The respite of trees

Danielle St-Aubin

Chief Executive Officer, Tree Canada Directrice générale, Arbres Canada

There were plenty of trees in and around the small community where I grew up. Many parks could be found within city limits along with small woodlands. I spent hours simply walking through and taking in those “inner city forests” and letting my mind quietly wander, but I never thought much about how trees contribute to my well-being, until I moved to a large city. I instinctively understood that being surrounded by trees made me feel better on a bad day, but I didn’t know at the time that there was real science behind it.

There are a number of studies on the positive effect of trees on our lives. In terms of physical health and mental well-being, they can reduce anxiety and aggression, boost our immune systems, reduce stress, lift our spirits, and so on.

One study in particular, reported in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that of the 585 young adult participants, those who walked for 15 minutes in a forest experienced less anxiety, hostility, fatigue, confusion, and depressive symptoms, and more vigor, compared to those walking in an urban setting. What was even more interesting was that the results were even stronger for those people who experienced higher levels of anxiety compared to those with normal or lower levels!

While research shows that trees do contribute to our well-being, I am still intrigued by what exactly it is about trees that makes us feel so good. I guess in the end, whether it is their gentle presence, the quiet murmur of their rustling leaves, or their calming shades of green, I am grateful that even in a large city, I can still find respite thanks to trees.


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