Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stay Positive: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

I've praised the work of Florence Williams in a previous post, but I thought I'd do a Stay Positive post about her book, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

Starting with E.O. Wilson's biophilia hypothesis, Williams investigates the scientific support why humans are drawn to natural settings and how they positively affect our emotions, intelligence, and cognition. 

She travels to places across the world to talk with researchers and be part of research experiments in some cases. 

Here are some quotations of note, some of which I'll be transcribing into my commonplace book

  • "When we are relaxed and at ease in our environment, our parasympathetic system--sometimes called the 'rest and digest' branch--kicks in" (25). 
  • "It sound totally hokey, even unbelievable, that evergreen scents--not unlike the thing that dangles from taxicab rear-view mirrors--could help us live longer" (29). 
  • "Moreover, task-switching, which is something we do an awful lot of these days, burns up precious oxygenated glucose from the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain, and this is energy we need for both cognitive and physical performance" (44). 
  • "At least one MRI study (using photographs of nature) show it's ["the neural growth factor BDNF"] going to parts of the brain like the insula and the interior cingulate that are associated with pleasure, empathy, and unconstrained thinking" (53). 
  • "Noise may well be the most pervasive pollutant in America" (87). 
  • "There's some evidence that more introverted or neurotic people are more annoyed by loud noises" (93). 
  • "To the extent that nature sounds are soothing to most humans, three in particular stand out: wind, water, and birds. They are the trifecta of salubrious listening (favorite music and the voices of loved ones are perhaps the happiest of all, engaging almost every part of the brain, according to neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin, in This is Your Brain on Music" (98). 
  • "our brains are surprisingly similar to parts of birds' brains that hear, process, and make language. Humans share more genes governing speech with songbirds than we do with other primates" (99).
  • "Finland scores high on global scales of happiness. Many people assume this is because there isn't much income disparity here. But perhaps it's also because everyone has access to what makes them happy--a bunch of lakes, forests and coastlines, combined with ridiculously long, state-sanctioned vacations and a midnight sun" (135). 
  • "Physical activity changes the brain to improve memory and to slow aging; it improves mood and lowers anxiety; in children, it increases the capacity to learn; some studies show it is as effective as antidepressants for alleviating mild depression without the unwanted side effects" (151).

I was going to provide what she offers at the end of the book, which she calls "essential take-homes," but you should buy the book. Support writers and good writing, people. 

However, the quotations above offer me some take-homes, or should I say "take-outsides"? 
  • Get candles that waft evergreenish, lavender, and rosemary scents. 
  • Stop multi-tasking. 
  • Embrace silence more often when I can find it (I'm introverted and one might describe me as neurotic sometimes). 
  • Exercise.
  • Go outside more often, especially the trails around Lake Charleston.

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