This pandemic journey has impacted all of us, especially when it comes to getting our daily hugs. Research shows humans need at least 12 hugs a day to help them feel connected in a not-so-connected world. And especially now with such limited physical contact with others.
Other studies point to:
-A great hug lasts about 20 seconds.
-Oxytocin is the chemical in our bodies that rises when we hug. Scientists call it the cuddle hormone.
-Hugging causes a reduction in blood pressure and reduces the stress hormone norepinephrine (that’s a really good thing).
-Hugging also promotes feelings of trust, calm, nurturing, and physiological stability.
Since we’re all social distancing, forestry services across the globe have been encouraging us to take on the challenge of hugging more trees.
Okay, so it’s not been MY thing … but the research points to its benefits, too:
-It increases our levels of the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for us feeling calm and feeling bonded.
-Hugging a tree increases serotonin and dopamine which makes you feel happier.
-As humans we are intimately connected to the earth, and that many of us have a nature-deficit disorder. Countless studies point to increased positive emotions, relief of symptoms of ADHD, and even faster recovery from surgery.
Many swear that you can feel the energy of a tree while in its embrace.
Other research claims you don’t even have to hug a tree to reap the benefits. Just being around trees and plants in nature will make a big difference.
So what can you start doing now?
-Bring plants into the spaces you spend the most time
-When you can go for a walk, find a place with tons of trees.
-Plant a garden!
-Plant a tree in your own yard.
So even though we all need to avoid physical contact with others while in quarantine, maybe it’s time to get up close and personal with our forest friends.
Rangers have marked out intervals of six feet within the forest so that visitors are able to enjoy nature without fear of getting too close to one another and while also honoring social distancing.
“It’s recommended that people get outdoors during this horrible time,” says Bergrún Anna Þórsteinsdóttir, an assistant forest ranger at Hallormsstaður. “Why not enjoy the forest and hug a tree and get some energy from this place?”
Research has consistently pointed to the benefits of reducing the stress of city life, escaping to the forest, and hugging trees. It alleviates headaches, reaction time, and even your concentration.
When you find the right tree, Þór has further recommendations for getting the most benefit out of your embrace. “It is also really nice to close your eyes while you’re hugging a tree,” he says. You can even lean your cheek up against the trunk and feel the energy and warmth flowing from the tree. Some claim they can really feel the pulsating aliveness of a tree and that it deeply soothes any anxiety.
Well, there you have it. Hang in there with the social distancing. And of course, hug a tree.