Science Proves that Trees Measurably Reduce Psychological Stress
Forgetting to live in the moment, our minds drift in and out, thinking about what we could have said, constantly planning what we could do differently in the future. The back and forth banter of past regrets and future fears can put anyone in a state of psychological stress.
Some of the most basic beauties of nature can break up that nagging mental chatter, anchoring our thoughts back in the moment. Scientists are now proving that trees can do just this, markedly reducing psychological stress.
Greater numbers of trees associated with increased recovery from mental stress
It has long been observed that natural scenery can reduce stress, but researchers at the University of Illinois were willing to put that common observation to the test. Could trees actually reduce psychological stress? How could natural environments restore people’s minds?
At the university, Dr. Bin Jiang had 158 volunteers undergo mildly stressful scenarios. The volunteers were asked to prepare a speech and deliver it in front of a group of people. On top of that, they were instructed to compute a mathematical task in front of video camera and a panel of judges. After completing the psychologically stressful activities, they then put on virtual reality headsets and viewed 360 degree videos of an urban environment. In the virtual reality test, participants were also shown various amounts of tree canopy coverage.
Increasing natural scenery relieves depression, mental fatigue
The University of Illinois researchers handed out questionnaires to the participants in the study so that they could self-report stress levels throughout the study and during the virtual reality test. A consistent pattern was discovered: As tree canopy coverage increased, stress recovery accelerated.
As the density of trees increased, stress levels dropped in a positive, linear association. The researchers said that the study proved “that every tree matters,” and that “viewing tree canopy in communities can significantly aid stress recovery.” In essence, the existence of forests are medicine for the mind. Trees and natural scenery have the power to improve depression and anxiety, centering the mind.