Why a walk in the woods makes you feel better and smarter
Book Review By Don McDougall
San Mateo County nature lovers may prove the concept that Florence Williams describes in her interesting book, “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.” Non-lovers of the outdoors may suffer from what she calls “dislocation from the outdoors,” but nature lovers know that a walk in the outdoors can be a combination mood enhancer and smart pill (that might reduce income-related mental health issues or even encourage the remission of cancer).
It’s not really a new idea, going back as far as 1812. Williams references outdoor and walking enthusiasts like Thoreau and Emerson. She also provides insight into current international efforts and research describing programs in Sweden, Scotland and Finland to encourage people to walk in nature. She visits the Korean Forest Agency and talks about the cypress trees and the quality of the air. She digs into the current research, even recounting her experiences as a volunteer research subject wearing portable electroencephalogram (EEG) headgear.
Williams pursues not only the scientific effects of nature, but also the simple love of nature and “resonance” of a great scenic view of the ocean or a forest. First scents and fractal patterns can have positive effects. The book roughly follows a hierarchy of exposure to nature and the effects from personal calming to supporting great thinking.
The awe that she describes people experience in nature is not a surprise to nature lovers. We know being in nature connects you to the larger community of life, but her style, probably based on her role as a writer for Outside magazine, makes this a fun, informative and reassuring read.