WWB Wise Guru Q&A Series: Newly Released Book ‘The Nature Fix’ Presents Cutting Edge Science on How Nature Affects our Health & Well-Being from a World Wise Perspective…

Mar 15, 2017 by

NatureFix_2 with frame.jpgWWB Wise Guru: Florence Williams is an American journalist and nonfiction author whose work focuses on the environment, health and science. She is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and a freelance writer for National Geographic, the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, High Country News, O-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications.

Her first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction. The New York Times named it a notable book of 2012.

She was a Scripps Fellow at the Center of Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. She is a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University. She serves on the board of nonprofit environmental magazine, High Country News.

WWB Featured Book: ‘The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative’ explores the science behind our connection to nature and proposes that for optimal well-being, regular doses of nature are not only recommended but required.

 

Lauroly Opening- I am so honored and pleased Florence Williams could join me for a Q&A. Her book is a favorite of mine, and so glad she wrote it. Perhaps it’s a favorite because it speaks to me on a very personal level. Nature has always been my fix, without a doubt. Having said this, I never classified myself as ‘Nature Girl’. I didn’t camp as a kid and I didn’t hike until my 20’s. But being outside and playing in nature was always a big part of my life experience. I can thank my Dad for that. I have this in common with the author! I only saw him on weekends growing up, and every weekend, weather permitted, we were either horseback riding in the woods, walking in the woods, or rowing a boat on a lake next to the woods. Those early experiences and the need to be outdoors has never left me. I like the term Florence used in the book, “drinking the tonic of nature.”I wrote a piece for this very blog on Nature Therapy in 2015 and briefly discussed ‘Forest Bathing’ in Japan which she covers quite extensively in the book. Later in my life, traveling for business, I would always make a point to find a Public Garden no matter where I was, so I could reconnect with nature and myself. Reading ‘The Nature Fix’ confirmed what I have had always felt intuitively about nature…I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me.

Besides my personal connection to the topic of your book, I found it to be the perfect non-fiction book. It is well researched, highly informative and very entertaining as well. I love how she takes us through the research via her own personal travel. Her travel takes us to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Scotland, and we learn a lot about their cultures and wellness philosophies. Florence packed so much into this book, I found myself really challenged about where to start. I remind myself that I do these Q&A’s to recommend books and motivate people to go and read the books. I hope to touch on some of the many important findings in this book…

 

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Lauroly Q- Welcome Florence Williams! So if everyone hasn’t heard yet, nature is good for civilization!  What you set out to do is to find the science to support why nature is so important to our humanity and our everyday well-being. To do that we need to understand our senses and how much of how we function is synced with nature.  It seems to me that when we are out in nature we are fully alive, because many of our senses are engaged in our experience. This explains to me personally why I am generally happier when I am outside. There is an enlightening chapter where you focus on a man in Sweden who experienced a personal tragedy and later came to understand how important nature therapy is to patients with depression. Yet like everything else with humans, the dose of nature varies from human to human.  What do we know so far about nature as therapy? Tell us more…

 

 

 

flopromoBarrOutdoorFlorence Williams: Yes, Lauroly, you are exactly right that it does seem to be the full-sensory experience that awakens our sense of well-being, and that there are many studies that support this idea. But the science is still young, and many of the studies are very small. It’s actually quite difficult for scientists to tease apart exactly which elements of nature are most helpful or which senses are most engaged. I was struck by the studies in Japan, led by Japanese anthropologist Yoshifumi Miyazaki, that measured physiological changes to the nervous system after just 20 minutes of being in the woods. These studies showed a 20-minute stroll on a forest trail can reduce your blood pressure an average 11 percent and lower your cortisol hormones (a measure of stress) by six percent. Perhaps because of the practice of forest bathing in Japan, people there are attuned to using all their senses in the woods – so they’re really paying attention to what they’re smelling and feeling and hearing and seeing. It seems that shortcut to mindfulness really helps us feel calmer and relaxed more quickly when we’re out in nature.
 

Lauroly Q– Glad you started with Japan. We can’t discuss your book without talking about ‘ Shinren Yoku (Forest Bathing)’. What is it about the Japanese culture, that has them embracing Forest Bathing so fervently that it has become part of their national healthcare policy? When you asked Miyazaki why nature is so important to their culture, he had this to say, “In our culture, nature is part of our minds and bodies and philosophy. In our tradition, all things are relative to something else.” Loved his answer. But it is amazing how the Japanese ended up being so far removed from the very thing that defined them isn’t it?

