Psychological benefits of being in nature

Won Sop Shin, a professor at Chungbuk National University in Korea and former minister of the Korea Forest Service, will be a Visiting Scholar of Color at UW-La Crosse Sept. 26-27.

UWL Visiting Scholar, forest therapy expert gives public lecture, leads walks Sept. 26-27. Walk requires early registration.

Studies suggest being immersed in nature can bring about positive health benefits — from cognitive performance to emotional health. An international expert in the psychological benefits of forest and nature experiences will be a Visiting Scholar of Color at UW-La Crosse Sept. 26-27. 

UWL’s Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation Department will host Won Sop Shin, a professor at Chungbuk National University in Korea and former minister of the Korea Forest Service. UWL’s own forest therapy expert Namyun Kil, UWL assistant professor of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation, received a UWL Provost Office’s Visiting Scholar/Artist of Color grant to invite Shin to campus. Kil developed and taught the first forest therapy course at UWL.  

During his visit, Shin will present on various forest wellness and human health initiatives in Korea from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at Skogen Auditorium, 1400 Centennial Hall. The lecture will be followed by a Q & A session with Shin. The lecture is free and open to all. No registration is required.  

Shin will discuss Korea’s outdoor recreation programs; forest therapy programs and facilities; research from the Korea Forest Research Institute; Korea National Center for Forest Therapy activities, research and growth; the forest therapy certification process; and other current forest and well-being topics.  

Free public forest therapy walk 

Shin will also lead a free public forest therapy walk from 9 a.m.-noon Friday, Sept. 27. The program will begin at the Hixon Forest Parking lot, lower section. The walk requires registration by Friday, Sept.  6 using the online registration form.

During the walk, participants will experience a series of mindful nature connection activities commonly used by Korean forest therapy practitioners. Participants may obtain some science-based health and well-being benefits such as higher levels of mindfulness, nature connection, social interaction, and concentration/attention/vigor, as well as lower level of anxiety and stress from the participation, explains Kil who has taken nature and forest therapy walks with UWL students on a Hixon Forest trail. 

The number of individuals who can attend the public walk is limited. Send direct questions to Kil at nkil@uwlax.edu or 608.785.8214.   

Shin’s visit has been made possible with the support of a UWL Provost Office’s Visiting Scholar/Artist of Color grant. 

About Visiting Scholar Won Sop Shin 

Won Sop Shin has been conducting research and projects on forest and human health for the past 30 years. In addition to studying the psychological benefits from forest and nature experiences, he also served as a minister of the Korea Forest Service from 2013-2017 and contributed to the expansion of forest therapy programs in Korea, as well as the establishment of the National Center for Forest Therapy in Korea. He currently heads the Graduate Department of Forest Therapy at Chungbuk National University, enrolling about 150 students in masters’ and doctorate programs. 

UWL also has a forest therapy expert 

Namyun Kil, UWL assistant professor of Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation, started at UWL in 2017. He brings more than 15 years of experience studying belief, attitude and behavior of recreationists in outdoor and natural environments, particularly U.S. national forests and scenic trails.