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Forest Therapy––Stopping Nature Deficit Disorder

New evidence suggests an indoor lifestyle is bad for your health



Raisfeld and her companions walk along the Bedford Riding Lanes path near Sunnyfield Farm.

Photos by Jennifer Mullowney

Growing up in the Long Island suburb of West Hempstead, I had two favorite things. One was sneaking through peoples’ backyards from one end of our block to the other. It thrilled me. The stealth, the physicality of climbing over fences or under hedgerows, the absolute terror of being caught. My other favorite thing was to visit a patch of scrubby woods behind the Carvel. It was small but dense with trees; a stream ran through it, and I could pretend there were no houses visible around the edges. There was the requisite suburban junk strewn about—a broken lawn chair, some dented STP cans, a bicycle tire—but to me it was wild and magical. To this day, when driving around suburban Westchester, if I see a little piece of woodland between two houses, I still go right back in my mind to that little cathedral of green behind the ice cream store.

Living in Bedford where green space is so plentiful, I still find myself drawn to the woods and still find magic there. The renowned biologist E.O. Wilson coined the term biophilia, the innate tendency of humans to seek connections with nature and other forms of life, and I suspect that trait runs deep in me. I didn’t realize when we first moved here in November 1996 that there were 150 pristine wooded acres behind our house, just a shortcut across our neighbor’s drive. Our own three acres gave us so much to explore that autumn, and winter that year had such epic snowfall, that we spent much of our outdoors time trudging up and sledding down the hill at the Bedford Golf and Tennis Club. But once I discovered the Bedford Riding Lanes practically in my backyard, barely a day has passed that I don’t dip into the woods, in any season, in any weather. Knee-deep in snow, ankle-deep in mud, wading through leaves, or feeding off the energy of new growth, I find the ever-changing woods never less than staggeringly beautiful. 

Around 1920, an increase in paved roads and car traffic in Bedford inspired a group of local fox hunters to create a trail system called the PRL—Private Riding Lanes—that allowed equestrians to ride safely to and from foxhunts. The organization grew, acquiring the rights to access more and more land, eventually being re-christened the Bedford Riding Lanes, which now maintains about 100 miles of trail and helps to protect Bedford’s rural quality. Maybe you’ve noticed their discreet yellow and black signs. Those signs mark the riding lanes, which wind along dirt roads and across private and public property. Currently, of about 500 supporting members, half are non-riders, like me, who use the trails for walking, running, or hiking. The woods are my spiritual refuge, my emotional tonic, my stress reliever, my gym.

Like most of us, I spend too much of my waking hours staring at screens big and small, which is what makes getting into the woods even more critical to well-being than ever before. The Japanese government started using the term shinrin-yoku in 1982, based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, believing that “forest-therapy” has a profound effect on health. Increasing alienation from nature has serious ramifications for all of us, children and adults: measurably higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, higher blood pressure and blood sugar, more physical pain, and worse depression. A new concept, Nature Deficit Disorder, appears to be an apt description for the results of an indoor life where most sensory input comes from electronic devices.

One scientist, Dr. Marc Berman, believes that a walk in the woods gives voluntary attention (the kind that gets attracted to email notifications and pop-up ads) a break, since the mind has a chance

to wander aimlessly and be engaged, involuntarily but gently, by natural surroundings. Going outdoors into the natural world—something as simple as looking at the trees, the sky, listening to birdsong, feeling a breeze against your face, smelling damp soil—improves immunity, lowers hostility, increases vitality, concentration, and creativity. 

If you’re thinking I gotta get me some of that, join the BRLA. Look for those little yellow and black signs and get thee into the woods. John Muir, the renowned American naturalist and environmental philosopher said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I promise you, and you’ll find it out for yourself, he was so right.

 

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January 2019

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
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Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy based on his famous "I Have a Dream" speech by creating a mobile that expresses your own dreams—for yourselves and your community. Each...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Telephone: 914-666-8041

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Drop in for help with any of your technology devices.  No appointment necessary.  First come first served.   PC, Google, Microsoft savvy volunteer with help you with troubleshooting,...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Telephone: 914-666-8041

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Come be a paleontologist for the day and create a dinosaur of your own imagination out of cardboard and tissue paper. Materials will be provided.  Ages 4 to 11 (under 5 with caregiver)Sponsored...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Library
Telephone: 914-666-8041

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Wednesday, January 23rd at 7:00 PM Create a cool yarn hat in a single evening! All materials will be provided. This event is free and no registration is required. Ages 12 and up. Hosted by North...

Cost: Free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

We invite families to drop-in and enjoy interactive pop-up activity stations, gallery games, and art projects around the KMA.  Get inspired by Outrageous Ornament: Extreme Jewelry in the 21st...

Cost: Member price: Free Non-Member price: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Katonah Museum
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
Website »

More information

Bring the baby and enjoy a lively conversation inspired by the art on view. Enjoy light snacks while socializing with newly-made friends. Crying babies welcome and activities provided for older...

Cost: Member price: Free Non-Member price with Museum admission: Free

Where:
Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
Website »

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Saturday, January 26th from 1:00 - 2:00 PM, Ages 4+ Attend for groovy crafts, snacks, games, and more in celebration of the Pete the Cat book series. This event is free and no registration is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

  Touchon transforms verbal language into handsome geometric compilations, to reveal the beauty and musicality of language characterized by warmly colored shapes, interlocking irregular grids and...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Hudson Chorale, the area’s largest mixed voice chorus, is poised to please.  The group will begin its 2019 season with two matinee concerts on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 3:00 pm and Sunday,...

Cost: Advance Sale-$25; Door-$30; Students-$10.

Where:
The Chapel at Maryknoll
55 Ryder Rd
Ossining, NY  10562
View map »


Sponsor: Hudson Chorale
Telephone: 1-800-838-3006
Contact Name: Anne Norum
Website »

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