Is There a Good Alternative to Hugging?

Iceland's Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees, rather than one another, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Iceland's Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees, rather than one another, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Iceland's Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees, rather than one another, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The term "tree hugger" has often been used as an insult, directed at anyone who seems overly concerned with environmental causes (as if that were even possible).

Now, however, Iceland believes that hugging trees can help keep people sane and safe during the COVID-19 crisis. With social distancing now the way of the world, the Icelandic Forestry Service is urging everyone to hug a tree instead of hugging friends and family members, thus giving us some sense of normalcy and warmth at a time when isolation is widespread.

"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 says. "It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges."

The rangers have been doing their best to keep forest paths clear, to let people keep their distance from one another while also offering easy access to a tree to squeeze. Þorfinnsson wants to make sure people get the full benefit of the hug by taking their time, finding the right tree, and really getting in touch with nature.

"There are plenty of trees ... it doesn’t have to be big and stout, it can be any size," 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."

Inside Iceland:

  • Reykjavik, the northernmost capital city in the world, is home to more than 60 percent of Iceland's population.

  • Reykjavik has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2040, by absorbing as much carbon as it produces.

  • Iceland and Antarctica are thought to be the only places in the world that do not have mosquitoes.


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    • Iceland's Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees, rather than one another, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
      Iceland's Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees, rather than one another, during the Covid-19 pandemic.