom facilities. 

Please let me know ahead of time if you have a difference in ability of any kind (hard of hearing, easily fatigued, etc.) so that I can plan our activities to give you a comfortable, positive experience. For example, if you use a wheelchair, I choose a paved path that is fully accessible. If a group wants a specific location (such as a waterfall or hilltop) and everyone is willing to hike a short distance before starting the “official” walk, I can arrange for that, too.

Things to Remember

  • Water bottle
  • Dress for the weather
  • A chair or blanket to sit on if you wish
  • Sunscreen, hat, or insect repellant if needed
  • Walks take place rain or shine. In the case of severe weather, the walk will be rescheduled for safety reasons.

What We Do on a Walk

There is a standard sequence of events on every forest and nature therapy walk.
  • Brief introduction
  • Mindfulness based activity
  • Walking slowly as a group
  • Invitations (optional, suggested activities)
  • Sharing circle
  • Closing tea ceremony
  • Each walk ends with a tea ceremony which I prepare and serve with a light snack. After this, I linger awhile to answer any additional questions you may have about forest therapy.

After the Experience

Some people expect to have a grand epiphany on their walk. More often, they notice less physical tension and a calm or peaceful state of mind. People may feel a sense of gratitude or awe at the diversity and interconnectedness of nature. Others may have a quiet realization or deepened emotions in the days following the forest therapy. Whatever feelings, reflections, or thoughts that you have during or after the walk are okay. Nature gifts us with what we need.

Forest Therapy with No Forest?

Trees have a special place in forest therapy, but we can have incredible encounters with nature in any natural or green space. A lakeshore, prairie, cornfield, even our own backyard can hold treasures for us.