Get Out There

Iceland Encourages America to Scream for Health

Iceland made headlines for suggesting that people hug trees to ease loneliness during social distancing. Now, they are back in the spotlight for suggesting people use screaming therapy to ease anxiety and the other mental health impacts of the pandemic. And, they’ve made a site so that we here in America can join in the activity.

When Iceland’s forestry service suggested hugging trees, we all laughed. It’s one of those headlines you hear that makes you chuckle and say, “Only in Iceland.” They even made a photo guide of the ways you should hug a tree. While the site is in Icelandic, the pictures are fun to see as the people in the photos range from small children to older people.

A book about Primal Therapy was published in the ’70s. It’s a very murky science, but it suggests that releasing negative energy makes you feel better. Anyone who has ever “had a good cry” will tell you it feels cathartic.

This modality of therapy is about connecting with the [negative] emotion, feeling it, and releasing it via screaming, sobbing, or even hitting a safe object such as a punching bag,” said Dr. Gin Love Thompson, a psychotherapist. “The physical vibratory sensations alert the nervous system and subconscious that this discharge is a conscious choice of absolution.”

Most doctors will tell you that Primal Therapy is something you should only do under a medical professional’s guidance. But Iceland now suggests that a few good screams won’t do you any harm beyond making your hoarse. According to research, 49 percent of Americans feel “increasingly stressed, frustrated and tense due to the recent coronavirus lockdown.” The same research showed that 42 percent of us want to scream.

In light of that, Iceland has started a campaign, #LetItOutIceland. ( They have set up a site called “Looks Like You Need Iceland.” You use your phone or laptop to record yourself screaming. You can then select a beautiful, tranquil remote location in Iceland where they will pump your scream out through massive speakers. There is a Livestream so you can listen to your scream and the screams of others. You can shout words or just bellow. They email you afterward with a video of your scream being projected.

The site readily admits that it cannot act as an alternative to medical assistance for mental health care. But, how wonderful would it be to really scream right now?

Across the world, people have been through a lot in the last few months,” said Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, head of Visit Iceland. “We empathize and want to do what we can to help people relieve their frustrations.”

For many people, a trip to Iceland is a dream. And right now, regardless of your means, people from America cannot enter the country.

[We use] primal scream therapy when we don’t necessarily have the words to express our frustrations and things a bit more visceral,” said Zoë Aston, a psychotherapist who consulted on the project. “That’s exactly what’s going on for people right now, because we aren’t equipped to deal with the feelings that we are having and, because we aren’t moving as much, there’s a physical buildup of emotion, which can produce blockages and things like depression and anxiety.”

You pick the location of your scream. You can go for spots such as beautiful waterfalls, a mountain, a black sand beach — like the one seen above — or the Snæfellsjökull glacier. Iceland’s tourist board hopes that seeing the beautiful locations will encourage people to visit once it’s safe. Right now, go to the site and scream your heart out to get a little release in these trying times.

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