Our society is becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of getting outdoors.
Many of us have flocked to natural places during the pandemic- finding solace from the stress of nationwide lockdown in local greenspaces. In fact, 45% of people reported that getting out in nature has helped them to cope throughout the pandemic.
We can all remember the sanctity of our one hour of exercise per day. The nation's feet were just itching to get outside. I know that the opportunity to immerse myself in nature quickly became the highlight of my day.
This is echoed in the mass exodus from large cities and retreat to the countryside. Many people are leaving London's ‘gold paved streets’ for the green and leafy hedgerows of countryside living.
The marked rise in smallholding and woodland ownership shows that people are realising what they desire from life may be something other than the glamour of life in the big smoke.
But what is it about nature that draws us in? Can it really restore us? And in the face of stress, why do people insist we go on a bloody walk?
Well, we’ve been doing some research, and the tree huggers were right. Science has confirmed that nature can do wonders for our mental and physical wellbeing.
To show you just how powerful trees can be for our wellbeing, we’ve written up 7 of our favourite findings on forests. We hope you’re as amazed by them as we are!
1. Woodland is good for the mind
Walking in woodlands is generally accepted to be good for stress levels, and is sometimes even prescribed by doctors.
Produced by your adrenals, the hormone provides the heightened physical and mental response to stressful stimuli that sends your body into fight or flight mode.
So should you find yourself in an overwhelming situation where you don’t quite know what to do, head outside and find a wooded spot. It might just be the stress reliever you need.
2. And good for the body
When under attack from insects or animals, trees release their own cocktail of pesticides.
The attack of a grazing deer or munching insects triggers the trees own ‘fight or flight’ instinct. As deep root systems leave the tree unable to run away (at least i’ve never seen it), it responds to the attack by producing a chemical repellant.
Trees can make the leaves taste bitter, deterring hungry nibblers and radiating to surrounding trees to warn them of the dangers.
This gas warns surrounding trees of the threat and triggers the same, giraffe repelling response. You can see this evidenced in their grazing patterns- a giraffe will never graze at one acacia for too long, and never move on to an adjacent tree.
But what does this have to do with us?
Luckily for us, breathing in these chemicals boosts the human immune system. A woodland walk makes you both more resistant to illness and potentially less appetizing to passing giraffes!
3. It's a natural antidepressant
How far does the correlation between mental wellbeing and access to trees really go?
A recent study explored the link between greenery and depression through exploring the rates of antidepressant prescription and street tree density.
The study covered 31 districts and found an undeniable correlation- people living on streets with higher tree density were less likely to be prescribed antidepressants.
I find this staggering, and I'm not alone. People, charities and corporations alike are calling to green our concrete jungles with urban tree planting projects and greenspace enhancement.
4. The Romantics had it right
There’s a reason many great artists have flocked to the countryside.
Many of our great painters, writers and poets have retreated to the wilds of the countryside, looking for inspiration and the freedom to create.
There’s just something about the wilderness that speaks to people's imagination. What these artists have always known has been cemented by science- as after a recent study has proven time in nature to improve creative ability.
A 2012 study immersed it's subjects in nature for four four days, and disconnect from social media and technology. The result was a 50% increase in performance in creative problem solving tasks.
So if you’re struggling with a creative block, or feeling like the cogs in your brain aren’t quite clicking in, spending time in nature could well be the answer.
5. Spending time in woodlands helps you focus
Our lives can feel more hectic than ever. Whether it be the stress of the school run or the return of the office, our minds and bodies can often feel stretched thin.
Trying to focus on too many activities at once can lead to attention fatigue. We may find ourselves unable to focus on friends, work, family and even ourselves.
Spending time engaging with nature, wandering through woodlands or listening to bird song provides much needed respite for the cognitive side of our brain. This helps combat mental burnout, and can help you give your attention to the things that matter.
6. Hospital patients with a view of greenery from their window have been shown to recover their health faster than those without
Even the sight of trees through a window has a measurably restorative effect on human health.
A 1984 study proved the correlation between natural views and hospital recovery in post surgery patients, illustrating the link between good health and access to nature. This was tested by comparing patients with a window view of nature, and a window view of a brick wall.
Records show that tree-view patients not only recovered faster, but also had a lower usage rate of narcotics for pain relief, opting for lighter alternatives such as aspirin.
Nurses also reported more positive moods from these patients- noting “in good spirits” and “Moving well”. In comparison to the wall facing patients having higher instances of more negative notes- “upset and crying and “needs more encouragement”.
This is mind-blowing, and displays the huge value of nature to our mental and physical health, even when just seen through a window.
7. You don’t always have to be in nature to feel it’s benefits.
When it comes to connection with nature, quality is key. Looking at a lone tree in city square is never going to be as restorative as immersing yourself in a forest.
However, visual meditation around forests, nature journaling or even just thinking about your favourite greenspaces can trigger the same feelings of calmness, joy and creativity.
So if you're ever without access to your favourite woodland, close your eyes and take a daydream journey. It might just be the boost you need.
So is your mind as blown as ours? We can hardly believe how huge the impact of trees on our health really is.
Why not join the ‘reclaim your lunch break’ movement and swap lunch at your desk for a stroll and a picnic in the park? Or give yourself an afternoon to take the kids and the dog on a woodland wander.
Fancy a magical evening in a green and wooded space? This friday we’ll be releasing our newest cocktail- inspired by the green man himself. We’re inviting you to swap the cover of a pub garden umbrella for a canopy of verdant green leaves, and host a covid-safe gathering that will create magical memories.
If you want to test the benefits of mental nature immersion, read Duncan’s latest instalment of Foraging Fairytales- The Legendary Birch Tree. It’s packed with captivating folklore- perfect for inspiring wonder in your friends and family on your next woodland walk.
If you’re looking for a unique event that gets you and your friends immersed in the beauty of the British countryside, why not come along to one of our Seasonal Supper Clubs? We’ll magic you away to the pastoral town of Nutwood; leave you levitating after tucking our “hot air balloon” picnic and spoil you rotten with a dining experience you’ll never forget. Tickets are flying, so Book Today to avoid disappointment!