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Mentally and Physically, Trees Make a Difference

Posted by Regan Davis Hopper, U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Communications Strategist in Inflation Reduction Act
May 16, 2024
Retired Col. Paris Davis on his porch

During my dad's recent hospital stay, I witnessed the healing power of trees.

He was assigned to a room that looked out at a brick wall.  He didn’t like it and started asking to see trees and get fresh air. He believed nature would help him feel better. He was right.

With permission from the nursing staff, we got him outside. The moment we were surrounded by the green canopy, his mood improved. That became our daily routine, and I’m certain this sped up his recovery.

Studies have shown that trees benefit our mental and physical health. Spending time around trees reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and improves mood. Simply viewing nature from a hospital window can speed recovery time. 

A study by the University of Michigan also revealed that exposure to nature can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety in young people.

Recognizing this, Genesee Conservation District in Flint, Michigan — a city still grappling with water contamination issues — is leveraging its urban forestry Inflation Reduction Act grant to connect residents to nature to create a retreat to improve their mental well-being.

"By offering children opportunities to connect with nature, we can significantly improve their overall health and equip them with the tools to lead fulfilling lives," said Angela Warren, Executive Director, Genessee Soil and Water Conservation District.

This is part of a broader effort led by the Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program to increase equitable access to trees and green spaces in urban America where more than 80% of Americans live. This new park is one of nearly 400 projects across the country.

“When we received a historic $1.5 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding, we knew it was a game-changer and that we could reach more communities that have traditionally been underserved,” said Nausheen Iqbal, Acting Assistant Director of the Urban and Community Forestry Program. “Everyone deserves to have access to nature and the proven health benefits they provide.” 

As for my dad, he's now back home, reveling in the simple joy of being among the trees. His improved mental health is a testament to the healing power of the natural world.

“Being outside was the best medicine I could get,” said my dad, Retired Col. Paris Davis. 

Stay tuned for more insights as this is the first in our series exploring the transformative impact of urban trees and greenspaces and the proven benefits of a thriving tree canopy.

Category/Topic: Inflation Reduction Act