How to be more tree: 8 life lessons from the plant world

Ask for help when you need it

The elm is not embarrassed to ask for help when it finds itself in a tricky situation. When it comes under attack from caterpillars, it releases pheromones to attract parasitic wasps, who then lay their eggs inside the caterpillars and neutralise the threat. We often think that self-resilience is the key to success, but the elm knows that you don’t need to try to handle everything yourself. Sometimes you just have to call in the wasps.

Love where you live

It’s hard to thrive if you don’t take care of your immediate environment. The willow doesn’t put up with a messy riverbank or a grubby river – it shores up crumbly soil with its root system and turns pollutants in the water into fertilising nitrates. Self-care can start with something as simple as lovely new bed linen, a special lunch, or a stabilised riverbank.

Bask in the sun

Serotonin is nicknamed ‘the happy chemical’ because higher levels in our brains correlate with feeling positive and calm. Scientists are not sure why, but they think that our brains release more serotonin when we’re out in the sunshine. There’s certainly no doubt that spending time outdoors is vital for our wellbeing. Trees can’t survive without sunlight and those like the coniferous mountain hemlock need lots of it. So when you’re next staying inside on a sunny day, consider this: if the mountain hemlock had legs, it would use them to take it to the sunniest spot it could find, very time.

Find your happy place

We all need different things in order to thrive – the trick is to find out what works for you. Some of us bask in full sun; others love the challenging conditions of a windy mountaintop. Most of us wouldn’t feel like our best selves if we stood around in a swamp all day, but this suits the alder down to the ground. Its secret is the bacteria that live in its root nodules. The tree supplies the sugars that bacteria need; the bacteria supply nutrients missing from the waterlogged soil. The result is that the alder flourishes where other trees can’t.

Attend to your core

Focus on building your inner strength and you’ll have a solid trunk to support you through the stresses of everyday life. Trees are masters of this – after all, their trunk has to support all the weight of their branches and foliage on the windiest of days. The centre of the trunk is called the heartwood and the black walnut, in particular, has some impressive inner steel. It is admired for its beauty and its strength, and its heartwood is so tough it can withstand huge force without fragmenting.

Get plenty of rest

‘Make hay while the sun shines,’ they say. And when it doesn’t? Put down your rake and take the load off. Conifers like the silver fir are pros at knowing when to take it easy. These guys keep their needles all year, unlike their broadleaf friends, so they can photosynthesise a little bit on sunny days in the winter. But they still slow right down at this time of year and focus on preventing water loss through their leaves.

These tips are extracts from the book How To Be More Tree – Essential Life Lessons for Perennial Happiness by Liz Marvin and Annie Davidson.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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