WWB Presents the BOOK WISE 2018 WINTER PICK ‘Into The Magic Shop’–Q&A with Author about the Real Power of Love, Kindness, & Compassion

Jan 26, 2018 by

 

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AUTHOR PROFILE: James Doty, MD, is a clinical professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University and the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University School of Medicine. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of CA, Irvine and medical school at Tulane University. He trained in neurosurgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and completed fellowships in pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP) and in neuroelectrophysiology focused on the use of evoked potentials to assess the integrity of neurological function. Dr. Doty is also an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist having given support to a number of charitable organizations including Children as the Peacemakers, Global Healing, the Pachamama Alliance and Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley.

 

Laura Connolly, Founder of WWB (aka Lauroly) Opening: Welcome Dr. Doty, it is my honor to have you join me for a Q&A at World Wise Beauty. Your book “Into the Magic Shop” has been out for two years but I just discovered it recently and just had to share it as a ‘Book Wise’ selection. The focus at World Wise Beauty is about cultivating wellness wisdom, with the understanding that each of us have our own unique journey in life. Your life story is a prime example of a ‘unique journey’ and cultivating wellness wisdom. There’s a beautiful speech you gave to medical students at Tulane University later in your career, that describes life’s ‘journey’ profoundly. You had tears in your eyes when you gave the speech and so did most of your audience. I would love to share it, but I think readers should discover it on their own when they read your book.  It will mean so much more once they read your very personal story.

There are so many well respected authors and visionaries from around the world who sing praises about your book. One expert called it “a moving memoir focused on the power of compassion and kindness”. It would be too simple to say your book is about your life journey and how sometimes we lose our way to find our way. It’s so much more than this. It’s an extremely honest story about how disconnecting from ourselves ( our feelings, heart and our pain) can lead us astray and eventually catch up with us in self-destructive ways. It’s also an inspirational story because you created magic in your life with little to no support and despite the huge obstacles you faced at every major junction in your life. What I kept thinking in my head as I read your book, was a Robert Frost quote, “The best way out is always through.” Sometimes we have to live through things to become wise and self-actualize. The other thing I noted early on when reading your book, was how you stated unequivocally that you loved your parents, and you knew they loved you even when they let you down. This made me smile. Love is powerful and it overcomes and compensates for many things in our life. So what I would like to do is start here with a focus on love, and your belief  that we are wired to ‘care, love and be kind’.

Lauroly Q- I know the protagonist in your book was “Ruth’ who demonstrated to you what unconditional kindness and compassion is, but what I found when reading your childhood memories is you had already possessed an abundance of love, kindness and compassion as a child. You were able to give love, and recognize love despite the turmoil of living with your dysfunctional family. You were also forgiving despite the real limitations of your alcoholic father. You were acutely aware of your parents challenges as a young boy, and you also knew they loved you. As I read your story, I kept thinking love has many languages and what is most important is that it is translated and understood. I love the chapter in your book “Alphabet of the Heart’. How did you know your parents loved you despite the disruptive turmoil in your home?

Dr. James Doty: When individuals are suffering and in pain very often they are self-focused and it is hard for them to be present and be emotionally available. This was case with my parents. As I mentioned, my father was an alcoholic and my mother had sustained a stroke and was frequently depressed to the point where she attempted suicide on multiple occasions. That being said, I remember my mother going out with what little money she had to buy something special for my brother, sister and myself at times. I was also a picky eater and when possible she would pack a special lunch for me that had things I liked. Even though my father was often distant, he still expressed his love for me. I remember having to bail him out of jail while in college which took all the money I had. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to pay my rent. A week before my rent was due, I received a note from my father and he had signed over a check he had received that not only paid for the bail but paid my rent for three months. He really had no money at that time but regardless he gave it to me. So in all these ways, my parents showed they cared as best they could.

Lauroly Q-  Thank you for your very sensitive and eloquent answer Dr. Doty. A wise quote from Plato that runs through my mind almost every day is “The part can never be well, unless the whole is well.” How many times have we seen public figures or celebrities fall apart or worse die, and wonder how could that be? They look fit, healthy and on top of the world and yet were literally crumbling inside because of either untreated mental illness, depression, lack of connection with both themselves and others around them, or struggling with severe drug addiction. Your inspiring story reminds us that mind, body and spirit must dance together. Herein lies the magic of our existence and the secret to living well. Do you think looking back at the young boy you were, you could really understand what Ruth meant by “letting your heart be your compass”? Perhaps your heart was just a bit over extended for a young boy? You had to grow up pretty fast didn’t you?

Dr. James Doty: My story as a boy is not an uncommon one in a family dynamic that suffers from mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse or poverty. Often children are put into position where they have responsibilities far beyond what they should be given. For some it builds strength that allows them to grow, others it creates anger and hostility and for others they descend into abuse of alcohol and drugs or develop mental disorders. But for the grace of God, I met Ruth who taught me how to see the world a different way and not to carry anger or hostility about my situation. And to also recognize that everyone is suffering. I was fortunate to have met someone who cared and took the time to teach me.

