Book Summary: The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

My Personal Summary

Research shows that spending time in nature can boost cognition, reduce anxiety, improve mood, and enhance creative thinking.

Even small doses of nature like house plants, 10-minute outdoor walks, and screensavers of forests have been shown to improve overall well-being.

Book Notes

  • As more humans migrate towards cities, less people have quick access to nature.
  • People are spending more time indoors than ever before in human history. This has some notably negative side effects. As the percentage of people who live in urban areas increases and time outdoors decreases, obesity, stress, and depression rates all go through the roof.
  • “Over recent decades we have come from dwelling in another world in which the living works of nature either predominated or were near at hand, to dwelling in an environment dominated by a technology which is wondrously powerful and yet nonetheless dead.”
  • “We don’t experience natural environments enough to realize how restored they can make us feel, nor are we aware that studies also show they make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic and more apt to engage with the world and with each other. Nature, it turns out, is good for civilization.”
  • In one study, former military members suffering from PTSD found noticeable therapeutic effects of a wilderness trip along the Salmon River in Idaho.
  • Spending as little as five hours per month outdoors has been shown to reduce both stress and blood pressure. It’s also associated with heightened awareness and creativity.
  • Surprisingly, most of the benefits from nature come from the sounds and scents we hear and smell while spending time outdoors. Specifically, birdsong has been shown to reduce stress and make us feel more relaxed.
  • Even looking at pictures of nature for only a few minutes is associated with an increased sense of well-being and happiness.
  • “The difference in joy respondents felt in urban versus natural settings (especially coastal environments) was greater than the difference they experienced from being alone versus being with friends, and about the same as doing favored activities like singing and sports versus not doing those things. Yet, remarkably, the respondents, like me, were rarely caught outside. Ninety-three percent of the time, they were either indoors or in vehicles.”
  •  A 20-minute walk outside in the middle of the workday has been shown to increase productivity and creativity significantly.
  • “Compared to buildings with low amounts of vegetation, those with medium levels experienced 42 percent fewer total crimes, and the contrast between lowest and highest levels of vegetation was even more pronounced. Buildings with the most green views saw 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes than buildings with the least greenery.”
  • “Here are some of the essential take-homes: we all need nearby nature: we benefit cognitively and psychologically from having trees, bodies of water, and green spaces just to look at; we should be smarter about landscaping our schools, hospitals, workplaces and neighborhoods so everyone gains. We need quick incursions to natural areas that engage our senses. Everyone needs access to clean, quiet and safe natural refuges in a city. Short exposures to nature can make us less aggressive, more creative, more civic minded and healthier overall. For warding off depression, lets go with the Finnish recommendation of five hours a month in nature, minimum. But as the poets, neuroscientists and river runners have shown us, we also at times need longer, deeper immersions into wild spaces to recover from severe distress, to imagine our futures and to be our best civilized selves.”
  • “If you have time for vacation, don’t go to a city. Go to a natural area. Try to go one weekend a month. Visit a park at least once a week. Gardening is good. On urban walks, try to walk under trees, not across fields. Go to a quiet place. Near water is also good.”

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