Trees reduce stress and anxiety
Recent studies show that even spending brief amounts of time in a forest – or even looking at one – can have a real and positive impact on our brains, to reduce stress and help us feel ourselves again.
Study 1 – Gaze for 15 min at an urban landscape with and without a tree
In a recent study, certain subjects were asked to gaze for quarter of an hour at an urban landscape consisting of only buildings and roads (Suttie, 2019); other subjects spent the same amount of time looking at straight, leafless trees in the winter also in an urban landscape. The study showed that those who would stared at trees were in a much better frame of mind, with more positive emotions, feeling more dynamic and with a higher degree of personal refreshment than those who would stared at strictly buildings and roads.
Study 2 – Gaze for 15 min at a forest
Similarly, another study had young adults report on their moods after a 15-minute walk in either a forest or city landscape (Suttie, 2019). In every case, the subjects walking among trees reported less confusion, tiredness, hostility, anxiety and depression, and felt more dynamic; interestingly, those participants who had a higher degree of anxiety to begin with had even higher positive results.
Indeed, a third study has introduced the idea of higher “amygdala integrity” for participants living in leafy surroundings; their brain structures have been found better able to handle elements of stress (Suttie, 2019).
Having a view of nature, whether it is real or virtual, produces a positive impact
What to do on a rainy day when it’s not so easy to go out for a walk in the forest? Simply having a view of nature, whether it is real or virtual, produces a similar positive impact. A study from the 1980s showed that patients recovered more quickly from surgery if there hospital room window looked out on a natural landscape, and subsequent research has shown that merely showing images of Nature makes subjects feel better and increases their ability to handle complex tasks (BBC Radio 4, n.d.).
- BBC Radio 4, n.d. BBC Radio 4 – Forest 404 – Why we should listen to trees. BBC. (accessed 6.8.19).
- Suttie, J., 2019. How Trees Help You Stress Less. Mindful. (accessed 6.8.19).