• Dana Arpquest

Let's Go Hugging... Tree Hugging

Updated: Jan 15

Returning to nature is returning to our roots, returning to a balanced life.

"Are you having a laugh? I am not some kind of ecologist and your name's not Greta." That's what my other half said when I asked him to go with me to experience some Tree-Hugging.

Don't worry. Tree-hugging has nothing to do with climate change demonstrators. Sure, the term tree-huggers comes from a demonstration that took place in 1730 in India where the Bishnois had wrapped themselves around the trees to save them from being cut. But nowadays, tree-hugging is more profound and, most of the time, related to mindfulness and wellbeing.

Many of us are working all day, commuting, looking after the house, the kids, or the dog… that is without counting all the energy thieves we encounter throughout the day. No wonder we are feeling rather drained. So, how can we replenish our energy and keep our morale high while having a busy life? The answer is in the forest.

No, I am not sending you on a treasure hunt or quest to answer the sphinx’s riddle. Literally, the answer is in the forest.

The modern version of Tree-Hugging comes from Japan—in a way. In the 80s, the Japanese Ministry of Forestry advised people to go Shinrin-yoku which in simple terms means forest bathing.

There is not a day where we do not hear about the urge to return to nature, the need for a purer way of living and eating. etc. Even if I have no intention of abandoning my town life to move to the middle of a forest, I can still connect with nature. My town is full of parks, and if I take the car, I can even go to the forest and hug trees. When I was young, living in the middle of the Belgian Ardennes, my closest neighbours where deer and wild boars. My hobbies consisted of riding across the fields and climbing trees (not realising that I was already hugging trees).

Okay, I got the gist, but what is tree-hugging? The clue is in the name. You hug a tree. Just like you'd hug your loved ones, except you get more benefits out of hugging a tree than a human. Some says that you don't even have to hug a tree to reap its benefits, just bathing in the forest is enough-- if you are brave enough, you can use the term literally and find a river in the forest, but by bathing one means, going to the forest and immersing yourself with nature.

Listen to the song of the birds, the wind rustling in the leaves and branches, feel the gentle breeze on your skin and soak in the peacefulness of nature. I find it easier to go to the forest to do that because it is quieter, and chances are you will be on your own. But you can always go to your local park.

This might sound like I am being a hippie. Some ignorant people might think you are a nature freak, but then those ignorant diplodocuses do believe that about positive thinkers and vegans—and we all know the benefits of positive thinking and eating more fruit and vegetables. So, hey… let them think what they want. After all, isn’t it healthier to go for a walk in the forest than spending time on a couch eating burger and chips while watching TV? Forget about other people's opinions and be who you genuinely want to be. If you want to go out and hug trees and connect with nature, go for it. Of course, I don’t mean that being a tree-hugger you have to be a vegan.

It sounds all fine, but what are the benefits of hugging trees. First, I am sure you have noticed that going for a walk in the forest, or park, helps you clear your mind. Trees (and plants) are breathing out oxygen and breathing in carbon dioxide and we, human—yes, you guessed it—do the opposite. Isn't it a sign that we are to get closer to the trees? They help us, and we help them.

But there is even more to it. Apparently, most energy comes from the eyes, so if you are too shy to hug a tree in public, you can always soak in the spectacular scenery of the living masterpiece that is before you.

Trees are also known for absorbing negative energy, and they'll give you good earthly energy in return. Their roots are anchored deep inside the earth where they dig their strength and nutrition, and they'll give it all back to you.

So once in you there: stop and take a deep breath. It will help cleanse your lungs and oxygen is also good for your brain. Sniff the aroma they give off. You’ll come back fresh and invigorated. This is a great way to recharge your batteries. Try it and you will see the difference.

Some day when I feel drained, I usually step out of the office at lunchtime and walk to the park, regardless of the weather. When I come back to the office, I am rejuvenated. My mind has been cleared, and I can tackle my work with less effort and less headache.

If your lunch break is too short, you can always start the day by going for a walk first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to start the day.

There is no right or wrong place. You can, of course, go to a forest, a park or even your back garden if you happen to have a large tree in it. Anywhere is okay as long as you can access a tree. You can also sit underneath a tree in the park; just check that no dog's been around as they often do in parks.

You do not need to do this for hours each day. Sometimes just a few minutes is enough. Take as long as you feel necessary. You will know as you do it. This might take a little practice.

As you walk to the park or forest, clear your mind, ignore your phone and leave your headphones behind. What would be the point to go to the woods and missing out on the song of the birds?

It goes without saying that it is more pleasant in the summer or spring. Still, there is no time of the year you should miss, in the autumn, you absorb the earthy smell of damned undergrowth, which has a magical effect on your mind. Just wrap up if it is too cold out there.

Remember, if you are tired, stress, overwhelmed or lacking energy, the answer is in the forest.

Unless you suffer from trees allergies, go hug a tree.

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