With everything going on right now, what we need more than ever is hugs. Of course, you can’t go around hugging other people because that’s the opposite of social distancing, but you can still get some loving. Icelandic forest ranger Þór Þorfinnsson recommends hugging a tree for all its benefits.
“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,” says Þorfinnsson, who works at Hallormsstaður National Forest in East Iceland, in an interview with RÚV, translated by Icelandic Review. “It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges.”
“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.” —Þór Þorfinnsson, forest ranger
Spending time in nature has major health benefits. A 2019 study found that spending two hours a week in nature is associated with and overall increase in well-being.
“It’s well-known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being, but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” says study author Mathew White, PhD. “Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.”
This is ecowellness. Enjoying the great outdoors can also help you more effectively work through challenges, be more creative, and stay physically healthy. Research has shown that just looking at pictures of nature can brighten your mood and make you feel better about your body. Though not scientific, we’d argue that giving nature a big ol’ hug can add even more feel-good benefits even if it’s just an increase in joy. Þorfinnsson says you can reap the benefits of tree hugging in just five minutes.
“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.”
Just incase this catches on, don’t run into a forest and hug the first tree you see, lest that tree was recently hugged. Þorfinnsson says to walk a bit deeper in and find a tree that really speaks to you. “There are plenty of trees…it doesn’t have to be big and stout, it can be any size,” he says. And if you don’t have access to a forest right now, any tree will do. Chances are that tree down the block hasn’t been hugged in a while either.
Once you find that perfect tree, hold on tight and don’t let go. “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.”