The Icelandic Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees while social distancing measures prevent them from hugging other people, RÚV reports. Forest rangers in the Hallormsstaður National Forest in East Iceland have been diligently clearing snow-covered paths to ensure that locals can enjoy the great outdoors without coming in too close a contact with other guests, but can also get up close and personal with their forest friends.
“When you hug [a tree], you feel it first in your toes and then up your legs and into your chest and then up into your head,” enthuses forest ranger Þór Þorfinnsson. “It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges.”
In a time when close contact and embracing is discouraged for risk of COVID-19 infection, trees can offer a sense of comfort, says Þór, although he urges visitors to the national forest to take precautions not to all hug the same tree. He recommends that people walk deeper into the forest, rather than stopping at the first tree they encounter. “There are plenty of trees…it doesn’t have to be big and stout, it can be any size.”
People should take their time, Þór says, to reap the full benefits of their tree-hugging. “Five minutes is really good, if you can give yourself five minutes of your day to hug [a tree], that’s definitely enough,” he says. “You can also do it many times a day – that wouldn’t hurt. But once a day will definitely do the trick, even for just a few days.”
Rangers have marked out intervals of two metres within the forest so that visitors are able to enjoy nature without fear of getting too close to one another. “It’s recommended that people get outdoors during this horrible time,” says Bergrún Anna Þórsteinsdóttir, an assistant forest ranger at Hallormsstaður. “Why not enjoy the forest and hug a tree and get some energy from this place?”
When you find the right tree, Þór has further recommendations for getting the most out of your embrace. “It’s also really nice to close your eyes while you’re hugging a tree,” he says. “I lean my cheek up against the trunk and feel the warmth and the currents flowing from the tree and into me. You can really feel it.”