There's just something about stepping outside after a long day indoors. The way the sun beats down on you, the breeze kisses your skin, and the grass embraces your feet is calming and invigorating all at once. Journalist Florence Williams spent months of her life digging into this sensation, traveling the globe to pinpoint what exactly it is about nature that makes the human body light up.
"We think of nature as a luxury, not a necessity. We don't recognize how much it elevates us, both personally and politically," she writes in her book The Nature Fix, a riveting recount of her journey released earlier this year. "Without this knowledge, we may not ever fully honor our deep, cranial connection to natural landscapes."
When Williams moved from Colorado to Washington, D.C., a few years back, she couldn't anticipate how much she'd miss the mountain trails and sunrise hikes she was leaving behind. This nature void is what first inspired her to look into the specific way our outdoor environment affects our physical and mental health.
By tracing mankind's interactions with nature across generations and cultures, back to the age of Cleopatra, through the transcendental exploration of Muir and Emerson, all the way to groundbreaking research being done by scientists, physicians, and policymakers of today, she found that the answer couldn't be relegated to a sentence or two. Every aspect of time outside—the sounds, the sights, the smells—plays a part in making us happier, healthier people.