Forest bathing in Korea
Haps Magazine Korea | .
published: November 08, 2018
When autumn rolls around each year, Busanites dash outdoors to bask in the beauty of the fall foliage and snap that essential Insta-worthy selfie. It’s really no wonder; Nationwide, Busan boasts some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes and hotspots for ‘당풍놀이’ — enjoying the beautiful changing colors of autumn leaves.
The colors of fall soothe us; the change from a hot, sticky summer into a cool, vibrant autumn refreshes us as the winds blow stronger and the deep blue nights become chilly. It’s magic. Colorful, natural magic.
But the magic of getting out into nature runs much deeper than any #nofilter shot could ever hope to convey. Spending time in nature, and amongst the majesty of tall, silent trees in particular, actually makes you healthier.
A concept born in Japan named ‘Shinrin-Yoku’, or quite simply ‘forest bathing’, is nature therapy in its most beautiful and simple form.
Forest bathing, at first glance, could simply look like a walk in the woods. However the main objective is not the walking itself, but the ‘being’ in nature, connection, immersion, it’s about absorbing the atmosphere, paying attention to the experience and allowing the forest to work it’s natural ‘magic’ so to speak. The therapeutic benefits are credited largely to phytoncides – antimicrobial essential oils with natural healing properties – but the whole experience of Shinrin-Yoku is transformative
So what’s so great about it?
There have been scores of scientific studies conducted on the effects of Shinrin-yoku since the term was coined in 1982 when Japan made ‘forest bathing’ part of its national health program. The documented results (and ongoing studies) show that forest bathing is scientifically proven to:
Studies have shown a significant decrease in the levels of cortisol in those who take a leisurely forest walk compared to a leisurely urban walk.
Boost Your Mood
By spending some time in nature we detach from the high-speed dot com insta-world and connect to our roots. Studies have shown that from simply spending time in nature, feelings of contentment increase and feelings of confusion and urgency are reduced.
Increase Creativity & Cognitive Function
Time in nature boosts our creative juices and enhances our mental performance. In one study participants were found to perform 50% better on creative problem-solving tasks after wilderness backpacking compared to their urban-based counterparts.
Decrease Inflammation (including better skin, relief for sore muscles and improvement in respiratory conditions)
Inflammation can cause a multitude of unpleasantries in the body, as we well know. This can range from skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema to respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD, to inflammation in the liver and brain. Forest air is naturally fresher and cleaner than city air, and the trees release natural compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body, reducing symptoms of inflammation and increasing wellbeing.
Create Natural (born) Killers
The body has a natural cell, called NK, that actively seeks out and destroys cancer cells and bacterial infections in the body. Pretty badass. One particular Japanese study showed that after just 3 nights in the forest, participants’ average increase in NK cells was a staggering 50% compared to those participants who encountered a normal working environment during the study.
Additionally, a simple leisurely stroll into the forest can help to reduce blood pressure, improve the health of the nervous system and accelerate recovery from illness. It allows us a mini-vacation from our hectic daily lives, its FREE of charge, and benefits everyone.
So how do we do it?
- Simply head out to your favorite wooded area, forest, mountain or tree-filled neighborhood park.
- Walk leisurely with ease, calmly and without any particular direction. The aim is to enjoy the forest, not to get hot and sweaty, running like a hog up Halla San.
- Engage all your senses to notice everything around you – the colors of the leaves, the motion created by the wind, the smells and sounds of the forest, branches cracking below and above you, the taste of the air, the touch of the ground beneath your feet.
- Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
And that’s it! Simple, effective, fun and free. And what better way to check out Busan in autumn than a leisurely, healing walk under the golden boughs of the ever-changing city. Check out some of the best places to get into nature here.
Wherever you go to for your Shinrin-yoku practice, make sure to indulge your senses in the delights of the city, and savor the colorful changing palette of nature right here in our dynamic Busan!