I don't know about you, but I really miss hugs (and concerts, sporting events and carefree living in general, if I'm being honest). The pandemic has made it really difficult to connect with people outside of our own bubble. I miss the smiles that are now hidden under our masks. While I understand and fully endorse/appreciate the importance of these health safety measures, I can't help but notice how disconnected we all are these days. Fortunately, I have two solutions:
1. Hug a tree
Hugging trees is not just for hippies! When we give a hug, we get a boost in oxytocin and dopamine, our connection and feel-good hormones. It doesn't matter whether it's another human or a tree. Feeling shy? You can improve your health by simply immersing yourself in the forest atmosphere. All you have to do is breathe. Trees emit phytoncides, a volatile organic compound that protects them from disease and parasites. When humans breathe in these tree aerosols, it boosts our natural killer or NK cells, a type of white blood cell that helps boost immunity and fight disease. How cool is that?!
There's also a beautiful element of reciprocity regarding our relationship to trees and plants. We breathe in the oxygen the trees emit, then we exhale the carbon dioxide that the trees need. Just being in the forest and breathing creates a mutually beneficial relationship.
2. Go on a forest bathing walk
Sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect. I truly believe that the great outdoors are the saving grace of this pandemic. Nature helps improve mental and physical health - there's heaps of research to back this up. If you're craving community, join one of our public walks. We'll put down our phones, tune into nature, and bear witness to each other's unique experience. This group walk includes opportunities to discuss what we're noticing and culminates in a tea ceremony - socially distanced, of course. We'll sit down and share a cup of tea together and continue the conversation. Throughout this experience, we are connecting not only to the land, but to each other and ourselves.
Remotely guided or virtual walks offer the same components as an in-person experience, but provide the opportunity to connect with the global community. These walks are conducted via Zoom, but the idea is to wander in your own yard or a local park. This is a great activity for families and friends who are separated geographically to connect through a shared experience. Learn more about our virtual and in-person experiences.
Tree hugs and kisses!
About the Author
Kelly Bruce is a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide/Trail Consultant and the founder of Natural Wanders. She leads forest bathing and nature therapy walks in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Subscribe to her e-newsletter for more inspiration from nature and to learn about upcoming walks, workshops and retreats. Each Wednesday, she’ll provide inspiration to help you wander into wellness, naturally. In the meantime, follow along on Instagram and Facebook.
Photography by @zailaffitte.
Welcome! I'm Kelly Bruce, a certified nature and forest therapy guide. Join me each week for Wander and Wellness Wednesdays, where I provide inspiration to help you improve your overall wellbeing, naturally!