Healing Forests
Healing forests (C) Rani Iyer, 2019

Healing Forests

Healing properties of nature invite people to immerse in nature for rest and rejuvenation. When communities recognize the power of nature to heal, they begin to promote and protect the environments for its invaluable contribution to their well-being. This benefit far outweighs the immediate economic gains for human beings. Many communities around the world have found numerous ways to use the forests. This blog post is about the healing forests of Korea.

With all the changes with the pace of life and work style, the Korean population underwent a significant demographic change. Few years back, Koreans realized that the average age of their population was significantly middle-aged. The median age of the people in Korea is 43.4 years (41.8 years for male and 40.2 years for female). The population grows only at the rate of 0.48% annually with 8.3 births/ 1000 people.

This group faced many challenges. They were forced to adjust with rapid urbanization. Urban or city lifestyle is fast paced. Human connections and relaxation are lacking. The stress of daily interactions causes an increase in disease burden of the population. More and more people were becoming ill due to environmental conditions such as air pollution, lifestyle-related diseases, or psychological disorders. Many diseases were lifestyle dependent.

Healing Forests (C) Rani Iyer, 2019
Creating spaces for spending time in open. Picture courtesy, Varun Iyer, 2019

Everything about the lifestyle was making it difficult for population to adjust and relax. One had to be agile and at the best cognitive abilities to adjust to the pace of urban life, the noise, crowds, and constant demands of technology. These stimuli saturate senses causing a sensory and cognitive overload.

Many consider the use of medication for conditions like depression. Use of medication produced only temporary relief or no relief in many cases. Many medications also had side effects and cost a lot of money to manufacture. Moreover, it is not practical to give a medication to everyone. Thus, people began to search for long-term solutions which had positive and wide-spectrum impact on the health and well-being of the population. This led people to connect back with nature. Traditionally forests have been places of quiet and retreat. Forests were recognized for their healing properties. Establishing healing forests all over the country to help people connect back to nature became a wonderful way to heal and embrace their heritage.

Forests are also encouraging more people to gather as a community and join with other residents in group activities or just relax by themselves. By making forests accessible to populations in the cities, it is leading to a decrease in depression. Children find green spaces attractive to play. 

When more and more city forests are planted or made available to the population, it will lead to increased health benefits. As such, the positive effects of playing in nature or immersing in nature is cumulative. In practice, this means the impact of playing in nature as a young child is carried over into their teenage years as well.

Even in urban areas, it is possible that you can find bits of nature around you. A standing tree with creepers around it can cause much shift in the mental health of the population close-by. Or planting a garden can give so much sense of completion. Growing flowers or starting a container garden can also help people bring nature indoors.

Go! Find your spot in nature and create your therapy forest!