Hugging Trees No Longer Just for Hippies

Science is catching up to Buddha, the hippie movement and all environmentalists who have been preaching the importance of preserving our environment for decades. The Washington Post recently reported on a study conducted in Toronto, Canada quantifying the health benefits that trees have for urban environments and the health of the residents who live there. They also compared the health effects of living near more trees to a higher standard of living and increased wages. In regards to the findings, The Post reported:

“They found that ‘having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger.’… For cardio-metabolic conditions — a category that includes not only heart disease but stroke, diabetes, obesity and more — the study similarly found that an increase of 11 trees per city block was ‘comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.’”

The study advocates for urban environments to plant ten more trees per city block, using their research to show that the outcome in health and prosperity for local residents will significantly increase.

This might seem to be old news to some people but, as a recent transplant from the mountains of upstate New York to the city streets of San Francisco, I had forgotten how limited many urban dwellers interactions with trees, and nature as a whole, can be. After spending my day working in front of a computer for several hours and wandering around the streets of the Haight, I found myself utterly exhausted. I began to examine why I had such low energy, considering I had eaten a hearty breakfast and was filled on food and fuel for the day. On my afternoon walk I decided to let my feet carry me and found myself taken to the local neighborhood park. As I walked amongst the giant Red Woods and other beautiful trees which FullSizeRender(1)decorated the sidewalk, it felt like I was being bathed in peace and fueled with a life force that you can’t find in any bag, can or container. I immediately went to the first Red Wood I saw, sat down beneath it and just closed my eyes. I rested there, allowing myself to be in the presence of trees and bushes, for perhaps thirty minutes or less. Afterwards, I felt calm, grounded and filled with creative energy. I was ready to dance, to write, to clean, to walk and to sing. I was amazed at the difference in energy level I felt from just that short period of time allowing myself to let go of my story and plug in to nature.

For many people working 9-5 or multiple jobs to make the rent, there is an easy trap to fall in to. You find yourself believing you don’t have the time to go to the park, meditate, exercise or cook healthy meals. However, by not allowing yourself time to do these simple activities, you actually take time away from your life and decrease your ability to enjoy that life to the fullest. If you start to look at these actions as essential daily nutrients and vitamins, just like many of you take your multivitamin each morning, your incentive to implement them will increase immensely. Also, by realizing that you don’t have to take an entire day to go to the park but can instead spend just a few minutes connecting to your closest nature source, you will be more inclined to make this a regular daily practice. As people realize that spending time near trees is as healthy as doing yoga and eating vegetables and fruits for their body, we can create a stronger and louder voice to support and protect the planet we live on. So please, the next time you’re feeling tired at work and are thinking about your 6th cup of coffee or a red bull, why not try walking outside to the nearest tree, taking a seat on a bench or even on the ground if you feel adventurous, and just plug in. You will be surprised with what might happen.

Source: “Scientists have discovered that living near trees is good for your health,” The Washington Post, Chris Mooney. 

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