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Icelandic Forestry Service Suggests Hugging Trees to Combat Social Isolation

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By Tim Binnall

The Forestry Service department of Iceland has put forward a bizarre recommendation to residents adhering to strict coronavirus-fueled social distancing guidelines that prevent physical contact with friends and family: hug a tree to combat feelings of isolation. The very strange advice was reportedly proposed by rangers at the Hallormsstadhur National Forest, where workers have cleared pathways in the snow so that people can visit the site and have a brief escape from their home quarantine.

As for the tree-hugging proposition, ranger Thor Thorfinnsson marveled that "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." He went on to muse that "it's such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you're ready for a new day and new challenges." However, given concerns about the transmission of the coronavirus, Thorfinnsson cautioned visitors that they would be wise to choose their own tree deep in the forest so that they are sure that it has not already been hugged by someone else.

"There are plenty of trees," he observed, "it doesn't have to be big and stout, it can be any size." In order to get the most out of one's hug, he mused, the embrace should last at least five minutes. Additionally, Thorfinnsson noted that while a daily hug "will definitely do the trick" when it comes to providing some revitalization, "you can also do it many times a day, that wouldn't hurt." Lest one think that the advice is merely a tongue-in-cheek way of encouraging people to visit the location, the Icelandic Forest Service website features a gallery of workers and their family members taking part on the proverbial 'tree-hugging challenge.'

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