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Psychology

I need to see a tree

I need to see a tree. It’s a biological or perhaps a psychological need. I’ve often worked multiple jobs and gone to school. But very rarely does my pace catch up to me. Until, given conditions such as the length of the day prevent me from seeing nature. I mean yeah, there’s a couple trees out back that I can see as I head to the car, or wheel my bike out. But I don’t get to spend a lot of time looking at nature. I can’t see anything from my office window, partially due to the location of my desk, which I can’t change, and partially because of where my office is.

The thing is that I know what the research says. And it says that I need to be able to see a tree. I wrote my Master’s thesis on the reasons people move to the suburbs, being close to nature was one of the top factors. But then, many people don’t spend any time in the nature that they wanted to live by. It turns out, that just being able to see a tree, even if it is through a window has all sorts of impacts. We can heal faster from surgery (Ulrich, 1984), increase productivity (Kaplan, 2001), and have more positive social interactions (Kuo & Sullivan, 2001).

The winter poses a difficult problem here. We have really short days in the winter. They’re getting longer but today we’ll get a whopping 8 hours and 8 minutes of daylight. That means that with an 8 hour a day job I don’t really see the sun. If I don’t see the sun, it is harder to see the trees. Hence, the psychological stress that I feel at this time every year.

But why does seeing a tree make us healthier? The most common theory is that nature is inherently interesting. Unlike most things in our lives you don’t have to work to pay attention to it. As a consequence, you get a mental break when you look at nature. Without these breaks it is easy for everyday stress to become overwhelming.

So, I need to find more moments when I can see a tree.

Kaplan, R. (2001). The nature of the view from home: Psychological benefits. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 507-542. doi: 10.1177/00139160121973115

Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Environment and crime in the inner city. Environment and Behavior, 33(3), 343-367. doi: 10.1177/0013916501333002

Kweon, B., Sullivan, W., & Wiley, A. (1998). Green common spaces and the social integration of inner-city older adults. Environment and Behavior, 30(6), 832-858.

Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 420-422.

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About Peyto

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities. Peyto is a reference to Bill Peyto who was an outfitter, trapper, and eventually a park warden in Banff National Park. Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier are both named after him. He is also a distant relative of mine.

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