We have trees on our planet that are 2,000, 3,000 even 5,000 years old, yet we seem to still understand relatively little about why trees make us happier, our intuition tells us they do, but why is this? My local old tree is the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, it is is about 800–1000 years old, Robin Hood is said to have hidden in it, and I love to imagine Robin Hood and his merry men and all the other people throughout history who have walked past that tree – that alone is guaranteed to put any of my stresses in perspective and make me feel like a small dot in a long line of people. Trees ground me.
Recently I’ve been reading about research on the topic of trees and human happiness and health. It’s so fascinating I thought I should share some of it here with you. I am also really excited to be teaming up with Artificial Grass today to share news of how to win a £150 Go Ape voucher. I love a chance to go wild in the forest!
In 1984, Roger Ulrich noticed a fascinating pattern amongst patients recovering from gallbladder surgery at a suburban hospital in Pennsylvania. Those who had been given rooms overlooking trees were discharged almost a day sooner, on average, than those in otherwise identical rooms whose windows faced a brick wall. This raised all kinds of questions. Does looking at nature make us happier? More relaxed? Do trees actively raise the cells we need to help us recover?
The 2015 research of Berman and his colleagues showed that an additional ten trees on a block corresponds to a one percent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt. Berman further explained “To get an equivalent increase with money, you’d have to give each household in that neighborhood ten thousand dollars—or make people seven years younger.” The correlation was clear, but the reasons less so, could it be air quality or were psychological factors at play too?
Walking in nature always helps me to get perspective, some research suggests trees can really help us to unravel stress. A study from Stanford, found that young adults who walked for an hour through campus parkland were less anxious afterward and performed better on a test of working memory than if they had strolled along a busy street.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated what effect a walk could have on a person’s tendency to brood. Volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were dwelling less on the negative aspects of their lives than they had been before the walk.
Trees can have an incredible impact on children too, as childrens’ roaming areas decline we have to question the impact of that on mental health. A 2008 study, published in The Journal of Attention Disorders, found that children with ADHD were able to focus better after the ‘green’ walks compared to walks in other settings. In 2004, a survey of parents of 450 children found that green, outdoor activities reduced ADHD. symptoms more than activities in other settings. I definitely notice my own children are happier and any behaviour problems evaporate when we are in a forest.
The bit that really blows my mind is the Japanese research that reported that forest environments enhance human natural killer (NK) cell activity, the number of NK cells, and intracellular anti-cancer proteins in lymphocytes. This research gets better still, the increased NK activity was found to last for more than 7 days after trips to forest.
Exercising outdoors has huge benefits for all the family.
Win a £150 Go Ape Voucher
Back to Sherwood Forest and our giveaway with Artificial Grass…
Artificial Grass bring vast swathes of green to back gardens, and, I know, you are probably now questioning whether artificial grass is as happiness inducing as real grass, well research at the VU University Medical Centre has shown that ‘‘short durations of viewing green pictures may help people to recover from stress,’’ so perhaps artificial grass can have the same impact. Plus not having to mow, water or deal with mud could also reduce busy parent’s stress levels, and it may encourage kids to get out more. I know my friends with football mad kids love it.
We love to explore Sherwood Forest and Sherwood Pines, a Forestry Commission forest is jam packed with fun ways to love trees, including Go Ape. Mr A and I had a brilliant date at Go Ape, but have yet to take the kids. I loved getting a squirrel or bird’s eye perspective on the world. Just like staring at the Major Oak, it shifted my perceptions, took me out of my world and make me feel part of the forest. There are adult and kids’ courses, so something for all the family!
To enter, visit the Artificial Grass website.
I hope a parentshaped reader wins, do let me know if it is you!
Thanks to Artificial Grass for collaborating on this post.