Book Review: THE NATURE FIX by Florence Williams

The Nature Fix

I don’t review a great number of nonfiction on Goodreads, but to those who know me (and my penchant for fiction writing that includes sensory nature descriptions), it’s probably no surprise that THE NATURE FIX: WHY NATURE MAKES US HAPPIER, HEALTHIER, AND MORE CREATIVE by Florence Williams had been on my radar for a long while.

For years, I’ve grown increasingly alarmed at the rapid rate at which humans have disconnected from nature. I probably really started to notice it when my nephew – now 18 — was growing up glued to an electronic screen, instead of playing outside and looking UP and OUT.

The Nature FixSo, for me, this book validated that we do, indeed, have a lack-of-outdoor-time epidemic and that it is absolutely affecting our mental, emotional and physical health as human beings. The book uses concrete science studies to explain why many humans seem to thrive when spending more hours outdoors, and why they are less healthy when they don’t.

I found myself frequently nodding my head in agreement with the author’s annoyance of airplane and road noise, and her attraction to the restorative properties of nature’s music. And her resistance to “virtual reality” nature, which is no substitute for the real thing… This book isn’t just for nature lovers, though. In fact, I’d argue it is for non-nature lovers.

The book (and research) points out that “we’ve grown more irritable, less sociable, more narcissistic, more distracted and less cognitively nimble” due to our lost connection to nature. And that “we think of nature as a luxury, not a necessity,” – when, really, we need to heed the recommendations within: to spend, at a minimum, 5 hours in nature per month; to seek awe; to spend time in forests … for our own health. Did you know that a walk in the woods reduces cortisol levels and high blood pressure? Or that 1 in 4 middle-aged women in the US takes antidepressants? Or that nature exposures, which lead to more exercise, can help you grow more brain cells?

As noted, I don’t review a lot of nonfiction, but THE NATURE FIX read to me less as a book and more as a series of journalistically reported essays. Many times, there were no transitions from one paragraph to the next, and the chapters didn’t seem intuitively organized. Sources and studies were essentially attributed in Associated Press Style – which is to say that the flow of the narrative often felt bogged down with researchers’ names and study names, etc. (vs. a footnote system that might have been less distracting). It is interesting to note that even the author, in her acknowledgements, talks of “reporting this book” rather than “writing” it. And it does feel like reporting.

Even so, I was so fascinated by the subject and the studies – because I like to read scientific studies – that I was not deterred by this choice of format. I highlighted many passages and plan to take to heart many of the suggestions in the book as I work toward greater creativity and clarity this year. Despite any style misgivings, I absolutely loved the content of this book!

(A version of Melissa Crytzer Fry’s review of THE NATURE FIX: WHY NATURE MAKES US HAPPIER, HEALTHIER, AND MORE CREATIVE by Florence Williams was published at GoodReads on JAN 12, 2019. It is reposted here with the permission of the reviewer.)



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