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Spring Health & Fitness
Tracy Griffen

A Plea for the Trees


I speak for the trees, because the trees have no voice. They have no PR Company; no spin doctor, no commercial clout, no sales people. The trees are mute. They are fixed, incontrovertible, they are life, without trees there is no you, no me..

They get felled, uprooted, demolished and disregarded. They are taken for granted and often abused by humans. We think of trees as inanimate, unfeeling and often inconvenient.

We must all do whatever we can to green the planet - even if it’s simply taking an interest in your communal garden, or just planting a window box. Heck, even a few plants on a windowsill can let the greenergy in.

Greenery + energy = is what you get when you’re surrounded by green. A green energy, an organic surge, increased happy vibes wrapped up in one word… Greenergy.

Combining trees with water is big in Japan, where it’s known as Shinrin-Yoku. Stressed urbanites spend reflective time in a forest to allow their cortisol levels and blood pressure to drop. (In Japanese Shinrin means forest and Yoku means bath.)

The practice rose in popularity during the 1980s, and has since been proven to lower blood pressure, and improve overall health. Just being in a green space can help you feel less stressed.

For more detailed information read the book – which can be borrowed from the Edinburgh library collection – called Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest-Bathing (How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness) by Dr Qing Li.

Dr Li was one of the pioneering scientists in forest medicine and it makes for a fascinating read, with lovely photos of forests to boot. It’s backed up by scientific research too.

In Scotland we are lucky to have an abundance of forests to walk in. When you go into the forest, inhale the smells, listen for birds and observe the small details - in a leaf, some moss, a rock.

Focus your eyes on the outermost tree (something you can’t do indoors) and take a few deep breaths: Aaahhh… that’s better.

Meditation doesn’t come easily to me, unless it involves a tree. I have found that I can happily ‘zone out’ on my favourite park bench atop a hill in Pilrig Park.

There is one big tree I gaze at, letting my eyes go slightly out of focus, and my focus goes out of my head. I drift away, with Coco the pug on my lap.

At our allotment we have grass paths, which are slightly impractical, as they need occasional mowing, but we like to think they are a highway for bugs and insects (and possibly slugs and snails) to get around our vegetable beds.

We have a pond, a dug-in Belfast sink, complete with watermint, pond plants, tadpoles and frogs. At this time of year, frogs have started hopping about the allotments wandering from pond to pond.

Despite extensive netting, white cabbage butterflies happily fly around underneath. Bees buzz in the herb garden, there is a distinctive plant like smell and the greenergy is pleasing to the eye. It is a literal and metaphorical escape from the hurly burly of Leith Walk and other urbane concerns.

We have also planted an apple tree. I like having a tree in Leith – there need to be more! For trees have economic worth. From the shade they provide, the carbon dioxide they process, how trees drink up water run-off, reducing pollution, glare reduction, and also adding to property value.

A plane tree in central London (Mayfair Square) has been valued at £750,000 – it’s a pretty impressive tree but then so too are many of those which grace Pilrig Park.

Edinburgh Tree Time is an initiative well worth investing some time on, it has been set up by Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust who are working to increase the number of trees in Auld Reekie.

According to their website, ‘In the 1990s, there were 11,000 street trees in the city – today there are only 8,550, a 22% decline’.

Another way to appreciate trees and plants is to exercise surrounded by them. Getting outdoors and walking up a hill is a fab way to bust any blues! Get a lungful of fresh air and invigorate your head.

Some of my favourite workouts with clients involve walking or running to a park and using benches to do strength exercises. Simple is best in this day and age and we all have it in us to enjoy our bodies.

When you know how to exercise outdoors, you’ll never want to go to a gym again. Sure, you can exercise indoors, but outdoors has trees, birds and bees.

In the unusual time we’re living through, trees remain stable. New leaves and bright green growth indicating spring is here. As a species we might be screwed up, but the trees remain true. Let’s encourage them!

Take the time to hug a tree. I dare you.


Twitter: @tracygriffen

Tracy, Meg & The Trees


We like to think our grass paths are a highway for bugs and insects, and possibly slugs and snails, to get around our vegetable beds


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