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]

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Watch: In 1948, Idaho Officials Sent 76 Beavers Parachuting Into Idaho’s Wilderness

A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
A young beaver with all four feet firmly on the ground.
yrjö jyske, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When people started building up the area around Idaho’s Payette Lake after World War II, its original residents began interfering with irrigation and agricultural endeavors. They weren’t exactly staging an organized protest—they were just beavers doing what beavers do.

Nevertheless, officials at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game decided their best bet was to find a new home for the long-toothed locals. The surrounding wilderness provided plenty of options, but transportation was another issue entirely. Traversing the undeveloped, mountainous terrain would require both trucks and pack animals, and experts knew from past relocation efforts that beavers weren’t fond of either.

“Beavers cannot stand the direct heat of the sun unless they are in water,” department employee Elmo W. Heter explained in a 1950 report [PDF]. “Sometimes they refuse to eat. Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent ... Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, malodorous pair of live beavers.”

To keep Payette Lake’s beavers healthy and happy during the journey, their human handlers would need to find another method of travel. As Boise State Public Radio reports, that’s when Heter suggested making use of their leftover WWII parachutes.

Two beavers would sit inside a wooden box attached to a parachute, which could be dropped from an airplane between 500 and 800 feet above their new home in the Chamberlain Basin. The cables that fastened the box to the parachute would keep it shut during the flight, but they’d slacken enough for the beavers to open the box upon landing. After testing the operation with weights, Heter and his colleagues enlisted an older beaver named Geronimo for a few live trials.

“Poor fellow!” Heter wrote. “You may be sure that ‘Geronimo’ had a priority reservation on the first ship into the hinterland, and that three young females went with him.”

Once Geronimo had certified the safety of the mission, the team began migrating the whole beaver population. During the fall of 1948, a total of 76 beavers touched down in their new territory. It wasn’t without tragedy, though; one beaver fell to his death after a cable broke on his box. Overall, however, the venture was deemed much safer (and less expensive) than any trip on foot would have been. And when department officials checked in on the beavers a year later, they had already started improving their ecosystem.

“Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies,” Heter wrote. As Idaho Fish and Game’s Steve Liebenthal told Boise State Public Radio, the area is now part of “the largest protected roadless forest” in the continental U.S.

You can watch the Idaho Fish and Game Commission’s full 14-minute documentary about the process below.

[h/t Boise State Public Radio]