Icelanders urged to hug trees to overcome isolation

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Woman hugging a treeImage source, Iceland's Forest Service
Image caption,
'This works, you know!' - Iceland's forestry service has put out instructions for best results

Iceland's forestry service has come up with a novel way to overcome the sense of isolation many people suffer because of Covid-19 preventative measures.

"Why not come and enjoy the forest, where you can hug the trees and just get the energy from this area," Bergrun Arna Thorsteinsdottir, a senior ranger at the Hallormsstadur National Forest in East Iceland, told the RUV public broadcaster.

She has the backing of Thor Thorfinnsson, the overall forest manager for East Iceland, who gave RUV listeners practical tips on how to get the most out of the encounter.

"It's good to close your eyes while hugging a tree. I press my cheek against it and feel the warmth and currents flowing from the tree into me... it starts in your toes, runs up your legs and through your body into your brain. You get such a good relaxing feeling that are ready for a new day and new challenges," he says.

The forestry service has also put a page of photos on its website, showing the many ways you can hug a tree.

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Thor recommends not rushing a tree hug. Holding a tree in your arms five minutes a day, he says, should be enough, adding that trees give out most energy during the summer.

The rangers have worked hard to cut paths through the forest snow at Hallormsstadur, so people can get close to the trees, as well as enjoy more conventional outdoor activities.

And they have taken pains to make sure the paths wide are enough that visitors can easily keep the recommended two-metre distance between them while out walking, Bergrun said.

Hallormsstaður is one of Iceland's biggest forests, which was saved from eradication at the turn of the 20th century.

It has over 90 species of trees, many over one hundred years old.

Image source, Iceland Forest Service
Image caption,
'If you can't hug a human, hug a tree'

Reporting by Martin Morgan and Krassi Twigg