How we can learn lessons about resilience from a London Plane tree

One of our capital’s most recognisable features is its London Plane trees – thought to be a hybrid of American sycamore and Oriental plane. What could be more London than a plant blended from different parts of the world!

The London Plane (Platanus x hispanica) has just been voted the winner of the Urban Trees World Cup. Yes, that’s a thing. The secret to its popularity is largely, I suspect, for its role in creating feelings of awe. Just stand under a big one for a while and take it in, and the science says you will feel happier more generously towards others.

And London Planes also hold a fairly obvious metaphor for resilience. Like us humans, these trees are subject to intense pressures, not least the polluted air of London’s past and present. Their bark grows unusually quickly and is easily shed, enabling them to be resistant to pollutants, and leaving the mottled surface that is so distinctive.

We also need to cultivate mechanisms that enable us to recover quickly from set backs or harm. This is what resilience is – how easily you get back up after a fall, not whether you avoid the fall in the first place. Accepting that can help us grow, but it also takes intention, and practice.

The American Psychological Association offers some strategies for building resilience:

  • prioritise healthy relationships
  • take care of your body and practice mindfulness
  • find purpose, including helping others
  • accept change, be positive and learn from your past
  • seek help when you need it.

What practices do you have that grow your resilience? How embodied are they? What else could you learn from a London Plane?

Image by Muriel Bendel.

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