children · environment · happiness · hugs · Nature · neuroscience · psychology

Tree Hugging Now Scientifically Validated – Uplift

hugging trees can be good for us

The term “tree hugger” has been applied to people viewed as uber-liberal or too idealistic, however… “it has been recently scientifically validated that hugging trees is actually good for you.”

Research has shown that you don’t even have to touch a tree to get better, you just need to be within its vicinity has a beneficial effect.

In a recently published book, Blinded by Science, the author Matthew Silverstone, proves scientifically that trees do in fact improve many health issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), concentration levels, reaction times, depression and other forms of mental illness. He even points to research indicating a tree’s ability to alleviate headaches in humans seeking relief by communing with trees.

The author points to a number of studies that have shown that children show significant psychological and physiological improvement in terms of their health and well being when they interact with plants and trees. Specifically, the research indicates that children function better cognitively and emotionally in green environments and have more creative play in green areas. Also, he quotes a major public health report that investigated the association between green spaces and mental health concluded that “access to nature can significantly contribute to our mental capital and wellbeing”.

full article via Tree Hugging Now Scientifically Validated – Uplift.

I”m sorry the article only looked at research in children, as more and more findings are showing the same improvements in adults from interacting and playing with nature, and even results that some would term “nature deprivation” or as Richard Louv calls it “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

One of my favorite little trivia facts is that there are microbes in soil that induce positive emotions in people, so digging in the dirt actually makes you happier. Plus helps you learn and concentrate more.

Hospital patients with a view of a tree or greenery from their room window were found to heal faster.

 

Those kinds of benefits are for everybody!

While I do feel like it’s important to make sure children get enough outdoor time, I continually want to drive home the message that not only should you encourage children to go outside and play, but adults too. We ALL need fresh air and nature and flowers and bugs and dirt.

cognition · environment · health · Nature · neuroscience · play

For developing brains and global health, it’s all about the trees

Nature
Trees are important for childhood development (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

As I head off on my latest grand adventure (a road-trip across Washington State), I will be driving through some fairly pristine landscapes; prairies, desert, forests, river basins. I love experiencing natural environments, even if it’s only from my car window. I find it rejuvenating and relaxing, more than a 90-minute massage! And enough research is coming out these days that finds I am not alone in my need for green spaces. So these two articles that were recently published seemed very timely for me. I know a lot of people wonder, “what does saving trees have anything to do with play?” Well, in a word, LOTS!

A new blog post by No Child Left Inside writer Richard Louv states:

From conception through early childhood, brain architecture is particularly malleable and influenced by environment and relationships with primary caregivers, including toxic stress caused by abuse or chronic neglect. By interfering with healthy brain development, such stress can undermine the cognitive skills and health of a child, leading to learning difficulty and behavior problems, as well as psychological and behavior problems, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other physical ailments later in life.

A growing body of primarily correlative evidence suggests that, even in the densest urban neighborhoods, negative stress, obesity and other health problems are reduced and psychological and physical health improved when children and adults experience more nature in their everyday lives. These studies suggest that nearby nature can also stimulate learning abilities and reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and we know that therapies using gardening or animal companions do improve psychological health. We also know that parks with the richest biodiversity appear to have a positive impact on psychological well-being and social bonding among humans.

While we can’t say with certainty that these influences play a direct role in early brain development, it’s fair to suggest that the presence of nature can soften the blow of toxic stress in early childhood and throughout our lives. It’s understandable that researchers have yet to explore the natural world’s impact on brain development because the topic itself is rather new. Also, scientists have a hard time coming up with an agreed-upon definition of nature – or of life itself.

He’s right that we can directly link the two, but we do have research that demonstrates all of the following:

  • play is good for you
  • stress is bad for you
  • less stress = more play
  • more nature = less stress
  • more nature = more play
  • The environment you grow up in as a kid leads to permanent learned behaviors as an adult.

So there is a STROOOONG correlation to more exposure to nature as a kid leading to a less stressed, healthier, more playful brain.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are now calls out to step up preserving natural forests, with some researchers claiming deforestation poses more of a threat to the planet’s health than global warming:

Bill Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, studied 60 protected areas in tropical regions around the world and is the lead author of an article that will be published in tomorrow’s issue of Nature.

Tropical forests are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, and failing to maintain them may drive more species to extinction, he said. To serve as a sanctuary for wildlife, the areas must also be protected from nearby development and other activities in adjacent lands that will have impact on designated preserves.

Protecting nature is important for our own health, as well as our children and grandchildren. Remember to be thankful for nature this weekend, and maybe even give a tree a hug; it’s playful and gets you closer to nature, literally.