The ancestors of this land of Aotearoa, knew that when the Matariki star cluster appeared on the on the horizon, it was time to plant. And they also knew that the vibrancy of the star cluster was an indication of the quality of crop for the year ahead.
You may be dubious about this way of thinking, but our perceptions of the natural world around us can have a very real and measureable impact. If we perceive our natural environment to be healthy, we in turn experience better overall health. But, here’s the magic: you don’t have to be in it, touch it or ingest it to experience this benefit. Simply gazing upon the natural world can cause an increase in wellbeing.
In 1984 a researcher named Roger Ulrich noticed a curious pattern among patients recovering from gallbladder surgery in a hospital in the US. Those given a room overlooking trees were, on average, discharged a day earlier than their counterparts whose rooms faced a brick wall.
The results seemed fairly obvious, of course it’s preferable to look out at something leafy and green, than it is to stare at a brick wall. But what were the curative properties possessed by the trees and how were these cast through a pane of glass?
This is the very question that prompted researchers from Australia, Canada and the US to conduct a new study in the journal Scientific Reports. They measured the distribution of planted trees via satellite imagery and a map of thirty thousand trees planted on public land, with a detailed survey of ninety-four thousand respondents in the area. After various controls (income, age, education, sex) were taken into account, researchers were able to show that the more trees on a given block, the healthier the residents felt.
Do the trees have magic properties? We don’t know, but according to researchers it’s likely to do with our perception of them. And the benefits? Well, they say it’s like giving householders an extra 10k per year or making them seven years younger (you can read more on that story here).
Perhaps our ancient people were onto something after all – they believed the brighter and sparklier the Matariki cluster was, the more bountiful the season would be. This research suggests the more lush and green we perceive our environment to be, the more health and wellbeing we experience.
But the million dollar question is, can it have a real and measureable impact on our lives personally? Well, we’re willing to give it a go and here’s how you can too.
First, notice a tree around you. Take a moment and appreciate its beauty. Notice what shade of green the leaves are, what shape the leaves are, take in the size of the leaf. Notice the bark. What kind of pattern does the bark make on the trunk of the tree? Gaze at the tree. Send it gratitude for existing. Take a few deep breaths and you’ve successfully completely a tree gaze.
If you decide to give this connecting with nature exercise a go, please let us know! Or tag us on your social pics #GulfX #Connectwithnature #treegazing.