Shinrin-yoku Blog

Thu., Oct. 6, 2022

By MaryAnn Thesing, Horticulturist

Let me introduce myself –

My name is MaryAnn Thesing, Horticulturist for 20 acres in the Layer Rhododendron Garden, which consists of an extensive collection of Rhododendrons, set in a quiet woodland & it is my pleasure to welcome you to this sanctuary!

In spring and throughout the summer, you will find rhododendrons and azaleas at their best, but their unassuming existence is one element of immersion that should not be taken for granted as we bathe ourselves in this woodland.

Rhododendron minus, dwarf rhododendron

“Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.” -Eckhart Tolle

Although there is a pond, you will not be jumping in! You will not be bathing in the literal sense. Instead, engage all five senses on your stroll through this cathedral of trees. You see, “Shinrin-yoku” is the Japanese term for “Forest Bathing” or immersion in nature.

Corning Lake, Holden Arboretum
As a society, we spend enormous amounts of time indoors. We are attached to technology in a way that is proven to be unhealthy. We know that this attachment can add to our stress and anxiety, and we tend to allow our otherwise busy lives to dictate our outlook.

Let’s talk decompression –

Dr. Qing Li, President of Society for Forest Medicine & author of Shinrin-yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing, has been studying the effects of nature on our bodies. The results are astounding! So much so, that it is prescribed as medicine! To date, Japan has 48 walking trails dedicated to ‘Forest Therapy’.

After slowly walking through a forest and taking in the sights, sounds & scents – breathing the air, touching trees and feeling the earth beneath one’s feet, it has been proven that blood pressure drops, cortisol is lowered, memory is improved and stress melts away. The overall sense of well-being is so impactful that Japanese, British doctors and doctors in California are now prescribing “Nature Immersion Therapy” or Shinrin-yoku.

I’ve long talked about plant energy and was, on occasion, told I was a bit silly, but I could feel IT! Turns out, trees produce chemicals called phytoncides which boost immunity!

On average 80% of Japanese people live in urban areas spend much of their time indoors. Americans spend, roughly, 90% of their time indoors. We have lost our connection to nature. So, let me invite you to walk amongst the trees in “Old” Layer Rhododendron Garden or any other forested area of the arboretum.

Here are the steps you should take –

  1. Ditch technology – leave your phone behind or turn it off
  2. Begin to walk slowly – take in the sights and sounds that surround you. Do not rush
  3. Touch a tree – feel the texture of the bark. Does it have moss or lichen?
  4. Consider removing your shoes to feel the earth below your feet – not totally necessary (not everyone likes to be barefoot)
  5. Breath in the fresh air – what does it smell like?
  6. Invoke all five senses
  7. Spend 1-3 hours here if possible

Gary Evans, of The Forest Bathing Institute in the UK suggests, “A way to frame forest bathing is mindful time spent under the canopy of trees for health and wellbeing purposes”.

The Forest is your therapist in this moment –

Why not seek to explore more than the main path? Discover nature and immerse yourself in the presence of trees, Mother Nature’s cathedral.

MaryAnn Thesing

MaryAnn Thesing


MaryAnn Thesing joined Holden Arboretum in May, 2022 as Horticulturist for “Old” Layer Rhododendron Garden, which includes the Murch Canopy Walk. MaryAnn has over 7 years’ experience as a Garden Designer/Installer & Garden Coach and is a Japanese Maple & Bonsai enthusiast, owner & caretaker of The Japanese Maple Garden in Euclid, OH for 16 years.


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