OGDEN — Got nature?
The correct answer is yes. Even though you might not go out in nature, you’ve got it. And, according to journalist Florence Williams, you better start getting out in it.
At least that’s what Williams discovered in researching her book ”The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.” She’ll be in Ogden next week as part of the Utah Humanities Book Festival, speaking about her findings and advocating for getting a nature fix.
Williams is a journalist who, at age 9, knew she wanted to write. She began her writing career under Ed Marston at High Country News in Paonia, Colorado. She has since written about nature and science for The New York Times, National Geographic, Outside Magazine and more.
Williams became interested in nature’s role in our lives after moving from Boulder, Colorado, to Washington, D.C. She found that she missed the mountains and was suffering from nature deficit disorder — designated by the journalist Richard Louv as what happens when you spend too little time in natural environments.
The effects she experienced set Williams on a journey of discovery. The result is this account of her trek, “The Nature Fix,” wherein she deftly melds her personal experiences with scientific research to bring the connections between nature, happiness, health and creativity to light.
Williams traveled around the globe, speaking and working with researchers and experts to uncover a secret about nature. No, it’s not that we don’t need it, t’s that we need it now more than ever. Fortunately, science is paying attention to this lack and providing us with heaps of proof that we need significantly more nature in our lives, according to Williams.
Many of us, despite nature’s proximity along the Wasatch Front, fail to reap the rewards nature has to offer — for free, to boot. With so much data to back up the benefits, Williams wonders why we don’t take a romp through the woods more often.
“A lot of us undervalue the benefits of being immersed in nature and green spaces,” Williams says. “Yet there’s a lot of compelling data that it’s better for us than we think.” It affects our mood, health, cognition. It makes us more productive and more creative, and makes us “be more pleasant people for our family to be around.”
This immersion requires that we disconnect from our devices. As Williams points out, “It’s important to highlight this research at a time when we are busier than ever and more plugged into our devices than ever.” According to her, we’ll “get the biggest bang when we turn off the devices” and “listen to birds, watch clouds and the sunset.”
Without our electronic devices, Williams says we can “be more present and mindful.” And that’s mindful without meditation — simply take a stroll through your nearby forest or park.
Paying attention to how you feel when you’re outside is an integral part of getting your nature fix, according to Williams.
“Notice which environments speak to you,” the author recommends. “Know your happy places and tune into how you feel.”
And what about all those awful city noises?
“Try walking along a creek,” Williams prescribes. “Water sounds drown out sounds in the city. Places where you hear more nature sounds than city sounds are more powerful.”
Williams endorses going for an early morning walk — for the birdsongs and “getting a hit of daylight for circadian rhythms.”
“There are lots of ways to hack timing and location to maximize benefits for health and well-being,” she assures us.
Williams is well-versed in the convergence of health, environment and the modern world. She’s explored the hidden connections between bodies and the environment and world around us for many years.
“These connections are profound, but we don’t always think about them,” she said. “How we treat the planet is very important in terms of our own health.”
Rest assured that Williams isn’t hating on urban life.
“Living in cities is wonderful,” she enthuses. They provide “great access to health care, educations and jobs.”
From Williams’ perspective, making cities humane is a continuing challenge we face as those cities become larger and more populated. Current city planning often misses the mark where health and well-being are concerned, she believes.
“Making cities livable will be the greatest challenge of the 21st century,” she reckons.
In addition to this book, Williams wrote “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History” and created two Audible originals related to her books, “The 3-Day Effect” and “Breasts Unbound.” She is also a podcaster and a public speaker.
To find out more, go to www.florencewilliams.com.