Trees are social too
A favorite pastime growing up was hanging out in the walnut tree outside my bedroom window. The thick, woody trunk made it easy to climb up into its ever-welcoming branches. I could sit up there for hours just thinking. Nothing in particular. Just everything in general.
Trees do so much more than just stand there and provide clean air, filter water, and have an open invitation to sit and enjoy the shade. Wherever they are, whether it’s just one or a forest, they seem to have this nurturing presence of peace and comfort—a perfect companion to soothe anxiety and sadness.
In Matthew Silverstone’s book, “Blinded by Science,” he explained that it’s the vibrational properties of trees and plants that offer many benefits of health and well-being. He also said that “safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses.”
During a recent NPR interview, Suzanne Simard, a research ecologist and professor at the University of British Columbia described trees as “social creatures.” She explained how “trees are linked to neighboring trees by an underground network of fungi that resembles the neural networks in the brain.” Simard also said, “trees can warn each other of danger just as people do,” and told how they look out for each other by sharing nutrients to keep each other healthy.
Several news articles in the past 18 months have also recognized worldwide efforts to let people know about the benefits of being with trees, in particular, hugging them to relieve stress. In Iceland, rangers cut paths through the forest snow making it possible for people to get close to trees when they couldn’t hug others. Remember the tree huggers in the 1970’s?
If hugging a tree isn’t your thing, you can get the same benefits leaning against a tree, standing or sitting by it. Any kind of physical contact connects you with the tree’s energy for relaxation, better sleep and a more positive attitude. For those who want to try tree hugging, we have plenty to choose from in our community. Different trees might give you distinct feelings and emotions, so just like finding the right pair of shoes, feel free to hug as many as you wish until you find your favorite.
And what can trees teach us? Plenty. Trees are a role model for being strong, grounded and flexible. Their lengthy growth cycle exhibits patience, and they’re adaptable to their surroundings and seasons. Definitely food for thought the next time you’re admiring a tree or hugging one. Enjoy!
Originally published, Orange County Register, June 10, 2021