If you ask people about the benefits of planting trees, they may answer that trees provide shade, oxygen, paper, wood and homes for birds. These environmental and economic benefits seem to come to mind most easily, but it is the social benefits of trees that people find most fascinating. Those include the positive ways trees and green spaces affect our behavior.

Researchers have conducted studies in this area for years. Results show that being in the presence of urban forests, natural areas and other green spaces can improve our mental and physical health. The presence of trees increases social cohesion, making us feel more connected to our community and our neighbors. Trees have a calming effect and have been shown to reduce stress and fatigue. Studies also show people recover quicker from surgery and use less pain medication when they’ve had views of trees and landscaping. Having trees in a community has been linked to lower crime, calmer traffic, improved academic performance and a positive effect on shopping behavior, worker productivity and human longevity.

In Japanese culture, there is an practice known as Shinrin-yoku—which translates as “forest bathing.” Backed by research, proponents say taking in a forest atmosphere leads to a boosted immune system, improved mood, increased energy and reduced blood pressure and stress levels. Studies connect exposure to nature with higher birth weights, fewer deaths from cardiovascular events and lower rates of respiratory illness.

Simply put, being in the presence of the urban forest, natural areas and green spaces makes our lives better. One way to enjoy these benefits is to plant more trees and create gardens in your yard. To help Coconut Creek residents reap these benefits, the city gives away free trees and plants as part of its annual Arbor Day activities. The Free Tree Giveaway takes place every year on the last Saturday in April at City Hall. 

This year, the festivities are scheduled for April 28, 8 a.m.-noon, rain or shine, at the front courtyard of City Hall (4800 W. Copans Road) and are open to all Coconut Creek residents who show proof of residency (one tree and two plants per household). So, save the date, plant a tree and begin enjoying the “tree-mendous” social benefits that trees provide.