Hitting Mung: The South Korean Wellness Trend That Calms Anxiety
For many of us, the feeling of being overcome with a wave of stress, momentary depression, or anger is a common predicament. Our emotions can affect the way we feel, think, and behave, and when the effects of them become overwhelming, it can cripple us. Anxiety attacks, for instance, can make us feel trapped, terrified, and out of control ー and this loss of perspective doesn’t just affect us mentally, it can also have a physiological and physical impact.
Although there are ways to calm yourself from an anxiety crisis, sometimes, all you need to stave off the ill-feelings is to take a deep breath and a little time to clear your head; empty it, so to speak. In South Korea, this concept is known as Hitting Mung, and it’s part of a greater well-being process akin to a mindfulness practice.
Loosely meaning “spacing out” or “a state of blankness” from Korean slang, the phrase is one that is not easily translated directly from Korean. Yet the practice is one that can be felt and understood by people from all over the world: Hitting Mung is the art of zoning out; a meditation with the added influence of nature. The goal, above all, is to relax ー with no phones, no talking, no music, no noise, and no stress.
Hitting Mung has been around in many formats for decades ー perhaps even centuries. Archaically, to be “mung” is to be empty-headed, though not necessarily in a Zen-like sense. More recently, however, stressed out South Koreans have flipped the word and given it a softer, kinder meaning ー where it has become more about being fully present in one’s surroundings, and embracing that feeling of blankness as a form of wholeness. With all of the pressures of the modern day, many are seeing it as an answer to the ever-prevalent anxiety dilemma being faced by people across the world.
Different Types of Mung and Their Benefits
With the concept of Hitting Mung being so closely tied to the soothing effects of being in nature, whether it’s simulated or not, there are various different types of “Mung”. Not entirely unlike the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoko – “forest bathing” – with Forest Mung, for instance, one finds solace in the intricate movements, flickers of light, and vibrant colors of the forest. With the Korean Forest Mung, however, you don’t have to physically immerse yourself in the woods. Instead, you can simply focus on a screen bearing an image of a forest, or stare out a window that looks upon greenery-filled scenery, as those who frequent Green Lab tea house near the Seoul Forest urban park do.
But it’s not only trees and leaves that might relieve emotional grievances. Water Mung ー a sense of calm attained from gazing at the ripples on a lake or the breaks of a wave ー can have the same effect. And let’s not forget the hypnotic dance of flames, the healing benefits of which can be gleaned from Fire Mung. In fact, many South Koreans seeking a sense of serenity flocked to the theater for Fire Mung, a 30-minute video of burning logs on a campfire. Its sequel – a 40-minute-long film called Flight – takes viewers on a soothing adventure through the clouds.
Hitting Mung offers people a nature-centric reboot. It’s an opportunity to feed the soul, mind, and spirit by disconnecting from the technology that binds us to our greatest stresses ー a temporary slow-down that allows us to invest time in our well-being. And while you can certainly make a competition of spacing out, Hitting Mung is more about finding wellness and calming one’s anxiety than “performing” nothingness and lowering your heart rate.
It can be argued, too, that Hitting Mung is a type of “wakeful rest”, which research has shown to facilitate memory performance. Add a connection to nature when experiencing this, though, and both mood and mind restoration can be significantly improved, even in virtual form, compared to when one is in an urban environment.
Attention Restoration Theory
Western science has taken a leaf out of the Far East’s mindfulness book in the form of Attention Restoration Theory (ART), which proposes that people concentrate better after spending time in nature, through activities like Shinrin-Yoku, or indeed simply looking at scenes of nature like Hitting Mung.
According to ART, the reason is fairly simple: people interacting with peaceful nature settings aren't bombarded with external distractions. In nature settings, the brain can relax and enter a state of contemplativeness that helps to restore or refresh those cognitive capacities.
Conscious of time constraints, the demands of working in a high-paced city environment, and an inability to feel the soothing warmth of a fire, the occasional splash of a crashing wave, or smell the morning dew on a forest floor during day-to-day life, this South Korean practice is providing the anxious, the stressed, the depressed, and exhausted urbanites with a safe space in which to unwind their mind.
From the Mung Hit café on Ganghwa Island to the Goyose Cafe on Jeju Island, and the Green Lab’s floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Seoul Forest, the importance of Hitting Mung has been gaining traction in South Korea. But you don’t need to take (or view) Flight, or watch a half-hour film of a campfire to reboot your brain: You can hit mung by simply staring at a screen with a tranquil image, sitting in a calm café, or by staring out the window. Just fill your line of sight with bul (fire), water, or trees, and let your empty mind carry your anxieties away.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Simulated Nature Walks Improve Psychological Well-Being Along A Natural To Urban Continuum; Wakeful Rest Benefits Memory When Materials Can Be Rehearsed; A Walk In The Park Gives Mental Boost To People With Depression; Natural Vs. Urban Environments: An Electrophysiological Approach To The Attention Restoration Theory (ART).
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