The Atlantic reports “The Health Benefits of Trees” in a July 29th article. The article mentions a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution where researchers found that trees removed over 17 tons of air pollution in 2010 alone, avoiding 670,000 incidences of acute breathing problems.
Forest bathing - an idea from Japan
In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan introduced a practice called forest bathing which has become a recognized practice for relaxation and stress relief in that country. Japanese researchers also found that these long walks in forested areas have been found to increase the body’s NK, or natural killer, cells.
The health impact is not due to vigorous physical exercise in the woods, though. Forest bathing involves strolling gently along for 2-4 hours, enjoying the forested area with all of your senses. Guidelines include:
- Notice the variety of greens in the different trees
- Watch birds and bugs moving among the canopy and forest floor
- Hear birdsong and flowing water if streams are nearby
- Touch and compare rough and smooth tree bark
- Enjoy the varying fragrances of trees that come to you on the breeze
- Stop for a rest or a drink when you get tired or thirsty.
If you don't have a forest nearby
You may not be able to duplicate a forest environment in your neighborhood, but you can still achieve the sense of relaxation that comes with trees. Here are five tips for your yard.
- Evaluate existing trees. Make sure they are healthy. Have them pruned occasionally to remove dead branches, branches that are crossed, and branches weakly joined to the trunk. Avoid over-watering, over-fertilizing, and installing competing plants in their root zone.
- Use native trees if you’re adding to your garden. Look for natives that like the soils and growing conditions in your neighborhood. A tree “native” to Louisiana may not be happy in west Texas.
- Lay out a path that lets you walk under tree branches and close enough to run your fingers along the bark.
- Consider where the breezes enter your yard. Align the path so that scents rising from the leaves on a hot afternoon immerse you as you linger in the trees’ shade.
- Plan for seasonal change. Let your path take you close enough to a flowering tree to get drifting petals in your hair. Allow falling leaves to gather on the edges of your path next to a bench so you notice the amazing autumn colors when you stop to rest.
Even strolling your yard and enjoying the strong presence of one or two trees can make a difference for your health. Try it today. Need help for the perfect ageless garden? Second Summer can help.
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