The Physical Touch of Nature, Needed Now More Than Ever

Linda Wiggin-Kraft

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

Tree hugging has been somewhat of a joke in our society, yet an April 2020 report in the Iceland Review states: “The Icelandic Forestry Service is encouraging people to hug trees while social distancing measures prevent them from hugging other people.” 

We are a society now able to stay connected via phones and screens, but unable to physically touch our loved ones, our friends and even those we have just met. Yet the touch of nature is available and always there. 

The Iceland Review report continues: “Forest rangers in the Hallormsstadur National Forest in East Iceland have been diligently clearing snow-covered paths to ensure that locals can enjoy the great outdoors without coming in too close contact with other guests, but can also get up close and personal with their forest friends.” 

Yes trees, forests and nature are our friends. They are emotional healers in this time of COVID-19. Our world has been turned around and upside down. There is so much uncertainty, fear and sorrow. Yet nature’s beauty brings us solace, wonder, joy and grounding. A walk in nature whether in our own yards, neighborhood or even at the edge of a park gives us a chance to touch nature. There are warm sunny days, when walking barefoot on grass sooths and grounds us. Spring flower’s soft petals feel cool and alive when held against our skin. The touch of tree bark conveys the strength and longevity of nature’s might. 

These sensations can fill our bodies. One Icelandic forest ranger shares: “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.”

Healing from trees and forests has been recognized throughout the ages. Modern day scientific measures have verified this healing. Japanese scientific studies performed by medical doctors identified the healing effects of slow walks through forests. These walks are called Shinrin Yoko, or Forest Bathing, where breathing in the essences of the forest produces healing responses in the body. A walk, or just time sitting, in the atmosphere of trees can produce these effects. 

Forest Bathing and tree hugging can take place in your own yard if you have some trees. Some city parks and state parks are open as long as social distancing is observed. Walk mindfully or find a place to sit. Become aware of what you are seeing and smelling. Is there a taste in the air and what sounds do you hear? Find a tree perhaps a bit off the path, where no one has touched it. Touch the bark with your hand. Feel the texture. Lean into the tree and embrace it. Feel your heart touching the tree. Feel the touch of nature and let it fill you. We need the touch of nature now more than ever. 

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She guides others to connect deeply with nature through nature journeys-forest bathing workshops,(the May 2020 workshop is postponed). She is also a mandala artist and creativity workshop leader. Her website and blog are at www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Her phone is 314 504-4266.