Iceland Forest Service Encourages Residents To Hug Trees Instead Of People

By Anthony McLennan / Truth Theory

The coronavirus-enforced social distancing regulations have taken away the comfort of human contact from us. But there are other ways to nourish the soul – such as tree hugging, according to the Icelandic Forestry Service.

 

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Until quite recently, tree hugging had been seen as the domain of the ecologically friendly hippies of the 1960’s and 70’s.

 

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But studies in the last few years have shown that there is indeed a science behind tree hugging. It’s now believed that mental illnesses, depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), reaction times, concentration and even headaches can be alleviated by bonding with a tree.

 

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Indeed, there are a growing number of people who are questioning the Western medical establishment and are understanding better the benefits of natural or holistic treatments.

 

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So it seems the forest rangers at the Hallormsstaður National Forest in east Iceland may be onto something in these stressful times amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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“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,” explained forest ranger Þór Þorfinnsson. “It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges.”

 

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The rangers have been hard at work clearing snow-covered tracks to enable people the space they need to wander through the forest and find a tree which they feel attracted to.

 

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According to Þorfinnsson, the tree can be of any size, and even a five minute hug will be enough to leave one feeling renewed and invigorated.

 

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“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,” he added.

 

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It’s not so much about how much time is spent with the tree, but rather the quality of the interaction.

 

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“It’s also really nice to close your eyes while you’re hugging a tree,” Þorfinnsson explained. “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.”

The History of Tree Hugging

It wasn’t the hippies who started tree hugging. It actually began as far back as 1730, with a group of around 363 people belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism in India.

When foresters decided to chop down trees to build a palace, the Bishnois protesters tried to stop them by clinging to the trees.

Tragically, they were all killed by the foresters. But their efforts were not in vein as a royal decree was later issued, banning the felling of trees in any Bishnoi village. Resultantly, a wooded oases remains in what is otherwise a desert landscape.

Image credit: julianepfeiffer.today & tianakruskic

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