Alan Logan and Eva Selhub, the authors of Your Brain on Nature, are (obviously) biased towards nature as the best thing ever for human health. In the book they give modern technology and the “Western diet” some pretty hard hits.
If you’re hoping the Supreme Court will allow you to marry your smartphone someday, or can’t imagine a meal that doesn’t come from the Golden Arches, this book will be a jagged pill to swallow.
What it’s about
Just like the title suggests, Your Brain on Nature is a book about how nature affects the human brain. It turns out, nature affects humans a LOT more than we thought (more than I thought anyway).
On the back cover, the book is described as a scientific look at the effect of nature on the human brain including behaviour, mood, mental health, and physical effects. It declares nature to be a powerful detox for information-obsessed modern society, and potentially a replacement for mood-regulating drugs.
What’s it’s really about
Reading about a bunch of experiments might sound boring – especially if you’re not interested in science – but the engaging writing style kept me turning pages. Despite some of the complicated concepts, the writing isn’t condescending, and the authors humanize the research and frequently relate it to a modern lifestyle (so even I can understand it).
Each chapter is a mini-essay on an aspect of how nature affects humans. Chapters include exercise in nature, pets as a connection to nature, and nature as a healer (among others).
Each chapter starts with a bit of history: how the modern world got to this point. Next is the science of nature and what it tells us (experimental results). Lastly, the authors include suggestions for harnessing the power of nature to increase overall health (what we can do with our new-found knowledge).
Some of the ideas in the book include nature as a mental health fortifier, an optimism booster, a healer, and a balm for modern screen-civilization. Although they might sound ridonculous at first glance, ideas are explained logically and backed up by scientific evidence. The authors do a good job of convincing, by presenting the facts and refuting counter-arguments. They convinced me anyway.
What surprised me
Your Brain on Nature makes it clear that the study of the nature-human connection has graduated from the domain of hippie dippy tree-huggers to the international stage. Studies are getting bigger, and more legitimate. Scientists all over the world are hard at work, finding ways to harness nature to unshackle humanity from pharmaceuticals and information overload (among other things).
Aimed at North Americans, the book is very North American-centered. The “nature” referred to, includes evergreen and deciduous trees, and “greenspaces” refers to urban parks. Other natural environments such as a beach, a desert, or tundra are not discussed.
I recommend it
Ultimately, Your Brain on Nature is an interesting read with a positive message, and ends on an optimistic note. Nature is something that we can get for ourselves that can make a big impact our lives.
A recommended read for people looking for ways to become healthier, and are interested in science, nature, and how they relate.
Nature affects travel. Read about it in Vacation with Nature in Mind – Your Body will Thank You