Florence Williams: Japan industrialized very quickly. The cities grew fast and there was intense economic competition for good jobs, good schooling and feeding the corporate culture. People are stressed out there, and they work and study incredibly long hours, effectively removing them from a lot of time in the countryside. But it would be mistake to say that modern life has disconnected them from nature. The Japanese still internalize a close connection to plants, for example, in their practices of bonsai and flower arranging, in their tiny gardens and through their lens of wabi sabi, which celebrates the seasons and simple nature. I think in many ways the Japanese definition of nature is more generous that the western one, which looks at spaces like parks and wilderness areas, rather than integrating elements of the natural world into everyday life and homes. That said, the Japanese do seem to relish getting outside when they can. As a result of Miyazaki’s data, the country has designated 48 “forest therapy” trails where overworked, urban citizens are now urged to go unwind, and it looks like more trails are being created.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I was wondering about while reading about your research in Finland, is related to Vitamin D (sun) and the deprivation they experience in winter. Have any researchers looked at how tree therapy might counteract the negative effects of not having enough sun? This is a good time to tell us about why Cypress Trees seem to have such a positive effect on our senses. As you put it, in the book “we enjoy a neural bath of happy hormones”! Below is a quick video you created to illustrate the beneficial effects of nature…

 

Florence Williams: Trees are certainly magical and wonderful, and hit a lot of our happy buttons, from providing rich visuals, especially fractal patterns (known to promote alpha brainwaves) to creating habitat for birds that in turn relax us with their birdsong. The smell piece is fascinating, as tree aerosols from cypress trees in Japan were found to lower blood pressure and increase Killer T immune cells in humans. That said, even in Finland and even in winter, being outside provides more brightness and full-spectrum light than being inside, and so the light aspect is still important. Full spectrum light is linked to wellbeing, and vitamin D is linked to all sorts of good things, from shaping our retinas to strengthening our bones. The lumens outside is generally 10 times greater than the lumens inside, except of course at night. Even the darkness, though, can help reset our circadian rhythms so we sleep better.

Lauroly Q- As a psychology major I found a lot of the research on education, and brain disorders like ADHD fascinating with respect to nature. Besides the specific special needs of children on the spectrum, your book explores the idea that children in general really need nature and play. I loved the section on Friedrich Frobel and his research. He focused on cultivating curiosity and freedom in childhood. Tell us how ‘kindergarten’ was originally conceptualized, and how nature was at the center of child education…

Florence Williams: Friedrich Froebel, who was born in Germany in 1782, was an educator heavily influenced by Rousseau, who said, “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Author of Nature.” Rousseau and Froebel both made a case for allowing young children to explore and learn based on their own curiosity. Froebel believed that an education filled with nature and art could instill a lifelong readiness to learn and also develop empathy and a love for living things. He really invented kindergarten, and it was nature-based from the beginning. Unfortunately, many cultures now consider kindergarten the new first-grade, and are taking children inside to sit at desks and learn their academics. We are not devoting enough time to considering what has been lost in this new model.

Lauroly Closing: I hope we don’t lose that model. Cultures change, but we don’t have to lose the wisdom that has already been acquired, especially when it comes to child development. Thank you Florence for joining me at World Wise Beauty, to discuss your important and wonderful book. I am going to make it my personal duty to share this book with everyone! I know they will love it and your research will resonate for them. I believe we are realizing nature is not a luxury but an absolute essential to our personal wellness, our humanity and our culture. See you out there Florence!

Florence Williams Closing: Thanks so much for your interest, Lauroly. It was so much fun reporting and writing this book, and it’s certainly made me spend more time outside. I will hope it will influence others as well.

 

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WWB Wise Guru Series: Discover Your Chronotype and Sleep Like a Baby. Q&A with Dr. Michael Breus, Sleep Doctor & Author of New Book ‘The Power of When’

Nov 16, 2016 by

thepowerofwhen

 

WWB Wellness Wisdom Book Selection: The Power of When

 

Wise Guru & Author: Dr. Michael Breus

 

Author Profile: Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Breus has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show more than 30 times and writes regularly for The Huffington Post, The Dr. Oz Blog, and Psychology Today. He is the author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Beauty Sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauroly Welcome: Thank you Dr. Breus for joining me here at World Wise Beauty. I am sure this is going to be one of the best read posts I’ve shared, because everyone seems to be chasing the elusive sound sleep these days. I found your introduction in the book to be very important, as it gives sleep the cultural and sociological context we need to understand. The fact is our lifestyles have drastically changed. You really present a case for understanding these culture shifts and it is clear that these advancements in our culture have affected our sleep rhythms. What I like about your book is you identify the sleep disruptions but also provide the solutions on a case by case bio-individual basis. You call this ‘chronobiology’. You explain a lot in your book, but let’s get started here with an overview of chronobiology. What does it mean and why does it matter? The title of your book ‘The Power of When’ is perfect because you show us ‘why’ sleep matters in all aspects of our day.

