The coronavirus pandemic has made a huge impact on social life imposing social distancing preventing us from hugging. We need to be hugged and to offer hugs, so the Icelandic government has recommended “tree hugging” and thus better mental and physical health during the quarantine period.
The Icelandic Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees as a sort of consolation reports RÚV. The rangers of National Forest in East Iceland have found a way of how to use the trees and to provide easy access to them they have cleared and widened snow-covered paths. Thanks to this effort the locals can easily visit the nearby forests and reap all the benefits for their mental and physical well-being.
Hallormsstaður National Forest manager Þór Þorfinnsson, states the following:
“Because of the risk of infection, people are now asked to avoid contact and intimacy, but the trees still spread their arms.”
These arms are the safest hugs that we can receive at the moment, and we should use them.
“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. It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges.”
Þór Þorfinnsson adds:
“If you can give yourself five minutes a day, that’s definitely enough. You can also do it many times a day … but once a day will definitely do the trick.
The assistant forest ranger Bergrún Anna Þórsteinsdóttir highly recommends this type of hugging:
“It is also good to close your eyes while hugging or hugging a tree. I lean my cheek against the tree and find the warmth and currents flowing from the tree into me. It is quite clear.”
Some people may consider the rangers little bit gone with all that fungi available in the forest, but their statements are scientifically backed up. There have been several studies that have confirmed the benefits of forest bathing in terms of lowering stress hormones and boosting immunity.
According to a conducted Japanese study forest bathing can significantly lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol and even more than a walk through the streets of the city. Additionally, many studies in the United States and Finland have also shown positive results in reducing tension and anxiety while staying in nature.
Another study has demonstrated higher count of white blood cells which are natural killers of infected or tumor cells. In fact the increase was 50% higher after 3 days of forest bathing.
Plus, while in nature people have a tendency of engaging in less rumination or negative over thinking, which are the two aspects related to depression.