While waiting for human relationships to return to what they once were, Icelanders return to an old and effective custom: hugging trees!
While waiting for human relationships to return to what they once were, the Icelanders kick out of the hat an old and effective custom: hug the trees! Because if it is as true as it is true that an immersion in Nature has the power to regenerate us, being in close contact with the green induces calm and serenity, regulates the heartbeat, reduces stress and modulates blood pressure.
This is why the Forest Service of Iceland, which among other things has a prime minister - Katrín Jakobsdóttir - environmentalist, encourages silvotherapy and clinging to trees, while social distancing measures prevent hugging other people.
The forest rangers of the Hallormsstað National Forest (the largest Icelandic national forest, protected since 1905 and with its more than 85 tree species), in eastern Iceland, have thus diligently cleaned up all the paths still covered by snow just to guarantee the locals to enjoy the great outdoors without coming into close contact with others, but getting personally closer to their "friends of the forest", the trees.
“When you hug [a tree], you feel it first in your toes and then in your legs and chest and then in your head - says ranger Þór Þorfinnsson to Icelandic broadcaster RÚV. It is a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you are ready for a new day and new challenges ”.
At a time when close contact and hugging are virtually forbidden due to the risk of Covid-19 infection, trees can offer a sense of comfort, says Þór, even as he urges visitors to the national forest to take precautions not to hug all the same tree. And not only that: to prevent people from moving too close to each other, the rangers have marked intervals of two meters inside the forest so that visitors can enjoy nature without fear of getting too close to each other.
Here in Iceland the policy followed is slightly different, indeed "people are advised to go outside at this horrifying time," says Bergrún Anna Þórsteinsdóttir, Hallormsstaður's forest assistant, while Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir offers free coronavirus tests to all citizens.
So why not enjoy the forest, hug a tree and get some energy from this place? Easy to say for the Icelanders, a little more complicated for us who live in a decidedly more rigid lockdown condition. It is true that more research shows that living near a forest makes people happier, reduces stress and increases happiness as it is known that social isolation can have significant impacts on our mental health, sometimes leading to depression.
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While we can't hug a tree right now, it's important to at least maintain a healthy lifestyle from the standpoint of nutrition, sleep, exercise, and social networking via the phone or the internet with other family and friends.
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