Patient Treatments: First, a Walk in the Woods

I work at a community acupuncture clinic where the treatment begins the moment you walk through the door.  With the use of dim lighting and wallpaper, the hallway from the lobby to the group treatment room has been made to appear as though you are walking through the woods.  For me as the acupuncturist, no matter what negative energies have presented themselves in my day, I feel better prepared to provide care just by walking down that hallway and soaking in the presence of nature.  The research, which I detail below, has found positive physiological effects of simply viewing nature.

Zen Den Center of NJ: Hallway leading to the community treatment room


Viewing nature relaxes us

A recent systematic review of research over the past 2 decades found that viewing scenes of nature, specifically wooded and forest areas, relaxes us.  Although different research studies used slightly different measures, they all inevitably came to the same conclusion: what we look at matters.  While some studies found that viewing trees decreases the heart rate, others found, using EEG results, that viewing trees produces more alpha (alert relaxation) brain waves. In one study, the systolic blood pressure of participants who viewed forest scenes dropped significantly compared to the control group.  Several studies found that viewing photos of trees activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branch of the nervous system. Finally, HRV (heart rate variability) another common biometric, improved when participants viewed trees versus urban scenes.


Take a walk in the woods of the Santa Cruz Mountains with me (below).


Expanding the impact of simulated nature to the senses of smell, hearing, community, and touch

At the Zen Den community clinic, during the treatment, we expand the sense of sight used when viewing simulated nature to bring in four more of the senses.  First, a combination of air purifiers and essential oils engages the sense of smell upon entry into the community treatment area.  Second, natural sounds are piped into the room to engage the sense of hearing.

Third, while not an official “sense”, the sense of community is important to include. In the community setting, patients lie in a large circle in zero-gravity chairs about 4 feet from each other separated only by dividers that are about 5 feet high and 1 foot wide. We know from post-pandemic research that isolation is a significant contributor to poor health outcomes and social connection contributes to improved health.  A sense of community can expand the impact of any treatment. There is a power and a positive impact to group treatment that we’ll address in a future newsletter.

Finally, there’s touch, which is what acupuncture is all about.  Depending on the patient, touch may include palpation of sore or painful areas. And for all patients, acupuncture points on the body are first sterilized using alcohol that touches the body with a cotton ball before the tiny, but powerful, needles are inserted.  Then, patients may lie in their zero-gravity chair for up to an hour soaking in the harmonizing energies of acupuncture and all the subtle sensory treatments that the clinic environment provides.

Viewing nature is not a substitute for being in nature

While viewing nature can have some significant positive impact on our relaxation response, being in nature provides us additional important benefits.  In fact, we’ll explore the impact of spending time in nature in next week’s newsletter. So, I hope you will tune in then!

The Self-Care Solutions newsletter allows you to personalize your approach to health and wellbeing.  It offers you choices.  Safe choices.  Evidence-based choices. The articles allow you to try on different options and see what works for you. Think of each as an invitation. While not a substitute for care by your medical team, we’re here to support you in your quest for wellbeing!

Interested in Hero’s Journey Coaching?  Contact me at or visit

Reference Links:

Physiological Benefits of Viewing Nature, Systematic Review

A Proposed Theory of the Impact of Viewing Nature Virtually








Dr. Ruthann Russo

I love assisting people on their hero’s journey towards self-transformation. A passion which is born comes partly from personal experience – I view my own life as a series of self-transformations. I have 20+ years of education, training and experience, including being the CEO and founder of two health technology start-ups and global wellness consultant to Fortune 100 corporations.

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