Nature has Superpowers for Us

Florence Williams, journalist, best-selling author, and contributor to numerous publications including Outside magazine, the New York Times, National Geographic and others will be in Columbia to discuss her newest book, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, sponsored by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation.

Williams makes the point that nature is the answer both on an individual level and more broadly across society.  Her premise is that “We suffer from an epidemic dislocation from the outdoors.” Her cure is specific and down to earth. “The more nature, the better you feel.”

From her personal immersion in current research, she brings her message back from different parts of the globe – Japan, South Korea, Finland, Scotland, Sweden, and across the United States – and shares with readers the benefits of forest bathing, power trails, and rambling.

With so many pharmaceutical companies claiming miracles if we swallow pills or get injections, we may have lost sight of the natural medicine right outside our doors. A walk in the woods can lift our mood and cure our ailments just as effectively as some prescriptions.

In a short five-minute walk in nature, our bodies and brains start to change. Heart rates slow.  Facial muscles begin to relax. The frontal lobe of our brain begins to quiet down.

Being in nature a minimum of five hours a month will make us happier overall, according to research from Finland.  The smell of pine trees strengthens our immune system helping us feel more calm and alert thanks to the brain’s activated alpha waves.

In Roger Ulrich’s research, patients recovered faster from cardiovascular surgery when they simply had a view of nature through a window.

Throughout time, people have reported personal experiences of awe, wonder and reverence when being in nature. These positive emotions are all associated with better health, humility, altruism and overall well-being.  Over 150 years ago, Thoreau recognized that, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

In the 1980s, Shinrin-yoku, literally “taking in the forest,” became a national craze in Japan. Walking among trees without distraction or hurry, ideally for two hours or more, counts as Forest Bathing.  As the masses escaped from their cramped city lives to spend time in the woods, the Japanese government made Forest Bathing part of their national health program in 1982.

Japanese researchers published over 100 studies to demonstrate how connection to nature benefits brains, bodies, emotions, thoughts, and interactions with others.  Excitement for this health-enhancing proposal soon spread around the world.

Researchers in the United States found “that in poorer Chicago neighborhoods where people lived near green spaces of lawns, parks and trees, they show reductions in ADHD symptoms, and greater calm as well as a stronger sense of connection to neighbors, more civility, and less violence in their neighborhoods.”

A European study showed that the death rate among men living in a tree-filled neighborhood decreased 16%.

Theories suggest that:

·      The trees emit oils as protection from germs and insects that help our immune system.

·      These Immune-boosting human cells help protect against viruses and cancers

·      Higher levels of activity results in higher levels of these cells after the 2nd day of walking in the woods and can last for more than a week later.

·      Regular contact with nature improves our well-being

·      The forest lowers heart and blood pressure and reduces stress hormones and depression which boosts energy.

·      It clears our head, relieves depression, improves focus, boosts creativity and makes us feel more alive.

A 2015 study reported benefits from increased movement and increased vitamin D as well as fewer negative thoughts and better stress relief.

An article in YES! Magazine published a year ago claimed that “nature makes us healthier and happier.”  Being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature paintings and videos can have positive effects.

How does nature fix us?   How and why does Awe increase generosity?

Here is some Advice from a Tree  (

·      Stand tall and proud

·      Remember your roots

·      Reflect the light of your true nature

·      Drink plenty of water

·      Enjoy the view!

And don’t forget to take a walk in the woods – in your neighborhood or in a South Carolina state or national park such as Harbison, Sesqui, Congaree or along the Palmetto Trail crossing the entire state of South Carolina!

For Information:  The Palmetto Conservation Foundation – 722 King Street or 803-771-0870

Visit to read all of Susan’s previous articles in the Columbia Star Newspaper and more.  As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Journal Therapist, Susan leads writing groups in South Carolina and is an instructor for online courses at The Writing Institute for The Center for Journal Therapy.


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1 Comment

  1. Pop on March 11, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    You are such a super writer and should publish a book!!

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