By Nancy Penrose

I love trees and have been helping people add them to their landscapes in the greater Seattle area for 24 years.

Indeed, trees play a crucial role in our lives through various means. Their primary function involves producing the oxygen essential for our breathing while absorbing carbon dioxide. However, some scientific studies suggest that trees offer additional significant advantages. Here are some intriguing findings derived from recent research on how trees contribute to human well-being.

Trees contribute to a reduction in stress and an increase in restoration. One of the most extensively studied benefits of exposure to nature is its ability to alleviate stress, anxiety, and have better deep thought, with much of this research centered around forests.

In a recent study, 585 young adults from Japan shared their mood experiences after a 15-minute walk, either in an urban environment or a forest. The study covered 52 different locations across the country, with approximately a dozen participants walking in each area. In all instances, those walking in a forest reported lower levels of anxiety, hostility, fatigue, confusion, and depressive symptoms, while exhibiting higher levels of vigor compared to those walking in urban settings. These effects were particularly pronounced for individuals who started the test with higher anxiety levels.

“The psychological benefits of walking through forests are very significant, and forest environments are expected to have very important roles in promoting mental health in the future,” stated the authors of the study.

Certainly, additional research indicates that engaging in “forest bathing,” a deliberate practice of spending time in the woods, can assist in coping with the pressures and challenges of urban life.

In a recent study conducted in Poland, participants devoted 15 minutes to observing either a winter urban forest or an urban landscape devoid of trees. The winter forest featured trees with straight trunks and no leaves, and there was no vegetation beneath the trees—essentially lacking any greenery. Conversely, the urban landscape was comprised of only buildings and roads. Prior to and following the observation period, participants completed questionnaires assessing their moods and emotions. Those who looked at the winter forest reported significantly improved moods, more positive emotions, increased vigor, and a heightened sense of personal restoration compared to those observing the urban scene lacking any trees.

It is possible that some of these benefits are related to the impact of forests on our brains. A study revealed that individuals living near trees exhibited better “amygdala integrity,” signifying a brain structure better equipped to handle stressors.

These findings, along with previous research reviews, underscore how even brief periods spent in a forest can offer respite from our hectic lifestyles. And that can include your own backyard with landscape trees.

Nancy Penrose is the owner of Big Trees Inc., located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area. The company is one of the largest tree nurseries in the Seattle area with over 120,000 trees available in over 300 varieties. They not only deliver young trees, but also mature trees in a wide range of sizes. Some types of trees available include spring flowering, deciduous, evergreen, and privacy trees. The company also does tree transplanting including large trees. Their blog can be seen at https://bigtreesupply.com/blog/ or http://arboristblog.com/. They can be reached at 360-563-2700.

Big Trees Inc.