Tree Therapy

It is National Tree Week in the UK from 27th November to 5th December, so it seems fitting to explore in this post the connection between trees and our own health and wellbeing. As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”

A wealth of research demonstrates how tree-filled environments can aid our mental and physical wellbeing, including that post-operative recovery rates are higher in patients in hospital wards that overlook wooded settings. Not only do trees enhance our urban and rural landscapes, but they also create connections between people through their planting, aftercare and as a green space to enjoy with family and friends. Tree planting also brings communities together to commemorate significant occasions, important local or national historical events or in remembrance of an important local or national figure, as we saw for the Queen’s Jubilee earlier in the year and more recently to mark her death.

Trees can make the urban environment healthier for us all in the following ways:

  • Absorbing and filtering particulates given off by car exhausts

  • Reducing noise levels and the perception of noise (by as much as six to eight decibels)

  • Reducing average traffic speeds along urban roads (apparently traffic goes more slowly along a tree-lined street or road)

  • Reducing the risk of surface water flooding by intercepting rainfall, reducing soil erosion and reducing the pressure on the drainage system.

  • Cooling the built environment through shade and humidity (one mature tree can have the same cooling effect as five room-sized air conditioners left on for 19 hours!)

And of course, trees are a key part of the puzzle of mitigating climate change. Did you know that we have rainforests here in the UK? Well we do and they are temperate rainforests, which are much rarer than the tropical variety. Our temperate rainforests are on parts of the West coast from Scotland down to Exmoor and Dartmoor thanks to the Gulf Stream. They are definitely my favourite coastal habitat and my favourite type of woodland, literally covered in an abundance of mosses, lichens, ferns and fungi. All that green just feels so therapeutic! You can find out more about them here on the Plantlife website.

If you would like to find out more about all things tree and perhaps get involved, I can recommend the following organisations:

The Tree Council “brings everyone together with a shared mission to care for trees and our planet’s future. We inspire and empower organisations, government, communities and individuals with the knowledge and tools to create positive, lasting change at a national and local level.”

The Woodland Trust protects threatened trees and woodlands, restores damaged ancient woodland and plants native trees to create new wildlife-rich woodlands.

Tree Sisters "is a UK registered social change and reforestation charity that places tropical forest restoration into everyone’s hands. Through individuals and businesses that give back to Nature every month, TreeSisters has so far planted over 26 million trees across 12 locations in Brazil, Borneo, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar, Nepal and West Papua. We are actively encouraging the cultural shift required to grow from a consumer to a restorative culture. We encourage feminine leadership by providing resources, experiences and communities that inspire personal and collective action on behalf of the trees.”