The Healing Power of Trees

by Sarah Anne Edwards

      From the time I was very young I have always loved trees. But over a twelve-year period not too long ago, I found myself living in an area that was relatively devoid of trees. Over that time, I constantly had a sense that something was missing.

 You know that feeling you have as you walk out the door and it feels like youíve left something important behind and you start to go down the list? Keys? Coat? Purse? Sunglasses? Gloves? Well, I had that feeling a lot while I lived there. Every time I looked out the window or walked outside, Iíd get that feeling and mentally start going through the list. Whatís missing? Houses? Street? Neighborhood? Car? Oh, yes! Itís trees! Thereís no trees!

 By the end of this twelve-year period I was truly stark-raving tree-deprived. You can just imagine my delight the first time I came to visit Pine Mountain. TREES!!!!! TREES!!! TREES EVERYWHERE!

 Not just piddly little trees crated up in pots in parking lots or peaking meekly out from behind condos, or wilting courageously along freeways but big, hearty, royal trees that dwarf not only us, but our homes Ö and that outnumber us many times over! I felt like a little kid let out of school after a long day!

 Now that I live in the Los Padres National Forest and am completing a PhD program in ecopsychology, Iím beginning to understand my fetish for trees. It seems being around trees are really good for us and we enjoy many of their healing benefits without even knowing the positive effects theyíre having on our lives.

 Hereís just a sampling of what researchers have discovered about our relationship with trees:

            Hospital patients with a window view of trees need less pain medication and are 
          discharged sooner than patients with treeless views.

         Given a choice between a scene with trees and one without trees, people of all ages and ethnic groups from various countries prefer the scene with trees regardless of whether they live in urban, suburban or rural areas.

         Just knowing that natural places are available nearby makes a residence more appealing to buyers.

         People are more satisfied with their neighborhoods if there are trees on or near their property. They describe their quality of life as safer, more pleasant and are more satisfying than people living in homes without trees nearby.

         Residents living in apartments with a window view of tress are significantly less aggression toward family members than those whose windows look onto concrete, asphalt or barren earth.  This includes their making fewer insults and threats and other psychologically aggressive behavior.

         Police report lower crime rates in areas of public housing developments that have a density of trees.

         Residents of urban public housing use common spaces with trees more often than common spaces that are barren of trees.

 Just imagine the positive effects trees could have on our lives if we consciously chose to assure their ample presence in all commercial and residential areas everywhere.

 

 Sarah Anne Edwards, LCSW, is a PMC resident and author of the ecopsychological novel, Sitting with the Enemy.  You can contact her at www.pinemountaininstitute.com

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