There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports what we already know on a primal level – that being out in nature is good for us and that forests and trees have a positive effect on us in multiple ways.
I notice that when I step among trees, my breathing slows and deepens and my shoulders loosen and drop. I become more aware of the sounds and scents around me and, as I concentrate on them, some of the everyday worries and niggles pull back a little. So now, if I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I try to take myself to the trees. I’m lucky – there’s a beautiful old apple tree in our garden and woods at the end of the lane. But any tree can become a friend, whether it’s in a small copse in a park, in a forest or community orchard, or growing on a street.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to stand beneath the branches and really focus on each sense one by one.
Really notice the exact colours of the bark, the shape of the leaves, the blossom beginning to appear, the lichen or ivy festooning the boughs, the tiny creatures running over the trunk or hiding in the crevices.
Listen to the rustle and hiss of the breeze through the leaves, the gentle patter of rain, birds singing, the hum of insects, the squeak and creak as twigs and branches sway.
Inhale deeply – the scent of earth, the sweetness of flowers, dampness and leaf mould, cut grass. Did you know that that lovely smell which often arises with the first rain after a long warm dry spell has a name – it’s called petrichor.
Feel the bark under your fingers; rough, smooth, cracked, uneven, moss covered…
When I do this, I step away feeling calmer and more centred – as if this extraordinary, rooted being has helped me once again to root myself in the moment. Any one of the senses can provide a welcome moment of steadiness in the busy busy of our daily lives. I hope that if you venture out and try this, it will bring you the same clarity, comfort and calm that it brings me.