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RX for Mental Health: visit forests

People who live along tree lined streets, live happier and healthier lives.

Hundreds of senior scientists and clinicians from universities, hospitals and research institutes across Ontario Canada, collaborated in the development of a study that would query people about their lifestyles. It was hoped that the data could be collected to focus on risk factors of chronic disease. The group specifically wanted to investigate issues surrounding ailments like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and Alzheimers. Almost unexpectedly, responses showed that people who lived in or near areas of mature tree forests, tended to have quicker rates of post illness recovery and less evidence of the more severe, chronic illnesses. They also didn't suffer depression or anxiety - as much.

Several American Universities have conducted Nature Impact Programs that support evidence, that urban green spaces elevate mood and energize our breathing capacities, because trees manufacture oxygen, the very resource mankind is dependent on. We need fresh, clean air.

Trees also produce an oil called phytoncide, which is an antimicrobial compound known to ward off infections like antibiotics do. The chemical, transferred by scent is inhaled into our bodies. The physical act of hiking in a forest, exercises your body, which in turn, encourages your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling that is similar to morphine.

The gentle whispering of leaves in motion, is a meditative sound that is stored in our memories. Good memories trigger feelings of calm and joy, but pleasant recall is not the only attribute regarding the sounds that trees make. The auditory influences of plant life is called Bioacoustics. Plants of all kinds, including trees, have the ability to respond to and emit, sound waves or vibrations. Such vibrations, as research shows, allows plant life the ability to communicate with each other in order to encourage mass survival. Within this eco system, all life forms (animal and human) benefit from the energetic, vibrational life force. Metaphysically, this perhaps would be evidence of what is called qi, chi or prana.

Trees also heal the planet.

Following the United Nation’s Convention or COP21 that was held in Paris, hundreds of countries worldwide agreed to increase their urban tree canopies and work on reforestation. There will be millions and millions of trees for the future.

Trees are the lungs of society. Large tree canopies are carbon gas absorbers - carbon gases are the number one contributor affecting climate change. As a call to action, a global commitment has been launched to grow more trees. City planners will target streetscapes and recreational areas in addition to encouraging homeowners to plant trees in their own yards.

Urban green spaces will have to be reimagined. Lawn sizes will be reduced, leaf collection strategies will be re-examined and we’ll need to recycle more wood chips as garden mulch because tree maintenance will also, be increased. Wood chip mulching is good because it reduces water consumption and helps the soil regenerate itself.

The planting of fruit bearing trees may be encouraged to address declining bee populations and serve as an introduction towards organic living and permaculture. Permaculture is a garden style philosophy that promotes multi layered or variant height levels, of perennial, food producing plants. Such plants are grown together like a forest and are low maintenance and each planted species comes back every spring, which reduces the need to purchase new plants.

The world is getting warmer and we will have to introduce more shade to compensate.

Evergreen trees provide shade and are excellent barriers against strong winds. Deciduous trees in temperate regions, contribute toward passive solar cooling in the summer and radiant heating in the winter because when trees no longer have leaves, the sun’s rays are able to reach your home. When unobstructed, solar light in the winter can also impart vitamin D and have mood altering benefits that help to eliminate Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Trees are good for us. Plant them, but do it wisely.

It takes a decade for a tree to reach a certain amount of maturity. Planting now is a legacy for the future but if planted without careful consideration, we subject ourselves to unexpected issues.

A list of guidelines and ethics ought to be made available to the public. Damaging tree roots on building foundations or legal implications when people plant trees too close to property lines, can arise. Recent court findings are now showing that mature trees will become joint property and their maintenance must be agreed upon, by whomever shares their canopy. Public education now, can help in wise tree planting choices. Nobody needs conflict.

Eventually urban homes will become more private, more shaded and more protected from damaging winds. Each yard has the ability to manufacture life sustaining oxygen, carbon dioxide reducing benefits and become a source of food and shelter for creatures, big and small.

Trees makes us feel healthier. If we feel healthier then we indeed, do feel happier. Let's get together to heal the planet, our cities and ourselves.

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