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Become a Tree Hugger

By MJ Reporter Willow LaMunyon

Photo by MJ Photographer Christy Moyer

Become a tree hugger to relax, improve your health and maybe even increase your income. Nope, I am not trying to get you to join a sixties commune and meditate while planting your own veggies. Even imagining yourself relaxing under a tree with your back against the trunk is soothing. Maybe there is a blanket with a picnic basket and the singing of birds in the branches. Breathe deep while you let the tree share its peaceful energy with you. No, it isn't your imagination. That is exactly what trees do.

There has been quite a lot of research on why trees are calming even if you are only looking out a window at them. Their influence isn't as strong through glass, but it is definitely there. A 1984 study found that patients in hospitals that had a view of trees were discharged sooner. Researcher Robert Ulrich studied patients who had and didn't have a view of trees. Another study looked at the city of Toronto. People with one hundred and twenty trees or more on their block were happier and healthier. One hundred and twenty trees sound like a forest, but they are nature's own air filter, and when you count groups of trees, it is surprising how little space they take.

Spending time with the trees can help you focus on what is truly important in your life and even lower your blood pressure. It isn't magic or something your guru teaches you that does all this good for you, but some real and intense research shows what makes trees so special. Trees calm us down by looking at our parasympathetic nervous system. This can calm your entire body and even helps lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Both of these things are what helps with our immune systems. That is nature's own miracle.

In our brains, different sets of neurons process different images. Some images, such as straight lines, are scale variants; they can actually make you jittery. The most common ones we look at every day are text. Text creates straight lines and causes problems with the oxygen uptake in our brains. The image of trees soothes our brains and helps regulate oxygen uptake.

In my first paragraph, I mentioned that trees are good for your income. That wasn't just poetic license. They really can be. For years we have known trees can cool a house in the summer, but they can do even more. Businesses with trees in front of them produce a more inviting atmosphere, which can increase their business by as much as eleven percent, so if you own a business, plant some trees at the entrance and listen to that cash register ping.

The calming effect of trees does indeed include society in general. Stressed people are calmer when they are around trees. In children, just like adults, trees increase their concentration levels, which helps the kids exposed to nature learn self-discipline and have decreases in impulsive behavior.

Don't forget an apple tree a day keeps the doctor away.

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