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The Health Benefits of Trees

The Health Benefits of Trees
The Health Benefits of Trees


I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet 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.

 Joyce Kilmer

I think my favourite month of the year in Sydney is November. The temperature is just right – not too humid, not too hot. My beloved mangoes are starting to appear in the markets. And, the jacarandas are in bloom…

November is jacaranda month

For a few magical weeks, Sydney is carpeted in the colour lavender. (Here’s a tip for young players: if you happen to be arriving in Sydney by aeroplane at this time, try and nab yourself a window seat. You’ll thank me for it!)

There are all sorts of stories floating around about why there are such numbers of this gorgeous South American native in my adopted city. Arguably the most romantic credits November’s purple haze across the city to the efforts of a hospital matron who sent each newborn home with a jacaranda seedling. It’s a lovely idea, but in reality, the trees were a popular civic planting in the beautification programs of the early 20th century and interwar years, right up to the 1950s and 1960s.

And for this beautification, I am grateful!

Jacarandas make me happy. For me, they are direct evidence of the health benefits of trees.

Spending time in nature is one of the foundational tenets of the Autoimmune Protocol. It’s true! – The Paleo Mom tells us so herself here

There is a wonderful article in The New Yorker about how trees calm us down. It references a study conducted by Marc Berman, PhD from the University of Michigan. The study confirmed that people who live in neighbourhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets reported significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions than those with fewer trees. I wonder if Sydney-siders’ health perception increases in the month of November due to jacaranda love?

In his study, Professor Berman sent volunteers on a fifty-minute walk through either an arboretum or city streets. He then gave his subjects a cognitive assessment. Those who had taken the nature walk performed about twenty per cent better than their counterparts on tests of memory and attention. They also tended to be in a better mood, although that didn’t affect their scores.

Interestingly, he also noted that, “What we’re finding is that you don’t have to like the interaction with nature to get the benefits.”

Some of the walks took place in June, whereas others took place in January; most people didn’t particularly enjoy trudging through the harsh Michigan winter, but their scores jumped just as much as in the summer trials.

Perhaps most beneficially for those of us with autoimmune challenges, those whose directed attention is most depleted seem to get the biggest benefits: an end-of-workday nature romp probably packs a greater restorative punch than one first thing in the morning, and the boost is five times bigger in people who have been diagnosed with clinical depression.

Health benefits of trees

I gotta’ tell you – an afternoon spent wandering around the jacaranda-laden streets of Lavender Bay and Kirribilli worked wonders on my mood. And, I am not alone. McDougall Street is becoming equally famous for all the tour bus activity as it is for the proliferation of jacaranda trees.

We arrived late in the afternoon, just as a full coach load of Japanese tourists disembarked… Turns out trees many of us happy.

McDougall Street

Do you have an affinity for a particular type of tree?

JFC PohutukawaIt seems I have a fascination for trees… I wrote about trees as a metaphor for health here.

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