As part of celebrating the 24th year of National Tree Day, we checked in with Liam Taylor at Planet Ark – the organisers of this inspiring national event. 

You think hugging trees sounds a bit ‘hippie’? Think again. According to Planet Ark, the organisers and co-founders of National Tree Day, tree-hugging is exactly what people all over the world need right now. 

As a hiker, you’d be well aware of the benefits of heading into the great outdoors. But unknown to many, there is something extra special about being amongst trees. 

The obvious power of trees is that they are fundamental to life on earth. They produce the oxygen we need to survive. Plus they are natural carbon sequesters, playing a huge role in tackling climate change. 

But wait, there is more. A growing body of research suggests a surprising number of lesser known benefits of trees – including being hugely important for our mental health and wellbeing.  

According to research shared by Planet Ark,

“Wrapping your arms around the trunk of a tree leaves you with the same kind of feeling that is stimulated by hugging a real person and can help you relax, overcome feelings of isolation and strengthen overall feelings of wellbeing.”

That’s why Planet Ark has launched the #HugaTreeforNTD campaign. With a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic – resulting in the cancellation of public National Tree Day planting events for the first time in 25 years – they encourage Aussies to head outdoors and hug a tree. 

Planet Ark is not the only organisation suggesting we all spend more time with quiet green giants. In Israel, tree-hugging is being recommended by the nation’s Nature and Parks Authority and a similar campaign was rolled out by Iceland’s Forest Service earlier this year. 

In Japan, there’s been a great deal of awareness for many years around the benefits of being amongst trees. Japanese researcher Qing Li heads up ‘The Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, dedicated to researching the benefits of forests for human health. 

In his book ‘Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness’, Li explains how time spent amongst trees can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger; strengthen the immune system; improve cardiovascular and metabolic health; and boost overall well-being. “Wherever there are trees, we are healthier and happier.” suggests Li.

And, he adds,

“It isn’t about exercising, it’s simply about being in nature.You also sleep better when you spend time in a forest, even when you don’t increase the amount of physical activity you do.”

 

Forest Bathing Dr Qing Li

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness (Viking, 2018, 320 pages)
The health secrets of trees seem to lie in two things—the higher concentration of oxygen that exists in a forest, as compared to an urban setting, and the presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides—natural aromatherapy oils – that are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi. Exposure to these substances can have measurable health benefits for humans.
Physiological stress is reduced and both blood pressure and heart rate are lowered. Evergreens are the largest producers of phytoncides, so walking in an evergreen forest seems to have the greatest health benefits. (Source: greatergood.berkeley.edu).

 

Planet Ark stress that time spent with trees can help us deal with the mental health impacts of living through the global pandemic and an unprecedented bushfire season within six months. 

The benefits of spending time in nature are also recognised by the Australian Medical Association who suggest that a ‘Green Prescription’ comes with many health benefits.

National Tree Day

So this August, hit your local trails and get hugging! Don’t forget to take a photo and share on Instagram or Facebook #HugaTreeforNTD

So what do RAW Travel and National Tree Day have in common? 

Established in 1996, National Tree Day is Australia’s largest community tree-planting and nature care event. The program has seen Australians plant almost 26 million trees. As a carbon neutral hiking company, RAW Travel has been a huge supporter of this program and we’ve continued to work with partners such as Landcare Mornington Peninsula to plant Indigenous trees for every customer this winter. 

National Tree Day - Plant a tree

Can I still plant a tree as part of National Tree Day? 

Yes of course! With this year’s public National Tree Day planting events cancelled, we strongly encourage you to plant a tree in your own time. It’s good for the planet and great for the soul! Find a spot in your backyard or head to one of these websites to get involved or have trees planted on your behalf. Remember, winter is the perfect time to plant. 

For more ideas, get in touch with us – [email protected]

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