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What Trees Can Teach Us About Social Connection

Take a walk into any natural environment and there are minutiae that lie deeper than our visual perspective; a profound network of activity within the forest that invites us to explore our own social connection to those around us.

When we are socially connected, our sense of wellbeing is improved; humans thrived and developed into the social species we are today by sharing food sources, roles within the community, finding commonalities to assimilate gaining acceptance within our communities. Our lives depended on safety in numbers then and although our social structures have changed, the primal mind of the human is relatively unchanged. We need the connection for our wellbeing – so do trees.

The social connection of trees shares many fundamental philosophies that humans too thrive on.

Here’s why;

Stronger together

Trees have several forms of communication with one another. From a release of Phytoncides – the chemical compounds of the plant that are dispersed into the air informing surrounding trees of a threat. These threats can be the insect infestation, bacteria or fungal overgrowth and the early alert from other nearby trees allows them to prepare for assault; in one such case, this would mean producing bitter-tasting leaves to avoid being eaten.

The underground network of trees and their interconnected root system is often overlooked, or in fact, unseen. Many species of trees not only link their roots for means of support in high winds, the perils of extreme weather conditions, providing stability on steep embankments but they share nutrients (sugars) to help nourish each other this way too.

A sick or vulnerable tree within a social network of the forest is protected and nourished via the system of interconnected roots beneath the surface. The sharing of nutrients helps to support them back to health so that they can continue to play a productive role within their eco-system.

In Peter Wohllebens book, ‘The hidden life of trees’, he states;

“It appears that nutrients exchange and helping neighbours in time of need is the rule.”

Read that above statement again and rather than trees, consider the communities we create, how we communicate and nurture the friendships that nourish us and how we share our energy with those in our network.

Like humans, trees have communities that work together for a common goal. In the natural world, a solo tree has little chance of survival. Through isolation, they aren’t able to communicate effectively via scent or roots system to be warned or nourished when and if needed. These solitary trees are exposed, less susceptible to the dangers often not aware of what they face alone. Consider that the isolation throughout this year during the pandemic and how that disconnection has created feelings of unease, anxiety and stress. We need connection with others to feel good, to come together and share our energy.

How often do you look up at a tree canopy? You may have noted that the topmost branches meet the neighbours but do not overlap. This is the cooperation to ensure that only filtered like falls to the forest floor, ensuring that the dry summer sun doesn’t dry up the valuable water sources from the soil below or that harsh winter conditions are kept to a minimum and fallen foliage decomposing on the ground below to provide needed warmth to tree roots. Trees needn’t compete for space but strengthen their limbs to work together for the same objective, often curling back to their trunk to avoid taking space from a neighbouring tree.

How often do our energies meet friends like this? A healthy social connection works together to support one another rather than compete.

Like the social lives of humans if we work together to support one another, nurture growth and ‘help our neighbours in times of need’, we will have a much healthier, happier ecosystem. Human’s, as do trees, thrive on connection.

It’s give and take in nature; the true balance of life.

Amanda x

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