Iceland Encourages Residents to Hug a Tree for Five Minutes to Combat Loneliness

Construction Photography/Avalon /Getty Images
Construction Photography/Avalon /Getty Images

Iceland has a very wholesome suggestion for citizens craving physical contact in the age of social distancing: Find the nearest tree and give it a hug.

As Lonely Planet reports, the Icelandic Forest Service (IFS) says that spending at least five minutes a day hugging your arboreal neighbors is a great way to beat loneliness in quarantine. Paths have been plowed through the snow in East Iceland to give residents easier access to trees, and trails have been expanded so hikers can get outdoors while keeping their distance. The IFS even updated its website with photos of people embracing trees of all shapes and sizes.

Tree-hugging, according to East Iceland's forest manager Þór Þorfinnsson, produces feelings of relaxation and prepares you to take on whatever challenges lie ahead. ("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," Þorfinnsson told a public broadcast station.)

Þorfinnsson's anecdotal endorsement aside, exposure to trees has been shown to promote good health. Trees cleanse the air of pollutants and reduce stress in people living near them. You don't necessarily need to wrap your arms around a tree to reap those benefits, but if you have no one else to hug, it definitely won't hurt.

Iceland's national forests have remained open during the COVID-19 crisis, but that isn't the case for many green spaces in the U.S. If you're willing to settle for seeing trees instead of hugging them, here are some national parks you can visit remotely.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Beavers on Devon's River Otter to Become England's First Permanent Population in Centuries

Beavers were hunted to extinction in England in the 16th century, so locals were surprised to find a group of the mammals living on Devon's River Otter in 2008. Instead of moving the beavers, the Devon Wildlife Trust monitored the population to see how it would interact with the local environment. Now, as The Guardian reports, the government has deemed the beaver reintroduction program a success, meaning the species now has a permanent home in the country for the first time in centuries.

Though the North American beaver is better known, beavers are also native to Europe. Hunting reduced the Eurasian Beaver population to 1200 specimens by 1900. Their numbers have recovered in the years since, but they're still mainly limited to Scandinavia, Germany, France, Poland, and central Russia.

The beaver group currently living on the River Otter likely originated with either an accidental or unauthorized release. When local authorities discovered the beavers were breeding in 2014, they intended to relocate them to protect the local ecosystem. The Devon Wildlife Trust proposed an alternative: Allow the population to live on the river undisturbed for five years, and only remove them if they were proven to cause harm by the end of the trial.

The beavers did not hurt the environment—they actually added several benefits, according to the five-year study. The population, which now consists of 15 family groups, constructed 28 dams throughout the river system. These dams helped slow water flow during floods and contained water during droughts that would normally dry up riverbeds. The beaver-engineered habitat also allowed an increase in the number of water voles, fish, and amphibians.

When the trial officially ends on August 31, the beavers will become permanent residents of Devon in the eyes of the government. They're concentrated on the River Otter for now, but they're expected to expand beyond it, potentially starting new beaver populations in other parts of England for the first time in modern history.

[h/t The Guardian]