Living in this fast-paced age where we are all so busy working; caring for dependents; sitting exams; trying to get on the property ladder or simply paying the bills, you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not feel at least slightly stressed. According to Mind Frame, each year approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness and approximately 14% of Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder in a 12-month period. Unfortunately, only around 35% of people who suffer from mental health problems will seek help from a professional. Perhaps the now recognised link between nature and mental health benefits will continue to be explored so that sufferers can effectively self- medicate with help from Mother Nature.
Researchers have found that residents who live in an urban area with more trees reported feeling healthier and had few cardio-metabolic conditions, such as diabetics and heart disease. A recent, large study of 31,000 adults to investigate this phenomenon took place in Toronto, Canada. The researchers collected information about the residents’ health conditions, income, education and their own health perception and then combined this data with satellite imagery and public data on half a million trees in Toronto. The study found that planting ten or more trees in a city street, on average, increased how a person rated their health and decreased their cardio-metabolic conditions. The reports’ co-author Marc Berman stated that the study “found a significant independent effect on the street on health.”
Living in an area with more green space has also been proven to lower levels of the stress hormone Cortisol and findings have suggested that “contact with natural environments promotes psychological restoration, improved mood, improved attention and reduced stress and anxiety.”
Trees are often found in areas of recreation such as playgrounds and parks where people go in their down time to exercise, spend time with loved ones and pets or simply to relax. Finding time to exercise is often advised by professionals as it has a positive impact on depression and anxiety. By releasing endorphins in the brain and relaxing muscles in the body, exercise relieves stress, improves memory, helps aid better sleep and boosts your overall mood.
People are more likely to go for a walk or a jog in shaded streets, which encourages interaction with neighbours and improves the sense of community. A sense of belonging in an area, recognising local faces, saying good morning or having a quick chat will all help to boost the feel-good endorphins and improve self- esteem and overall feelings of wellbeing.
Did you know that colour can influence your mental health as it can affect moods, feelings and emotions? Research is limited; however, the psychology of colour has been widely utilised in marketing for instance. Of course, perceptions of colour are subjective and dependent on cultural experiences but some colours have universal meanings i.e. red represents passion or anger or orange warmth. The colour green symbolises nature and has a calming effect- there is a reason celebrities about to go on chat shows relax in the ‘green room’. The green leaves on trees create beautiful green canopies giving people a calmer, soothing and therefore a more relaxing environment to be in which in turn will reduce stress levels and improve feelings of wellbeing.
The colour green is also linked with creativity, so getting out among the trees will encourage people to be more creative and express themselves. Art or music therapy is often used as a method to aid mental health recovery as it provides a safe environment to help people relax and destress while also developing self-awareness and boosting their self-esteem.
Trees are useful in that they absorb and block out sound reducing pollution. According to the USDA National Agroforestry Centre, a properly designed buffer of trees and shrubs can reduce noise by about five to 10 decibels or about 50% as perceived by the human ear. The sound produced by the wind passing through the wind helps to muffle the noise, also the tree’s inhabitants such as birds singing and twittering add to pleasant background noise. Pleasant and quieter sounds are much more relaxing and conducive to a stress- free environment thus promoting a more positive frame of mind.
Along the same vein, trees can screen unattractive views and soften harsh outlines of man- made landscapes, creating a pleasanter, lusher environment to spend time in. Spending time in an aesthetically pleasing environment will aid the ability to relax and enjoy the surroundings, lowering stress levels and negative thoughts.
In Japan, a popular recreational activity named forest bathing is actively encouraged as it is seen to promote a healthy lifestyle, relaxation, and stress management. Forest-bathing or shinrin-yoku is the practice of taking a short, leisurely visit to a forest for health benefits. A study in 2004 entitled the ‘Therapeutic effects of Forests’ by Yuko Tsunetsugu, Bum-Jin Park, and Yoshifumi Miyazaki analyses the therapeutic effects of forest bathing. It concluded that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lowers pulse rate and are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress.
Getting back to nature and especially amongst trees is physically, mentally and emotionally beneficial to those suffering from poor mental health and should be become part of your daily routine. Consider planting trees around your home and property for the benefit of yourself and future generations. Good overall maintenance of your trees is essential as this will allow trees to do what they do best- produce oxygen, encourage habitats for wildlife, conserve energy, absorb storm water as well as provide all of the physical and mental health benefits to humans as previously discussed.
If you would like to talk to a tree care company who provide a quality and professional tree service, who understand the benefits of proper tree maintenance and have the best interests of the customer and the environment at heart, call the Heritage Tree Care experts on 0737155444 for a free no obligation quote. Our qualified Arborists will be delighted to advise you on the best course of action for your trees. We cover Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Redlands, Toowoomba and Gold Coast area in Queensland, Australia.