Russian Gulch State Park
Sarah Cardona

Sarah Cardona

Explore Nature’s Healing Powers Right at Home

On all my Zoom calls with family and friends lately, we are exchanging recommendations for a good read. We’re all looking for something uplifting, while substantive. Fascinating without being too fantastical. 

So of course I am telling everyone about one of my all-time favorite books that will hit the spot: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams.

If you’re a lover of the outdoors—whether birdwatching, trekking, or gardening, whatever your preferred pastime—I’m sure you’d agree that there’s just something about being surrounded by nature that makes you feel whole, perhaps even connected to something bigger. Well, this book eloquently explains why that is! 

Williams entertains us with her witty writing and chronicle of myriad studies that demonstrate the science behind nature’s positive effects on our brains. From reading this book, you’ll understand why spending even as little as five hours a month outdoors improves our health (zapping stress, reducing blood pressure!) and taps into our creativity and innovation.

Ever wonder why looking at images of nature, like beautiful branching sycamore trees or braided river channels, brings you a sense of calm? Williams reminds us that among nature’s many benefits is how pleasing natural elements are on the eye. You’ll learn about how many of nature’s patterns are fractals, and what studying them visually does to our brains.

By far the chapter I talk most about to friends (and will influence my future international vacation-planning one day) is when Williams recounts her time in the Juniko state park in northern Japan “forest bathing” and the massive cultural-shift for burned-out urbanites to uptake “forest therapy”.

Just take a look at some of these statistics, directly from the book:

Researchers in Japan have taken hundreds of people into the woods since 2004 and found these incredible results:

  • Leisurely forest walks, compared to urban walks, delivered a 12 percent decrease in cortisol levels.
  • They also recorded a 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, and a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 6 percent decrease in heart rate!

In times like these (and, quite frankly, at any moment of this 21st century society) our connection to nature is more important to our cognition and overall well-being than we might realize.

In order to get your nature fix immediately, while sheltering in place, here are a few suggestions I wanted to share, directly inspired by what I’ve learned from this incredible book:

  • Listen to water and birdsongs. Just say, “Alexa, play nature sounds” or “Alexa, play bird music” to instantly improve your mood and alertness.
  • Install screensavers with forest images, or swap your desktop backdrop to favorite nature photos you’ve taken (and remember to take “nature-fix” breaks to soak them in).
  • Run your humidifier or essential oils diffuser with eucalyptus, cypress, or tea tree scents (I love this company’s selection with online ordering).

Header Photo: Mick Haupt via Unsplash

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