Fantasy option: sit or lay comfortably with a light blanket or pillow nearby in a quiet, soft-lit room. Take five deep, slow, four-count breaths. As you inhale and exhale, imagine yourself at the forest foot, with amply spaced trees and flat walkable terrain. Easy to stroll through. Choose a tree and walk towards its base.
As we approach, if you feel inclined, greet the tree with a human sound, say “thank you,” or motion, like a salute or bow. To hug the tree, mindful of the sap, hold your arms relaxed at the elbows lower than your wrists, palms facing the body create a circle with your arms around the tree trunk. Your hands don’t have to touch; gently extend your fingers. Allow your shoulders to sink softly. Take a few deep breaths.
Hugging a tree increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for feeling calm and emotional bonding. When embracing a tree, serotonin and dopamine hormones make you feel happier. Trees transpire chemical compounds. We are subconsciously aware of these compounds and respond with changes in blood pressure. There is also robust evidence that plant cells can perceive and respond to pressure waves, like the kind generated by sound in the environment, and touch, like someone walking up to a tree and hugging it.
Hugging trees can increase your nature connection, which is about the physical, psychological, and emotional impact of engaging in nature through our senses and immersing ourselves in our natural surroundings. It is also about the importance of our relationship with the natural world.
The first tree huggers were 294 men and 69 women belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism, who, in 1730, died while attempting to protect the trees in their village. They clung to the tree trunks foresters planned to turn into raw materials for building a palace.
Trees are the lungs of the world. The leaves of trees use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to make plant sugars and simultaneously release oxygen. We breathe in that oxygen (amongst other things) we need to live and breathe out the carbon dioxide that the trees need to live.
There are many reasons to hug trees today.
- Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen, so we should appreciate them.
- If you’ve ever been to a forest, you probably noticed that trees also help to make the air cleaner, which helps keep the planet healthy.
- There are some genuine health and well-being benefits to hugging trees, as studies show that people who regularly embrace trees report feeling happier, calmer, and less stressed.
- Trees provide us with a sense of connection to nature.
- Trees help us appreciate the beauty of life.
- Trees help us understand how much we depend on nature.
- Trees help us realize that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.
- Trees help us feel more connected to each other.
- Trees help us feel spiritually more connected.
- Trees help us feel better about ourselves.
Before you leave, stand in silence, listening for footfalls on the forest floor, rustling of leaves, or any other-than-human sounds the forest and its many residents might make. Then, quietly return to your space.
Fantasy option: Take five deep four-count breaths and slowly return to the present.