A breezy pop science read that examines the question of what it is exactly that getting out into nature does for our brains and why. Is it the smells? The fractals? The (relative) quiet and lack of distractions? The lack of pollution? Does it have to be actual nature, or will VR do? (Spoiler alert: VR will not cut it so far.) How tightly tied is all of this to our physical and mental health?
Previously unbeknownst to me, there are scores of scientists out there studying these questions, hooking hikers up to EEGs, taking measurements of cortisol levels, and comparing population health to local tree density, among many other studies. It’s a question of worldwide significance, given trends in urbanization, although Williams concentrates on Asia, the US, and northern Europe. I would have liked to see more variety there (although I suppose she was limited by what ongoing studies would allow her to tag along and/or participate).
As someone who has, over the past year+, gotten a firm sense of how claustrophobic our own homes can become and who has for the first time in her life invested actual money in Things to Go Outside With, I found it an interesting and validating read.