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Feel better after being outside? There’s a scientific reason for that.

Throwing shade at mental health. But, you know, the nice kind of shade.

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As long as humans have been reading and writing, thinkers and researchers have been studying trees and their immense impact on our world.

We know they're powerful carbon sinks, sucking up carbon emissions and helping purify our air and limiting runaway climate change. We know their extensive root systems act like giant sponges, helping to sop up rainwater during storms and prevent erosion. At all stages of their life cycle, they provide habitats for other living things — from moss to lichen to insects to birds to delightful Disney-esque woodland creatures.

Nature is adorable! GIF from "Bambi."


With all of the things trees do for the world, it's easy to wonder: What other ways do trees influence our lives? When people say they feel better after a long walk in the woods, is there a psychological, or even physiological, reason for that? According to scientists: yes. There really is.

The physical health benefits of trees are hard to deny.

A 2014 study in Environmental Pollution tried to quantify the health benefits of trees in America. Looking at data from 2010, they determined that each mature tree removes 17 metric tons of air pollution, and collectively, trees prevented 670,000 cases of respiratory problems like asthma and 850 human deaths. A 2015 study of residents in a Toronto neighborhood found that people who reported better health lived on streets with more than 10 trees. Researchers were able to equate those improved health perceptions with an income increase of $10,000 or a relative age of seven years younger.

Image via iStock.

Being around trees isn't necessarily the only way to reap their benefits  — sometimes just having the ability to look at them can help.

A famous study of surgical patients recovering in a Pennsylvania hospital in the 1970s found that persons whose rooms overlooked trees recovered faster than those who didn't have that view. Japanese healers advocate for the health benefits of shinrin-yoku, ("forest bathing"), where people take long walks in the woods while inhaling complementary aromatherapy scents. A peer-reviewed study of shinrin-yoku found that it helped people lower levels of stress hormones and decrease their blood pressure, with benefits lasting up to one month.

Image via iStock.

Whatever it is that's going on in our brains at the time, it really seems that just being in the presence of trees can leave us happier and more content.

Maybe they remind us that life grows and goes on and flourishes in the toughest places. Maybe there’s something about leaves, about vibrant colors, about the smell of strong wood, or the way sunshine looks dappled through summer leaves. Psychologists believe there's truth to that idea. They call spending time in nature attention restoration theory, or ART. The theory behind it is that natural environments demand so much less of our attention than cities do and that being in nature allows our brains time to rest.

Image via iStock.

Whatever it is about trees that improves our mental health, it’s powerful and potentially transformative. Even city planners are taking notice.

In the past decade, major cities, including Barcelona, New York, and Vancouver, have made increasing green spaces and their urban canopy a big priority. For Vancouver, this includes planting lots of new trees, legislating protections for older trees, protecting parklands, and encouraging residents to spend time outside.

Chances are, though, that you're not reading this while you're outside. Maybe you can't even get outside right now. In that case, maybe a few minutes spent looking at photographs of particularly lovely trees can give us some of the same calm, fuzzy feelings? Let's try!

Worried about your taxes? This beautiful tree has been around for 250 years — longer than every American dollar in circulation.

This gnarly pinyon pine is estimated to be between 80 and250 years old. Image via Grand Canyon National Park/Flickr.

Feeling alone? Let this beautiful moss-covered oak remind you that living things can thrive together — and then call a friend to tell them you care.

Image via iStock.

Ex got you stressed? This tree has withstood winter storms for decades. Its boughs have adapted to weather them, just as you can and you will.

Image via Anatakti/Flickr.

Hal Borland famously said, "If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees."

He's right, of course. Though we'd also add in "peace of mind" too.

Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.

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Community

Man uses social media to teach others ASL so kids don't experience what he did as a child

Every child should be able to communicate in a way that works best for them.

Man teaches people ASL so no child experiences what he did

People start communicating from the moment they enter the world usually through cries, faces, grunts and squeals. Once infants move into the toddler phase the combine all of their previous communication skills with pointing and saying a few frequently used words like "milk," "mama," "dada" and "eat."

Children who are born without the ability to hear often still go through those same stages with the exception of their frequently used words being in sign language. But not all hearing parents know sign language, which can stunt the language skills of their non-hearing child. Ronnie McKenzie is an American Sign Language advocate that uses social media to teach others how to sign so deaf and nonverbal kids don't feel left out.

"But seriously i felt so isolated 50% of my life especially being outside of school i had NONE to sign ASL with. Imagine being restricted from your own language," McKenzie writes in his caption.

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Family

Wife says husband's last name is so awful she can't give it to her kids. Is she right?

"I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything, and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c’mon."

A wife pleads with her husband to change their child's name.

Even though it’s 2023 and schools are much more concerned with protecting children from bullying than in the past, parents still have to be aware that kids will be kids, and having a child with a funny name is bound to cause them trouble.

A mother on Reddit is concerned that her future children will have the unfortunate last name of “Butt,” so she asked people on the namenerds forum to help her convince her husband to name their child something different.

(Note: We’re assuming that the person who wrote the post is a woman because their husband is interested in perpetuating the family name, and if it were a same-sex relationship, a husband probably wouldn’t automatically make that assumption.)

"My husband’s last name is Butt. Can someone please help me illuminate to him why this last name is less than ideal,” she asked the forum. “I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c'mon. Am I being unreasonable by suggesting our future kid either take my name, a hybrid, or a new one altogether?"

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Joy

Bus driver comes to the rescue for boy who didn't have an outfit for school's Pajamas Day

“It hurt me so bad…I wanted him to have a good day. No child should have to miss out on something as small as pajama day.”

Representative Image from Canva

One thoughtful act can completely turn someone's day around.

On the morning just before Valentine’s Day, school bus driver Larry Farrish Jr. noticed something amiss with Levi, one of his first grade passengers, on route to Engelhard Elementary, part of Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) in Louisville, Kentucky.

On any other day, the boy would greet Farrish with a smile and a wave. But today, nothing. Levi sat down by himself, eyes downcast, no shining grin to be seen. Farrish knew something was up, and decided to inquire.

With a “face full of tears,” as described on the JCPS website, Levi told Farrish that today was “Pajama Day” at school, but he didn’t have any pajamas to wear for the special occasion.
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via Imgur

Memories of testing like this gets people fired up.

It doesn't take much to cause everyone on the internet to go a little crazy, so it's not completely surprising that an incorrect answer on a child's math test is the latest event to get people fired up.

The test in question asked kids to solve "5 x 3" using repeated addition. Under this method, the correct answer is "5 groups of 3," not "3 groups of 5." The question is typical of Common Core but has many questioning this type of standardized testing and how it affects learning.

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Joy

There are over 30 years between these amazing before-and-after photos.

"It's important for me for my photography to make people smile."

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

Before and after photos separated by 30 years.


Chris Porsz was tired of studying sociology.

As a university student in the 1970s, he found the talk of economics and statistics completely mind-numbing. So instead, he says, he roamed the streets of his hometown of Peterborough, England, with a camera in hand, snapping pictures of the people he met and listening to their stories. To him, it was a far better way to understand the world.

He always looked for the most eccentric people he could find, anyone who stood out from the crowd. Sometimes he'd snap a single picture of that person and walk away. Other times he'd have lengthy conversations with these strangers.

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