In The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, Florence Williams, discusses the importance of being out in nature, of walking and of being in the wilderness (alone or with others). Williams takes us through a journey of visiting many different countries, including Finland, Japan, Korea and various places throughout the United States. For Williams, there was a big change in her life when moving from Colorado to New York, which included less time in nature, more noise and more distractions. Williams explains that more people than ever before now live in cities, and that there is a certain stress associated with urban living (loud and constant noises, pollution, less greenery, crowded streets and traffic among a few). Therefore, the book is a journey of discussing the importance of nature in different nations, as well as how these countries integrate the healing power of nature to help treat various ailments and behaviors and to increase the health and well-being of its citizens.
What is especially interesting is that there has been quite a bit of research into the way that the human body responds to being out in nature, but it is still unclear as to how these changes occur and what triggers these changes in the human body. For example, after walking in nature, many people display a drop in pulse and blood pressure, and feel more relaxed and less stressed out, whereas an increase in sounds (whether we actively listen to them or try to block them out) increases our chances of hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. Williams also discusses the notion of healing after an illness, and nature has a healing effect on speeding up recovery. For example, people in hospitals with a view of greenery recover faster than those who have a view of something else. Even though researchers do not necessarily know why, death rates are lower in neighborhoods that are greener, people are healthier and happier and display lower levels of aggression and depression.
Williams also participates in various wilderness excursions designed to help people (adults and children) with mental health issues. Williams discusses how a program for women in the military who suffer from various mental health issues, including PTSD, help improve their health. Similar studies of men have also had a positive effect on the health of the population studied. Similarly, Williams visits a school that focuses on children with ADHD and other learning disabilities, who are struggling in traditional school settings. These children spend much time in the wilderness, focusing on outdoor activities and learning at the same time. For many of these students, nature has a calming effects that helps them focus and in some cases these children do not need to be on the various medications previously prescribed for them. Williams points out that depending on the country, there is more or less focus on the importance of nature, but the overall consensus is that we need to increase time spent in nature and also increase the green areas in our cities to improve people's overall health since we have such a large population of people living in cities and that this trend is unlikely to go away.
Williams writing and observation is very comical and keen, and she blends her own feelings and stories with that of researchers and current data. Williams is honest when it comes to her own frustrations of urban living and how it impacts her life, which seems to be an overall feeling of many people who live in large cities. The book is an interesting read, and it is very informative when discussing the positive impacts of nature. Reading the Nature Fix, it makes one want to instantaneously spend more time in nature.
© 2017 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's Degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.