WHY I LOVE A GOOD TREE HUG -
What’s the thing you’re missing most at the moment? Pubs? Holidays? Family? For many of us it’s simply a hug.
The good news is there are tall, strong specimens just waiting for a caring clinch in a park or street near you. And you won’t be breaking any social distancing rules when you give them a squeeze.
It’s time to hug a tree.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a hazel, hornbeam or horse chestnut, all trees welcome a hug. And they have been a life-long comfort for me when things get that little bit too much.
Over the years, I’ve suffered from post-natal depression and chronic pain – and trees have been one of the key natural prescriptions I turn to, to help me cope.
In fact, I have a favourite oak tree that I visit regularly for a bit of TLC. He’s always there to welcome me with open branches. There’s no talking, no questions, no compromises.
When I look up into his canopy, I see all the other creatures that benefit from this tree’s embrace – birds, bees, and often a squirrel or two. I know that looking into this verdant green will lower my systolic blood pressure and calm my central nervous system.
I might even consider our symbiotic relationship. The way he breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen, and I do the reverse. Mainly, it’s just nice to have a cuddle: bark to skin.
And it really works.
Hugging a tree releases the same hormones that are triggered when we hug a human. Namely, oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, which all help us feel calmer and happier.
But you don’t need to go to a woodland to get these creature comforts. Some of my favourite trees are on my street.
In fact, it was a cherry tree – which my son and I called the Candy Floss tree for its exuberant, fluffy pink blossoms – that triggered me to set up my community group Save Our Street Trees, in Northampton.
When many of the trees around our cherry began to be removed and not replaced, I set about trying to protect and replant them. So far we’ve replanted 11 trees in Northampton. And it probably doesn’t sound like much – but every tree matters.
Science has proved they bring cleaner air, social cohesion and biodiverse corridors that breathe life into the monotonous grey. And recent research shows people who have trees within walking distance of their homes also have a lower risk of developing psychological distress.
I believe it should be a human right to have access to trees and a greener view from your window. With more than 80 per cent of UK residents living in the built environment and, currently, more of us confined to our houses than ever before– there has never been a better time for us to reap the benefits of urban trees.
After all, we share some 70 per cent of our DNA with them. And they remind us that underground, we are all connected by deep roots.
So, go on, don’t be shy! Find a tree nearby that’s holding on to a hug, just for you.