If you are gazing out on an apartment block as you read this, you may well feel that all this talk of living near trees being good for your health is exaggerated. How can this be true and what can trees do for our health?
Just give me 10 trees! Researchers in Toronto studied the health benefits when people lived near trees. This study was led by Omid Kardan, a psychologist from the University of Chicago. Toronto was an ideal location because it happens to have 530,000 trees in its urban areas. Researchers also had access to the health records of over 30,000 residents in the Toronto area. Basically they found that having just 10 trees in the neighborhood was beneficial for health and can help lower heart disease, obesity and diabetes. This is important as more than 80% of American citizens live in an urban environment.
One problem is that in some concrete jungles, there is no soil or space left to plant a tree. Suburban areas are not much better.
“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.” – Bill Vaughn
Trees can reduce air pollution
The EU has caved in to the car manufacturers by practically doubling the emissions of the deadly NOx (nitrogen oxide) gases. The WHO offers little comfort to us when it says that in 2012, there were 3.7 million premature deaths caused by air pollution.
How can trees help? Trees can absorb some of the nasty pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide and ozone, by trapping them in their leaves and bark. Thomas Karl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research has done some interesting research on this. Trees can help in removing CO2 from the atmosphere and return oxygen to the atmosphere. Think of them as being filters.
“The trees actually clean up more than we thought.” Thomas Karl.
Trees can reduce stress
Wandering among trees in a forest or even a park can do wonderful things for your health. The Japanese know all about this because they practice the art of “forest bathing” which is called shinrin-yoku in Japanese. But can this practice actually reduce stress? Research suggests that it really can. Posts from the USDA Forest Service show that there is plenty of research that confirms being near trees reduces stress hormones faster than anything else. It also helps with blood pressure. If you ever get the chance of a walk in the forest or in the park, go for it!
Trees can help you sleep better
Researchers at the University of Illinois used data from over 250,000 Americans in assessing their sleep quality. They were curious to find out if being near a park, forest or other natural surroundings had an impact on the number of sleepless nights. Their suspicions were confirmed by the study, especially for the over 65 males. When you want to buy a house, try to find one with trees nearby.
Trees can be a healing force
The ancient Celts knew that trees were a precious source of food, shelter, medicine and energy. Each tree species was known to have different healing qualities.
Some people recommend that you hug a tree to get its full healthful benefits. But why would you do that? The answer is that as our bodies contain 70% water; they are very similar to trees. Everything in the universe vibrates and the water in our bodies and trees are no exception. Just by being in close contact, you can sense the healing powers and feel better and calmer.
Matthew Silverstone has written a book called, Blinded by Science in which he describes how this awareness transformed his son’s health when conventional medicine failed to cure him. The basic premise of the book is that trees, plants, water are playing a much more important part in our daily health than we realize. As for trees. there may be other factors at work and nobody has, as yet, been able to pinpoint how exactly trees can benefit our health.
You may be sceptical but there are no studies that show the being near trees does you any harm. Unless you have an allergy to tree pollen of course. They can only do you good. Now, just read the full list of health benefits here and I promise you will want to hug a tree when and if you finish reading it!
“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” – Chad Sugg
Featured photo credit: https://Tree Tunnel/Randy Heinitz via flickr.com