For many people, loneliness is the toughest part of self-quarantine. For those living alone, going without company and physical contact for a long period of time can take a serious toll on their mental health. Phone calls and video chats help, of course, but sometimes nothing beats a big hug.
But people are coming up with some creative solutions to stave off loneliness, such as the Icelandic Forest Service. That organization suggests that wrapping your arms around a tree is the next best thing to a human-to-human embrace.
It has even plowed paths through the snow in remote parts of eastern Iceland to make it easier for residents to reach trees, and trails have been widened so hikers can explore the outdoors while observing social distancing.
The IFS website is full of photos of people cuddling trees of all shapes and sizes. It’s nice to see people with genuine smiles on their faces at this point in history!
One person taking the group’s advice is the woman below, who showed that hugging with your legs is even an option. The shot was shared by the IFS’s official Instagram, @skograektin.
It may look a little strange but experts say tree hugging can be a therapeutic experience.
“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,” forest ranger Þór Þorfinnsson reportedly said in an interview with RÚV, Iceland’s public broadcasting company. “It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges.”
This photo, shared by the Icelandic Forest Service, shows a whole family getting in on the act.
Folks in Iceland aren’t the only ones to have discovered the therapeutic effects of literally embracing nature.
American researchers have found that many modern people can suffer from something called nature-deficit disorder because of the lack of greenery in their lives. They’ve also found that people who battle anxiety, depression and ADHD have felt better with greater exposure to nature. So, hugging a tree could be a wonderful way to spend some time during this trying experience we’re all going through.
While Iceland’s national forests have remained open during the COVID-19 outbreak, things aren’t the same in the U.S.
Many green spaces have been closed, meaning locals have had to keep their distance from trees. So, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a tree, try hugging it out! And if not, you can visit some of the country’s national parks remotely (thanks to Google Arts & Culture), such as Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.