Urban healing spaces are turning selfcare into the newest daily indulgence.

A new crop of public healing spaces is opening up, offering lounges and events for destressing and unwinding. These spaces invite urban consumers to make time for relaxation and reflection in the midst of their hectic days, encouraging a focus on mental wellbeing.

There is a growing “fast healing” cultural movement in South Korea, “where people look for a quick remedy for relaxation the same way they consume fast foods,” says the Korea Times. This has led to a rise in healing cafés, where visitors can recharge and relax.

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Shim Story

Shim Story is one such space that commoditizes peace and calm for city-dwellers. The “public convenience lounge” in Seoul’s Gangnam district provides a new kind of social venue with massage chairs, heated beds and video games to help visitors to unwind and decompress. Soothing music and scent diffusers create a calming environment in one of the busiest districts in Seoul. Mr Healing, another lounge chain, also offers massage chairs where visitors can wear eye masks and relax as lavender, rosemary and peppermint aromas fill the room. Mr Healing has 60 branches across South Korea, according to the Korea Times.

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Shim Story
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“There is no place in Korea to stretch one’s legs before returning home, so I decided to open a relaxing lounge that is as comfortable as home,” Shim Story founder Jung Oon-mo explains to JWTIntelligence. “Nowadays, city life is causing high competition and life patterns are changing to reduce sleeping time, so most people are stressed and tired. Coffee shops don’t allow people to rest, so lounges can help them spend time well while away from home through four different themes: sleeping, relaxing, massage and talking.”

The First Class café chain offers another opportunity to unwind, pampering shoppers as if they were in a luxury airplane cabin. First Class’s service menu includes massages, eye masks, waffles, and complimentary beverages, as well as semi-private cabins where guests can rest. With kiosks in malls across South Korea, the chain is transforming the healing café format into a mass-market service.

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Chubby Cloud
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These healing spaces are also emerging elsewhere around the world. Chubby Cloud, an installation at the September 2018 London Fashion Week, offered “the world’s largest beanbag” for visitors to “relax and recuperate.” The sold-out relaxation event included a bedtime story reading from TV broadcaster Claudia Winkleman, a guided meditation from the mindfulness brand Happy Not Perfect and a lecture on the circadian rhythms of sleep from University of Oxford professor Russell Foster.

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HealHaus meditation sessions

In Brooklyn, wellness studio HealHaus aims to create an inclusive healing space with mental health resources. The combined café and wellness studio, which opened in May 2018, is a “one-stop shop” for “different healing modalities,” from workshops that delve into deeper life issues such as abuse and grief to lighter modes of wellbeing such as yoga and meditation. The studio also offers more diverse healing offerings, such as womb wellness moon yoga, breathwork for grief, and psychic abilities workshops. “When people talk about wellness, it’s presented in a pretty package, but sometimes selfcare and wellness is tough,” Darian Hall, cofounder of HealHaus, tells JWTIntelligence. “At HealHaus, we question how we work through the harder topics, not just the easy ones.”

Healing cafés provide respite from urban life, serving up peace and calm to on-the-go city dwellers. By offering public spaces where tranquillity can be found, they are making mental wellbeing more accessible. “In my opinion, the culture…will change from going to a coffee shop to going to a convenience lounge,” predicts Oon-Mo.