Can looking at trees heal you?


The New Yorker reports on some interesting new research that appears to demonstrate a definite link between direct experience of nature and mental and physical well being.

“The study compares two large data sets from the city of Toronto, both gathered on a block-by-block level; the first measures the distribution of green space, as determined from satellite imagery and a comprehensive list of all five hundred and thirty thousand trees planted on public land, and the second measures health, as assessed by a detailed survey of ninety-four thousand respondents. After controlling for income, education, and age, Berman and his colleagues showed that an additional ten trees on a given block corresponded to a one-per-cent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt. “

The findings validate my own anecdotal observations on the Wild Parrot Safaris I’ve conducted in leafy parts of Brooklyn for the past 10 years. With rare exception, the folks who take the tour seem to be happier after the experience of watching parrots than they were prior to the trip. After one such excursion, an elderly gentleman revealed to me that his wife, who suffers from clinical depression, had smiled “for the first time in five years” while watching the parrots perched up in the trees. Even if it was the trees — not the parrots — that caused this mental turnaround, you’ll rarely find parrots very far from trees, which makes looking at them a good investment in your own well-being.

I can’t promise that wild parrot- or tree-watching will lift you up from a major case of the blues, but I will say this: I always feel better after watching the birds, or even hearing them squawk as they pass overhead. No, the parrots don’t solve all my problems but there’s never been a day when they’ve failed to cheer me up a little, and sometimes that little boost makes a HUGE difference.

The next Safari, BTW, will happen on Saturday, September 12, at Green-Wood Cemetery. If you’d like to attend, please shoot me an email (steve at