How Do We Feel About Trees?
Can Trees Be Happy Or Unhappy?

To my mind, today’s society is unsure about how to put emotional value on trees. We now have accepted an urban lifestyle as the way of the future. At the same time, we are learning the human values of parklands, forest trails and smaller forests in valley lands.

We have many questions about our feelings toward the trees we find in our communities but very few definitive answers. This is a challenge for our study of trees and maybe we will not find any “clear cut” answers. Many psychological studies have been attempted but most results are subjective.

Following are a few common statements that will suffice for my depth of study:

In an urban setting, trees give the chaos of city life a sense of calm.

We slow down, we become more observant, we breathe easier and deeper. There is less anxiety and there are fewer hostile opinions expressed when we are around trees.

Those individuals prone to depression will find their solace in association with trees.

For those that expect scientific data, we learn that oxytocin (the love hormone) is released in association with natural settings.

We know that deciduous tree leaves capture ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, and lead. These are pollutants we do not need.

One mature deciduous tree takes in about 4.5 kg (ten pounds) of these toxins per year. Obviously we can breathe easier in this oxygen-rich, pollutant-diminished setting.

As most studies agree, we are happier in the presence of trees.

I also ask the question, “Can trees be happy or unhappy?” It would seem obvious that if our favourite tree is growing well, it is happy. Conversely if our tree is wounded, growing in drought conditions or with obvious insect issues, it is unhappy.

It is still OK to hug your favourite tree and for you to feel good about that.

And we shall continue asking our psychological question: How do we feel about trees?


Carl Kimmett,   9th February, 2021