Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Nature Fix

I just spent a bulk of the weekend finishing the book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams. Of course, the irony is not lost on me (or my children) that I spent a bulk of my weekend indoors reading a book about the outdoors.

However, I will say, upon wrapping up the book's epilogue today, I did go out and just sit outside for awhile to watch the birds at the bird feeder and study the Jackson Pollock-like fractals in our trees. (The latter of which I learned all about in the book.) Our 47 degree weather today is feeling remarkably warm in the sun after the frigid cold snap we had earlier in the week. Hard to believe that 2 days ago we ended up with an early out for a sudden snowstorm and icy conditions--and now the melted snow water is running noisily through our gutters, with almost every evidence of snow disappeared. It feels like spring out. In fact, I've landed in one of my favorite writing places--my back patio, basking in the sun, looking at the trees as they fly between the trees and the frolicking squirrels as my fingers find the keys.

As with any book I read, I find the information I've read swirling around, making its mental connections, becoming part of my DNA. (Of course that's the same with us all.) There are so many nuggets of wisdom in this book. It's reminding me of this past summer of counting my outdoor hours (inspired by 1000 Hours Outdoors), and how good I felt at the end of the summer. My 2019 hours are probably growing exponentially here today as I'm not innately a fan of the winter, preferring to hibernate over just about anything else. Many thoughts have me circling back to Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods, making this an excellent companion piece to follow that book for those who want more.

This book also connects with the reading I've done on brain studies, particularly when it comes to executive functioning and the elementary/teen brain & ADHD. Additionally, it deeply resonates within me as I look at our overly-techified world (and how that relates to my role as Lower School Technology Specialist).

Noteworthy notes that my highlighter found in this research-heavy (yet highly readable) book that are worth pondering:
  • "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." (p. 4)
  • "Nature employs the mind without fatigue yet exercises it; tranquilizes it yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system" (Quote by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1865, from p. 48)
  • "Psych studies using birdsongs consistently show improvements in mood and mental alertness." (p. 100)
  • "Our tendency to wear earbuds during all hours of the day [is called] 'learned deafness.' We are tuning out the real world in favor of our own personal soundscapes. The cost is we forget how to listen." (p. 102)
  • "When we stare at screens all day, we blink less." (Quote by author's eye doctor, p. 126)
  • "To elevate mood and stave off depression most reliably, 5 hours per month is the lowest amount of time to get the effect, then after, if you can go for 10 hours, you will reach a new level of feeling better and better." (Quote by Liisa Tyrväinen, p. 141)
  • "A thirty-to-forty-minute walk seems to be enough for physiological changes and mood changes and probably for attention." (Quote by Kalevi Korpela, p. 147)
  • "The '30 x 30 nature challenge'--30 minutes a day of walking for 30 days in a row." (p. 182) [which elicited the following effects in the Trent University study that the author participated in: "significant increases in all measures of well-being, including mood and mental calm, and also decreases in stress and negativity. We slept slightly better, and also reported feeling slightly more connected to nature."] (p. 182-183)
  • "The ultimate paradox is that humans need both wilderness and civilization." (p. 192)
  • "Awe is considered one of the core positive emotions along with joy, contentment, compassion, pride, love and amusement... 'Basically, awe is something that cloys your mind.'" Secondary, interior quote from Paul Piff, p. 196) ".... Awe promotes curiosity." (p. 199)
  • "We consume 74 gigabytes of data ever day." (p. 224)
  • "Exposure to nature reduced reported symptoms of ADHD in children threefold compared with staying indoors." (p.226) [Of note--recess and outdoor exposure during school has decreased over time! "Preschoolers in the United States average just 48 minutes of exercise a day in their schools, even though the recommended level is 2 hours. Of that 48 minutes, only 33 minutes is outside." (p. 233)
  • "In the U.K., two-thirds of schoolchildren do not know acorns come from trees." (p. 233)
  • "Nearly 1 in 10 children has a vitamin D deficiency. That's 7.6 million children. And, two-thirds, another 50.8 million, are considered vitamin D 'insufficient.'" (p. 234)
  • "Distilling what I learned, I came up with a kind of ultra simple coda: Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe."    (p. 254)
Not to mention, here's a short list of new (and some not-so-new) environmental terms to consider investigating:
  • nature deficit disorder
  • forest bathing 
  • biophilia 
  • task switching (versus "multitasking")
  • the science of forest smells 
  • natural soundscapes 
  • accidental nature (exposure you get to nature without even trying)
  • myopia (nearsightedness)
  • ecotherapy
  • solvitur ambulando (in walking will be solved)
  • toddlers are "containerized kids"
  • Metro sapiens (what the human species became in 2008, when we crossed to the majority of us living in cities)
  • The Nature Pyramid (I'll be writing about this soon!)

So as I've spent the afternoon pondering all of this, here's my next stop: a local park with my family and our overly-energetic dogger. Purposely unplugging us all, and sharing some of my "Nature Fix" finds with them, hoping to re-inspire my very tech-friendly family get out and get what's good for them. For us all!

Images from https://www.amazon.com/Nature-Fix-Happier-Healthier-Creative/dp/0393242714, other images from my phone!

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