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Bear Hugging Trees is Real. Here's Why

pretty woman bear hugs a tree

It’s been about five weeks since us people huggers have been cut off from hugging anyone but the peeps we already live with. Gone are the random contacts with everyone else we know.

But an old natural concept has now gained new pandemic traction: bear hugging trees. And any tree will do, big or small, thick or thin. But it’s got to be a bear hug, or at least a seriously meaningful squeeze.

Why it works

Science has endless studies on the positive effects of nature on human health and immune response. Studies suggest that nature has the power to demonstrably reduce emotional stress, and strengthen immune response. Positive outcomes have been reported for patients suffering with conditions like ADHD, depression, stress and anxiety.

That’s why a form of forest therapy called shinrin-yoku is used in Japan to help patients with mild depression and other anxiety disorders. In part, it’s believed that the scents and essential oils of plants and trees, along with the basic return to nature and just living in the moment, can naturally boost the immune system.

Finding a spot

Currently, our beautiful BC parks and campgrounds are temporarily closed, but for most of us, our easy access to other natural spaces in the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island is still pretty good.

So from our patios and backyards to our neighbourhood parks and beaches, it’s still easy to find benefits from nature’s healing effects.

Lately, tree hugging has become more of a thing than ever before. We know your neighbours will wonder what’s up, but you’ll be so chill, it’ll be totally worth it.

Here’s how it’s done right

Icelandic forest manager, Thor Thorfinnsson, recently provided the entire world with tree hugging recommendations to get the most from your natural hugging moment. And he’s pretty specific.

Once you’ve got your arms wrapped tightly around your tree of choice (or your fingers firmly a hold, if the tree is smaller), Thorfinnsson says to keep your eyes closed while hugging a tree. Press your cheek against it and feel the warmth and current flowing from the tree, “... it starts in your toes, runs up your legs and through your body and into your brain.” Now hang on tight. Take a hold of the tree and don’t let go until you feel that flow.

When you let go, experts say you’ll feel grounded, have a sense of calm, and manage anxiety better in the near term.

Take these safety precautions

If you’re leaving your isolated patio or backyard to find a tree worthy of your hug, pandemic concerns mean you need to be cautious and considerate.

Always maintain your social distancing measures when you’re outside. And don’t hug trees in popular areas or that other people are hugging. And of course, don’t hug prickly trees.

Still don’t feel safe? That’s cool. Just sitting under the tree and taking time to be at one with nature will produce similar results over time. So hugging it out or not, trees are our isolation friends. Ready for that bear hug now?