Keeping the trees close in a time of distancing

Tree Canada


As we all come to adjust our personal and professional lives to our new realities, one thing is certain – how much we need trees, nature and being outside and how it can lift our moods and improve our spirits.

While we may be faced with varying degrees of outdoor exposure at this time, we can all still try to connect with trees.

Here are a few easy tips for maintaining that connection to the trees:

1. Get a breath of fresh air

While we all have our part to play, like in any healthy ecosystem, and respect the request of our public health officials for physical distancing (and self-isolation if we are already sick!), the mental health benefits of getting outside, being among trees, or even admiring that tree outside your window or on your street and getting a breathe of fresh air, are so great!

Our exposure to forests and trees is associated with definitive mental health benefits such as reduced feelings of depression and anxiety, improved mood, improved sleep and focus, increased energy levels and an increase in overall general well-being. As we take a deep breathe in, our stress will lower and the physical activity we get from being outside, whether from a slow walk to a faster jog, will also help to foster that much needed sense of social connection we all need right now, even if it is just seeing other people — at that further respected distance.

2. Befriend a tree

If you can get outside:  take a walk and let yourself be called to a particular tree. Begin by sitting close to the tree, leaning up against it or simply touching it. Take a few deep breaths, allowing your mind to relax and feeling the earth and tree supporting you.Stay with the tree awhile.  Study, look, feel, smell, and sense the tree. Listen as the wind rustles its branches or leaves. Watch how it moves in the wind, or how other creatures run up and down it. Bask in its shade or feel the sun that filters through its branches.

As you continue connecting to the tree, continue to breathe deeply and notice it as long as you feel comfortable with all your senses.

Perhaps as you finish and say goodbye, ponder how it might look and feel during different parts of the day or in different seasons. Perhaps even ponder how it is connected with the life around it, like other creatures or others in your community.

If you need to stay inside: Begin by sitting comfortably in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Take a few deep breaths, allowing your mind to relax. With your body planted firmly on the ground, feel the earth beneath you. If you wish, perhaps open one of your windows to bring in some new air or to hear some nature sounds outside, or if not, perhaps tune into an online resource to listen to some recorded forest sounds.

Now, picture yourself in a forest beneath a large, leafy tree with strong branches. Smell the rich soil and clean air. Listen to the wind rustling through the leaves and notice if you hear any birds or other creatures.

Visualize the tree’s leaves and branches. Picture yourself reaching out to touch the tree. Feel the texture of the bark.

Appreciate the tree as a living organism. Imagine it drinking up water through its roots. Thank the tree for the shade it offers in warmer months, the wood and food it might provide, and how it cleans our air and water.

Visualize the spreading branches and the leaves opening towards the sun.

Feel this warmth of the sun beaming down on you as you feel your whole body fill up with a sense of energy and calm.

When you’re ready, open your eyes and take this restorative energy and calm with you into the rest of your day.

3. Escape into the trees with these reads and links

As our time inside has increased, consider learning more about our tree friends outside.

  1. Learn the benefits our urban forests provide
  2. Watch Call of the Forest a documentary by Diana Beresford-Kroeger
  3. Learn how to identify that tree outside your window or on your street with any of these following resources:
    1. Leafsnap (mobile app)
    2. TreeLib (website)
    3. Trees in Canada, revised edition (book)
  4. Read any or all of the following books on trees or forests from three notable Canadian authors
    1. To Speak for the Trees by Diana Beresford-Kroeger
    2. Tree: A Life Story by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady
    3. Greenwood by Michael Christie

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