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Iceland Is Urging Residents to Hug Trees, Rather Than People, to Flatten the Curve

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Doctors say that one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus and "flatten the curve" is by social distancing — congregating with others and making physical contact with anyone outside your "quaran-team" definitely is not recommended, and in the spirit of social distancing during Earth Day, Iceland is doling out some solid advice.

The Icelandic Forestry Service has recommended its residents to hug trees instead of people — their nature-friendly message was incredibly heart-warming.

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Source: iStock

Nature is providing tremendous comfort to Icelanders in these tough times.

Many have found solace in nature during the coronavirus pandemic, whether that means taking a long walk in the woods, or admiring budding trees as spring progresses. Iceland's forestry service, however, is taking its love for nature to the next level, by recommending locals hug for a full five minutes, at least once a day, during the lockdown to induce relaxation and encourage wellness, according to Time Out.

“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... it’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges,” Þór Þorfinnsson, a local forest ranger explained on the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV).

The Icelandic Forestry Service is making it possible to hug trees without coming into contact with others.

Taking a walk in a local park in New York City, for example, is extremely risky — pathways in public parks such as Central Park or Prospect Park are likely to get crowded with people, bikes, and pets. However, the Icelandic Forestry Service is making it so people can still social distance, and go into state and national parks without getting too close to other people. 

In Iceland's Hallormsstaður National Forest, according to Tree Hugger, forest rangers have effectively cleared paths for visitors to make their way into forests without coming into contact with other people. Residents can still effectively abide by the 6-feet-apart rule, and still get their once-a-day, five-minute-long tree hug.

There might be science behind tree hugging.

Although hugging a tree might seem silly at first, it appears there's science behind why it might be emotionally fulfilling. According to Peacock Plume, embracing a tree can increase levels of specific hormones in the body, such as oxytocin, which makes you feel calm, as well as serotonin and dopamine, which can induce happiness. 

In Japan, people practice "forest bathing," or “Shinrin-yoku," which promotes the idea that walking in the woods can enhance your immune system. It's believed that humans can take in essential wood oils called phyoncides which the trees secrete into the air, which can increase and strengthen white blood cells in the body.

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Iceland is handling the coronavirus pandemic spectacularly.

In addition to promoting embracing nature, the Icelandic government is allowing everyone to get tested for the virus, according to Business Insider. This makes it possible for asymptomatic carriers to know if they have the disease so they can completely isolate themselves, rather than just staying home alongside friends and family.  

Additionally, according to Reuters, the country is implementing a $420 million package to help big and small businesses throughout these tough economic times. They are also doing what they can to provide aid to unemployed residents, as well as low-income families with additional funds.

In an official statement, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said: “Today’s announcement reflects our priorities to protect jobs, embrace our people and look to the future."

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As long as you can stay six feet away from others, hugging a tree might be the answer to your quarantine anxieties right now — needless to say, we're definitely going to follow suit.

The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.

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