 

[dr-breusbox] Dr. Breus: Chronobiology is the study of Chrono-rhythms. This is an active area of science and research where we look at the genetic chronobiology of certain types of individuals and then use our learnings to improve their lives and better understand our own! When you have a genetic propensity, and you do not follow it, your life is not only unproductive, but you use energy, regularly, when it is un-necessary. Going against your biology, is not only inefficient, but also foolish. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of your perfect time to do things? It just makes sense. Sleep is FUNDAMENTAL to our entire biology, psychology, and communication. If you start reviewing your health at this type of basic level, you will gain an insight that you otherwise would miss. And by the way, people have been missing this for YEARS. I did not make all this up, this is research that has been publicly available, but people have not put it all together in a cogent program, that everyone can follow. The Power of The Power of When, is that it is sooooo simple, to understand and to do. [/box]

 

 

Lauroly Q-  I took all your tests and I seem to be a little of everything. Yet honestly I would say, if left to my own devices I would be a night owl. I don’t seem to be a lion, wolf or dolphin but certainly felt like a dolphin in stressful times and was a wolf as a teenager. Is there a continuum with chronotypes? Or is it fixed for life?

 

Dr. Breus: Yes, it is a continuum. We know that at certain ages we do live certain chronotypical lives. Teenagers are easy. They are mostly wolves. Remember when you were a teenager? You probably wanted to stay up late and sleep late. This is BIOLOGICALLY driven, it is not their fault. And guess what, it changes again when we get older. Personally I think it happens when our brains slow down on the production of melatonin. This will turn people into dolphins and lions as they age. Your chronorhythm seems to set at about age 20 and stays that way until age 55 or so.

Lauroly Q- Through your research, you have pinned down everything from the timing of sex, to practicing yoga, to having an important conversation with someone. It really is amazing and seems to make a lot of sense. It’s all about our rhythms. Is it ideally better to be a bear and in sync with the world?

 

Dr. Breus: Yes and No. Bears do have it the easiest, simply because as you noted society seems to favor their schedule, but they seem to also do a lot of things at the wrong time. Each Chronotype will get some big things out of the book, Lions will learn how to be more social in the evenings, Dolphins should have a schedule that makes them more productive, and Wolves will learn more about how to handle mornings. Is it better to be a Bear? I think most people have “Lion Envy” where they think they want to be something that they are not. Lions do not have it so great, trust me.

Lauroly Q- What is the one important sleep tip you would give to all the chronotypes?

Dr. Breus: Once you understand your sleep schedule it is best to stick to it. If you are a Lion during the week, be one on the weekends as well. I can’t stress this enough. While I know this seems simple, it cannot be more true. Consistency is the key to all of sleep and my program.

Lauroly Closing: Thank you for joining us Dr. Breus. It is amazing how much you have uncovered with your research. It gives us yet another prism in which to view our bodies as systems which need a lot of maintenance and care to operate and function optimally. Timing really is everything but I have to tell you…only the Lions love those early morning meetings!

Dr. Breus Closing: I can’t thank you enough for your insightful questions. Everyone can check out the free quiz at www.thepowerofwhen.com Unlock your Clock, and Unlock your potential!

