The Icelandic Forest Service is encouraging residents to hug trees instead of people

Icelandic Forest ServiceOne Icelandic Forest Service worker embraced the elements for a hug.
  • The Icelandic Forest Service released a statement on March 25 encouraging people to hug trees.
  • The director told Insider that it’s a symbolic message encouraging people to practice social distancing and access nature during these challenging times.
  • Being in nature has proven to have positive effects on mental health and wellbeing.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tree hugger is a title that Throstur Eysteinsson and his colleagues at the Icelandic Forest Service wear with pride.

Eysteinsson, the director of the Icelandic Forest Service, urged others to embrace the name and trees – both literally and figuratively.

On March 25, the Icelandic Forest Service sent a reminder urging people to hug trees, not people.

“We saw this as our contribution to the whole crisis that’s going on,” Eysteinsson told Insider. “There’s not much that we in forestry can do about it except say, ‘Hey, come to the woods.'”

Iceland has taken a less restrictive approach to curb the coronavirus. While those who have come into contact with the virus are quarantined, the country has not implemented a lockdown.

Schools have closed and gatherings of more than 20 people are banned, but the country’s forests are still open.

Throstur EysteinssonThrostur Eysteinsson/Icelandic Forest ServiceThrostur Eysteinsson hugs a tree.

The message of “come to the woods” came about when a park ranger posted a status on his personal Facebook. His message reminded people of the benefits of hugging trees.

Eysteinsson and his colleagues saw a chance to spread their message to a wider audience

The department posted the statement on its homepage with a collage of park rangers, friends, and family members all hugging a tree. In addition, Eysteinsson and his team have been shoveling snow and clearing pathways so that the public can access the forests.

Peter icelandic forest serviceIcelandic Forest ServiceThe Icelandic Forest Service explained the many benefits of hugging a tree.

While the message urges people to hug trees, it’s meant to be more symbolic, Eysteinsson laughed.

“A walk in the woods is good for you, and it’s good for your morale during difficult times. You don’t actually have to literally hug a tree,” Eysteinsson said. “But the trees don’t mind.”

Trees can improve the overall wellbeing and mental health of people

One study by the University of Wollongong found that a higher tree canopy is linked to a lower risk of developing psychological distress and better overall health. A study from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter had similar results. It found that people who spent at least two hours in nature had a higher likelihood of reporting good health and high well-being.

Icelandic Forest ServiceBeing in nature has proven to have positive effects on mental health and wellbeing.

The science shows positive effects, but it can be harder to put words to the feeling.

“It’s not something that you can necessarily explain very well, but simply being in a different environment than the office or inside your house is invigorating,” Eysteinsson said. “You feel somehow refreshed. It clears the mind. You somehow stop thinking about your everyday worries.”

Icelandic forest serviceIcelandic Forest ServiceIceland is not under lockdown, which means that the forests are still accessible to the public.

Eysteinsson said a majority of the response has been positive. While a few have voiced concerns about transmitting the coronavirus through the surface of trees, Eysteinsson said it’s important to find your own tree deep into the woods.

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