24 July 2020
To stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, we have had to sacrifice many things we enjoy, including physical contact with others. Gone are handshakes, kisses and hugs.
Research has shown that humans need physical touch to stay mentally and physically healthy. Without it, many become lonely, sad and even sick.
So, if you feel you need a hug, we know something you can safely put your arms around and hold close:
Tree hugging may sound a little strange. But humans have practiced forms of nature therapy for years.
The Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku is an example. Shinrin means forest in Japanese, and yoku is the Japanese word for bath. But no soap or water is needed for shinrin-yoku. All that nature bathing requires is spending time in nature: listening to its sounds, breathing in its scent, connecting to its life force.
Recently, Israel has been promoting tree hugging on social media. The country's nature and parks agency is behind the public health campaign. Orit Steinfeld is marketing director for Israel's Apollonia National Park.
"In this unpleasant corona period," she said, "we recommend to people around the world to go out to nature, take a deep breath, hug a tree, express your love and get love."
The park is about 15 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. Inside the park, some visitors observed the official's advice and hugged trees.
Barbara Grant was one of them.
"The most basic human need," she said, "is for connection, for touching, for hugging."
Visitor Moshe Hazan told Reuters he came to the park to hug a tree.
"We are not hugging too many people these days. Hugging a tree is quite a nice thing to do."
In May the coronavirus spread slowed in Israel. However, case numbers increased there in recent weeks. In response, the country renewed many COVID-19 restrictions.
Israel's tree-hugging campaign is not the first of the pandemic. Iceland's Forest Service launched a similar effort in April. They advised everyone in the country to hug a tree for at least five minutes every day.
The Reuters news agency shared a short video showing people in Iceland hugging trees in the forest. Park officials also cleared paths in the woods so that visitors could socially distance while they searched for that special tree.
"There are plenty of trees," said a forest worker in the video, "no need for everyone to hug the same tree."
The story on Iceland's tree-hugging campaign was also reported on Treehugger.com. Naturally.
I'm Anna Matteo.
Reuters reported this story. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
pandemic medical noun: an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world
hug – n. to put your arms around someone especially as a way of showing love or friendship
scent – n. a pleasant smell that is produced by something
promote – v. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase
recommend – v. to suggest that someone do (something)
unpleasant – adj. not enjoyable : causing discomfort or pain
express – v. to make known especially in words or actions
basic – adj. forming or relating to the most important part of something
spike – n. to undergo a sudden sharp increase in, usually up to an indicated level