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WWB’s Weekly Wisdom Wrap: Why Listening to Your ‘Gut’ Really Matters to Your Health & Wellbeing

Jun 27, 2015 by

 

There has been a lot of talk about ‘the gut’ lately amongst medical researchers and scientist. You might be thinking ‘Do I really want to be reading about bacteria and stomach bile’? What I will say to you is this,” Toughen up, you can stomach it!”. We often hear the expression ‘go with your gut’ and maybe there is good reason we use that expression. A gut feeling might manifest as a quick heartbeat or a stomach-ache instead of a conscious thought, giving the phrase “trust your gut” a much more literal meaning. Think about all the common expressions we use almost on a daily basis about the stomach…

 

  • butterflies in one’s stomach
  • cast-iron stomach
  • eyes are bigger than one’s stomach
  • feel sick to stomach
  • have butterflies in stomach
  • have no stomach for
  • pit of stomach
  • go with your gut
  • settle stomach
  • sick to one’s stomach
  • turn one’s stomach
  • way to a man’s heart is through his stomach

 

 

 

It turns out the ‘gut’ is pretty important to our overall health and it really matters. It is so important that a young microbiologist in Germany, Giula Enders wrote an International bestseller entitled Gut’ The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ’. Just released over a month ago here in North America, the New York Times profiled her interesting personal story about finding treatment for what seemed to be a ‘mysterious illness’. The whole journey inspired her to go on to acquire her PhD in microbiology. Following is an excerpt from the NYT profile…

Back in 2007, after a series of mostly ineffective treatments prescribed by doctors, Ms. Enders, then 17, decided to take matters into her own hands. Convinced that her illness was somehow associated with her intestines, she pored over gastroenterological research, consumed probiotic bacterial cultures meant to aid digestion and tried out mineral supplements. The experiments worked (although she is not sure which one did the trick) leaving her with healthy skin and new-found interest in her intestines.

 

In her book, she catalogs the myriad elaborate operations that our guts dutifully perform every day, like the cleaning mechanism that kicks in a few hours after we eat and keeps the small intestine — all 20 or so feet of it — remarkably tidy. This “little housekeeper,” as Ms. Enders calls it, turns out to be the real source of the grumbling that most attribute to the stomach and mistake as a sign of hunger.

Then there is the growing body of research indicating that our intestines may have a far greater influence on our feelings, decisions and behavior than previously realized. The primary evidence for this, Ms. Enders writes, is the vast network of nerves attached to our guts that monitors our deepest internal experiences and sends information to the brain, including to those regions responsible for self-awareness, memory and even morality

So, this is a woman who is listening to her gut, and certainly trusted her instincts. There has been research going on for a number of years on the eco-system of your intestines. Many women who have suffered with yeast infections have become more familiar with the balance of flora in their bodies than they ever wanted to. In fact, in the 90’s, a condition called Candida became a popular condition that many women seemed to be struggling with. Essentially they had an overgrowth of yeast and imbalance of bad bacteria living in their lower intestines. Yes there is good bacteria and bad bacteria. Wondering what the biggest driver of an overgrowth of bad bacteria is? Sugar, yes good old sugar. Or should I say bad? Yeast feeds on sugar. Isn’t it amazing that we are just coming to terms with the idea that too much sugar is just downright TERRIBLE for our bodies. Here are a few things that can contribute to an overgrowth of bad bacteria.

  • Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar
  • Consuming a lot of alcohol ( alcohol breaks down into sugar)
  • Taking oral contraceptives ( changes the ecology of your system via hormones)
  • Eating a diet high in beneficial fermented foods (like Kombucha, sauerkraut and pickles)
  • Living a high-stress lifestyle ( more chemistry interference)
  • Taking a round of antibiotics that killed too many of those friendly bacteria 
Keep in mind that fermented foods can actually be quite helpful in balancing the bacteria in your gut, but it’s a fine balance. Like anything, too much, tips the scales the other way. The symptom list is quite broad which is why many doctors did not take the Candida condition seriously 15 years ago. Now there is growing research on the importance of bacteria in our gut, and Greek yogurt and a popular brand called “Activia’ are now commonplace aides.  What we Americans became particularly familiar with was antibiotics ( which were over prescribed in our country). We learned that pro-biotics and yogurt could be helpful in getting our ‘flora’ back in check after the anti-biotics killed off all the good stuff! As you can see, the symptom list below is quite extensive. But usually having just a handful of them points to overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut.
  1. Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
  2. Feeling tired and worn down, or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
  3. Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  4. Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis
  5. Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog
  6. Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives and rashes
  7. Irritability, mood swings, anxiety or depression
  8. Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching or vaginal itching
  9. Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
  10. Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
I shared all of this to give context to the importance of our ‘gut’. It really is an important hub in our body and can run things in our bodies quite smoothly when we are treating ourselves well. It also can create a lot of havoc when we are not! If you think you have the Candidia condition, find yourself a good D.O doc or one that specializes in functional medicine, who can help you get to the bottom of your condition with a holistic approach.
Not convinced yet? Take a look at this recent post from  Science Daily. Below is an excerpt from the article…
In recent years, research into the benefits of gut bacteria has exploded. Scientists across the globe are examining how these microbes can help improve health and prevent disease.”In coming years, scientists will learn a great deal about the microbes that exist within us…
This is pretty exciting stuff, and what is encouraging is we are learning that our diet and lifestyle can keep at bay a lot of nasty conditions that begin in the gut when we mistreat it! Another interesting article just this past week, from the New York Times, explores the real connection between our gut and our brain. This whole area of mircobiome research is groundbreaking, and we can see how introducing foreign substances to our body can be very damaging. See the excerpt below and reference to ‘side effects of pharmaceutical drugs’.

Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood? by Peter Andrey Smith

Illustration by Andrew Rae/New York Times Article

Since 2007, when scientists announced plans for a Human Microbiome Project to catalog the micro-organisms living in our body, the profound appreciation for the influence of such organisms has grown rapidly with each passing year. Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down our food; their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effects of prescription drugs. Biologists now believe that much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity. The two million unique bacterial genes found in each human microbiome can make the 23,000 genes in our cells seem paltry, almost negligible, by comparison. ‘‘It has enormous implications for the sense of self,’’ Tom Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told me. ‘‘We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. That’s a phenomenal insight and one that we have to take seriously when we think about human development.’’
Need I say more? So I think we can end with the idiom we started with– “An army marches on in its stomach’. Essentially it means an army can’t fight a war on an empty stomach and needs a good supply of food. But the real truth is our entire body and wellness depends on the fuel we supply it with and the care we give it. So throwing any old thing into your stomach,  even if you have a cast iron stomach like the chef ‘Anthony Bourdain’, is going to ‘rock the house’ you live in for better or for worse. And you know what I am talking about don’t you? Because…

 

 

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WWB’s Culture Wise: The ‘Life Enhancing’ Benefits of International Travel…

Apr 9, 2015 by

I have to begin this new blog department with a wise quote from an American author and adventurist Mark Twain. “Travel is fatal to prejudice,bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” I couldn’t agree with this more. I was fortunate as an International Sales Manager to travel abroad for many years and attend international conferences. I met people from all over the world and the more I traveled I found most human beings are generally good-natured. Maybe this is my personal world view, but when I read this quote “Traveling increased what’s called generalized trust, or general faith in humanity.” from an insightful article in The Atlantic, I realized my perspective was shared by many other ‘world wise’ people. To a certain degree, I think being born in New York City, gave me an ‘instant passport’ to the diverse cultures of the world. It certainly inspired me to want to see more, learn more and understand more with a worldly perspective…

The above mentioned article from the Atlantic is entitled ‘For A More Creative Brain, Travel’, How International Experiences Can Open the Mind to New Ways of Thinking. The writer explores how in recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally– that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. The researchers found through numerous studies a clear correlation between time spent abroad and creative output. For example, the brands whose creative directors had lived and worked in other countries produced more consistently creative fashion lines than those whose directors had not. See expanded data in article…

I hope you take the time to read this interesting piece, but just in case you can’t, here are WWB’s top 5 takeaways to get your creative brain thinking and perhaps you might even book a trip to your next destination on your bucket list!

~Truly Herself, Lauroly

1. New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain.

2. “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel.

3. Traveling may have other brain benefits, too. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an associate professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California, says that cross-cultural experiences have the potential to strengthen a person’s sense of self.

4. What a lot of psychological research has shown now is that the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds than yourself, and the ability to get out of your own social comfort zone, is helping you to build a strong and acculturated sense of your own self.

5. Cross-cultural experiences have the potential to pull people out of their cultural bubbles, and in doing so, can increase their sense of connection with people from backgrounds different than their own.

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/for-a-more-creative-brain-travel/388135/

For those not able to plan a big trip right now. You will love this other wise finding from the research…

Although a new country is an easy way to leave a “social comfort zone,”The cultural engagement associated with cognitive change doesn’t have to happen abroad. If a plane ticket isn’t an option, maybe try taking the subway to a new neighborhood. Sometimes, the research suggests, all that’s needed for a creative boost is a fresh cultural scene.

P.S  For my arm-chair traveling friends, you might enjoy WWB’s ‘Book Wise’ Club as we will always be reading books with a focus on world culture and wisdom. Subscribe to this blog to stay informed about our next reading selection.

 

 

 

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