Five easy ways to connect with trees to boost your mood and health
People have always sought the healing power of trees. In the 19th century Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park and Montreal’s Parc du Mont Royal, wrote that natural scenery works the mind without tiring it, and gives new energy. In the 1940s, planners placed Sunnybrook Hospital in a forested glade in north Toronto. The architect noted “a clear running stream adds charm to a broad valley available to patients and their friends.”
As we grapple with varying degrees of restrictions across the country, here are some suggestions to continue to keep trees close:
1. Take a bath in the forest…virtually
The pandemic has shown our need for trees and green spaces. An immersive trip to the forest, known as forest bathing, can reduce blood pressure, lower stress, lower blood-sugar levels, improve concentration and fight depression.
As many of us may be experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety, depression and stress, and an overall sense of a lack of control over our lives, forest bathing, with its mindful and slow intentions, can center and ground us again, providing some perspective and gratitude.
While we are asked to stay home more, even a virtual forest therapy walk can provide benefits. This virtual walk can take place over the phone or Zoom and you can go anywhere to do it – within the comfort of your own home, balcony, backyard or green space, yoga mat, favorite couch or even bathtub.
2. Meditate with the trees
If you don’t have time, or can’t go to a park or forest, try YouTube! One example “A Peaceful Forest Bathing Session,”, about eight minutes long, features a woman’s soothing narration, mixed with bird and creek sounds. “Imagine a place where you are surrounded by tall trunks … and cascades of light where the sun breaks through gaps in the leaves.” Deep breathing adds to the relaxation effect.
3. Look outside
Even looking at trees through a window will improve your wellbeing. Between 1972 and 1981, researchers studied thirty women and sixteen men recovering from gall-bladder surgery in a Pennsylvania hospital. Half the patients looked out at leafy trees; the other half saw a brick wall. Patients with the tree view recovered more quickly and required fewer drugs.
4. Bring the outside in
Trapped at home and yearn for trees? Grow an indoor forest! The Spruce suggests ten trees that will thrive inside, including the rubber tree, yuca tree, jade tree, weeping tree and lemon tree. Trees set a mood for a room, even as they clean the air.
5. Leaf through a tree-themed book
If we’re not able to reach out and touch the leaves on our favorite trees, perhaps ‘leaf’ing through these recently published tree-themed books by Canadian authors may help:
1. Tree Talk by Ariel Gordon
2. Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee
3. Greenwood by Michael Christie