Thinking about how you can be healthier in 2018? Fed up with post-Christmas bleariness and the January blues? Perhaps it’s time to refresh your body and mind by spending some quality time with trees. Here are 5 reasons why.
1. They make us happy
Trees are an excellent remedy for improving our mental health and wellbeing. A growing body of research is showing that spending time around trees and nature reduces depression and anxiety, especially when combined with exercise.
One study found that walks in the forest were linked to decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods.
Time amongst trees decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases people’s sense of wellbeing. Even the physical signs of stress such as muscle tension and pulse rate are measurably reduced within as little as 3 to 4 minutes spent in leafy green surroundings.
Even the view of nature out of a window is associated with lower stress at work and higher job satisfaction.
2. Breathe cleaner
Trees are natural air cleansers and pollution is rife in our cities. Gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are known to cause respiratory problems and can make allergic reactions worse. Trees can absorb these gases through their leaves. In the Greenwood Community Forest, near Nottingham, it has been estimated that the existing woodland reduces concentrations of these gases in the air by 4-5%.
3. Improve your physical health
It may surprise you to hear that being around trees can have a wide range of positive effects on your body’s health. It can boost your immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation.
In one study, students who spent time in the forest had lower levels of inflammation than those who spent time in the city. In another, elderly patients who had been sent on a week-long trip into the forest showed reduced signs of inflammation as well as some indications that the leafy jaunt had a positive effect on their high blood pressure.
4. Get creative
“It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination” – Henry David Thoreau
Artists throughout history have found inspiration in nature, but spending time in woods is not only inspiring, it can boost your creativity. The hustle and bustle of modern city life can sap our reserves and dry out our spark.
Spending time with trees rejuvenates our minds and can take us to a more innovative state.
5. Improve your memory and sharpen your mind
Modern lives full of juggling opposing demands leave us tired and our brains dull. If you think of your brain as a muscle, like any other it needs a chance to stop and recover. One way to give your noggin some respite is by being around trees.
Trying to focus on many activities or even a single thing for long periods of time can drain us. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water or birds gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, reviving our focus and patience.
Research done by the University of Michigan shows that performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20% after study subjects took a pause for a walk through an arboretum (a tree garden). When they paused to take a walk down a busy street, no cognitive boost was detected.
If a pill could do all this it would be hailed as a wonder drug! Isn’t it time to treat yourself to the wonder of nature and open yourself up to the delights of trees. Whether it’s a jaunt through a local park or a longer spell in a forest, it’s bound to do you the world of good. No subscriptions required, it’s out there waiting for you!
Read our beginners guide to urban forest bathing to get started.