When it comes to mental health: More trees, please!
Trees by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
The great outdoors
The fact that nature agrees with humans may seem self-evident, but scientists really like to test things. As a result, there have been numerous studies showing that spending time in natural settings makes people feel well. Some interesting findings include:
- Proximity to natural environments has a restorative effect on mental health.
- Exercising outdoors has twice the mental health benefit of going to a gym.
- Nature walks improve mood, cognitive function and memory, and decrease anxiety.
- Nature walks reduce rumination, lowering the risk of depression.
- Nature walks help children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to concentrate.
Trees and recovery
Simply viewing nature without actually being in it is beneficial. Children learn better, and patients heal faster when they have a room with a view of nature. One interesting study explored how watching videos of trees affected recovery from stressful experiences.
A group of 160 participants watched videos of streets and cityscapes that had from 2 to 62 percent tree cover. They liked the videos of the scenes with the most tree cover. Then, when they were stressed out with speech preparation or mathematical exercises, denser tree cover was associated with better stress recovery. In other words, a lot of trees were more effective in lowering stress than a few trees, which were better than no trees at all.
Physical health directly affects mental health, and trees help the physical aspect as well. Trees absorb carbon and pollution, and produce oxygen. They filter ultraviolet rays and provide shade. According to scientists with the U.S. Forest Service, the benefits trees offer save over 850 human lives each year and prevent 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.
Going for walks in a natural setting allows people to enjoy all of the physical and mental health benefits of trees with the additional benefit of exercise. Exercise is particularly important in the recovery processes from stress and trauma, mental illness and substance use. For those who are unable to go outdoors, looking at pictures or videos of trees and nature also lowers stress.
At Sovereign Health, we recognize the importance of the environment for improving mental health. Our beautiful facilities and experiential therapies provide privacy, serenity and access to nature. We tirelessly strive to bring the newest, most effective treatments to clients struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders and dual diagnosis. Our multimodal diagnostic assessment and treatment approaches have been successful with the most challenging cases. After treatment, our continuing care program provides the long-term support clients need to transition from treatment to lasting recovery. To find out more about specialized programs at Sovereign Health, please call us at our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for Sovereign Health, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. The Sovereign Health Group is a health information resource and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at email@example.com.