Over the past two years, many people have found that being in nature supports our wellbeing. Numerous scientific studies support that, and scientists have also found that being in nature – specifically trees – also has a positive effect on our physical health.
In one study, young adults walked for 15 minutes in a forest or an urban area. Those walking in forests experienced less anxiety, depression and fatigue than those in towns and cities. Another study asked participants to either spend 15 minutes gazing at a winter forest (bare leaves, no greenery) or an unforested urban landscape. Again, the forest gazers reported significantly better moods, more positive emotions and more energy.
There may be a physical reason for this. Scientists have found that people living near trees have a brain structure that’s better able to handle stressors. Other scientists have found that spending even a short time in forests improves our immune system. They think this is because trees release certain chemical compounds beneficial to humans.
Trees also help our heart health. Participants in another study walked in forest one day and an urban environment on another. Researchers monitored the impacts of both walks on their bodies. Walking in trees lowered their blood pressure, cortisol levels, pulse rates and sympathetic nervous system activity (related to stress). it increased their parasympathetic nervous symptom (related to relaxation). These are all physiological markers of heart health. Another study found that women living in areas affected by tree loss have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those in unaffected areas.
Other researchers have found even more astonishing affects that trees have on people, from leading to less crime in urban areas to making people more generous and trusting.
So, for all those reasons, and the many more that are under investigation and yet to be discovered, why not make a regular date with your local tree-filled green space, and enjoy all the health and wellbeing benefits that they give to us.
This article was first published in the Keynsham Voice – February 2022
Photo by David Vig on Unsplash