Trees Reduce Psychological Stress

Any form of exercise has stress-busting benefits, but if you are looking for one of the easiest ways to reduce psychological stress, find trees to look at or simply take a walk down a tree-lined street. Yes, looking at trees can significantly reduce the amount of stress in your life according to new study carried out by a combined team of researchers from University of Illinois and the University of Hong Kong.

Reporting to the journal Environment and Behavior, the team recruited 158 participants and were first exposed to a mild stressor – that includes having the participants prepare to deliver a speech and perform a subtraction task in front of judges and a video camera. Once the researchers came to know the participants were fully stressed out, they were made to view one of ten six-minute 360-degree videos showing metropolitan areas that changed only in the amount of visible tree canopy coverage (ranging from 0 to 70 percent).

To measure the level of mental stress, the participants went through three questionnaires – prior to being stressed (that’s before the study started), immediately following the last judgement task (right after they were done with speech and subtraction test), and after a short cool-down period at the very end of the experiment.

Using scores from these reports, researchers were able to execute a variety of analyses related to the development of a dose-response curve. Results showed that stress reduced as the amount of tree-covered density people viewed increased. Or in other words, exposing to the environment where there is more tress is more effective in lowering your stress than to the one where there is lesser trees. The team also reported that most participant responses were also examined using a content analysis and they could identify the use of keywords like “relaxing”, “calming”, and “tranquil.”

The study of course has its limitations since the results were self-reported, SA notes; and simply looking at video of trees would not be the same thing as immersing yourself in them. But, the study adds further support for the beneficial effect of natural scenery that it can be used as an effective tool for the reduction of psychological stress.

Reference: A Dose-Response Curve Describing the Relationship Between Urban Tree Cover Density and Self-Reported Stress Recovery