Lauroly Q- You were indeed fortunate to have met a special person like Ruth who shared her time and wisdom with you. This is the amazing thing about humans, that we can not only go through very painful experiences, but find forgiveness and go on to be compassionate human beings despite our past experiences. What do you think the catalyst is? Why can some hearts overcome and others completely close up? I want to say it is because somewhere along the way a person has to experience ‘kindness, compassion and love’. It may not be at home, but they have to know it, feel it, and experience it on their life journey. The younger the better. I always think about simple acts of kindness throughout my day interacting with people–how my kind actions however small can make a difference to a person traveling this journey of life.

Dr. James Doty: I think you’re right that to be compassionate often we have to have received compassion. It is hard to imagine that someone who has repeatedly suffered and never experienced love can give love and compassion to another. Usually such individuals carry not only deep pain but immense anger. They are also not self-compassionate as they believe that since they didn’t receive compassion or love that they don’t deserve it.

Lauroly Closing: Thank you so much again for joining me Dr. Doty, and for writing this inspirational book. It is truly inspiring and enlightening and it most certainly opens the heart. I hope all my World Wise Beauties read ‘Into the Magic Shop’ and share it as well. They should also visit your CCARES website (The Center for Compassion & Altruism Research and Education) and learn more about the great work you are doing advancing the study of Compassion and Altruism. Wishing you continued inner peace and kindness on your wonderful life journey…

Dr. James Doty Closing: Thank you, Laura for selecting and sharing my book. In closing we should remember that if you are reading this, you are more fortunate then the vast majority of people in the world. So many people create unhappiness within themselves because they look at others with more instead of looking at so many others with less and having gratitude. Contentment and happiness are choices. We should also never forget that regardless of our circumstance, within each of us is the capacity to make a positive impact on another person every day. Sometimes all it requires is a smile.

 

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How to Live Life Well in 2018…WWB Features 4 Inspiring Books Filled with Inspiration, Wisdom & Tips

Dec 31, 2017 by

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It’s New Year’s Eve, and baby it’s cold outside here on the East Coast of the United States! It seems like the perfect day to recommend 4 wise books that will be sure to warm you from the inside out and inspire your New Year. Here are a few points of interest about the books selected for you.

  • Three of the books have been selected as World Wise Beauty ‘Book Wise’ Picks in 2017 and you can find links to the Q&A with Authors below.
  • One of the books ‘The Little Book Of ‘Lykke’ was just released this week and the author also wrote the International Best Seller ‘The Little Book of Hygge’. Don’t know these fun Danish terms? Learn more via my book highlights below…
  • All of the books focus on wellness lifestyle and culture and inspire us to cultivate a healthy positive mindset while providing us with real tips on adopting their approach to happiness, personal fulfillment and well-being.
  • One of the books is about a Japanese approach to longevity and happiness. The authors are not natives of Japan but one of them has lived there for over 10 years and has really embraced the ‘Ikigai’ mindset. We can too!

Enjoy the overview below and order these books as soon as you can, so you can relax by the fire, or under a warm throw on a comfy chair, with a good book full of wellness wisdom and inspiration. While each book is short in length, they are filled with meaningful ideas and tips you will want to apply in 2018. Happy New year and may it be full of Ikigai, Lagom, Lykke and Hygge! Live Life Well…

 

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The title of the book Ikigai is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being.  Recently the book was selected as WWB’s Fall Book Wise pick. You can find the Q&A with author of the book here and learn more how he has embraced the ‘Ikigai’ mindset living in Japan.

WWB’s Fav Section: Finding Flow in Everything You Do–How to turn work and free time into spaces for growth. In a world that has us crazy with multi-tasking, we can learn a lot about focus and becoming completely absorbed with one task. Don’t you love that wonderful feeling when you have lost track of time and you are completely committed to where you are and what you are doing. Let’s go with the flow in 2018…

 

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The title of this book Lagom, is a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount”. The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). I think this mindset maybe the most challenging for Americans as we tend to strive for ‘more’ and this is strongly embedded in our psyche! With the environmental crisis we are facing world wide, hopefully we will embrace a Lagom state of mind sooner than later. What if enough was enough? Good questions to ponder in the New Year. Of note there are several books with LAgom in the title, but this particular book I found to be the most insightful and grounded. The author is not Swedish but she’s a travel writer and photographer, and enjoys exploring various cultures through food, tradition, and lifestyle. Of note, she’s an award-winning writer, speaker, and photographer represented by National Geographic Creative. You can find her award winning photographs throughout the book! My Q&A featuring her book is here to learn more about her worldly perspective and love of Swedish lifestyle.

WWB Fav Section: Nature and Sustainability! We Americans could use MORE of this wisdom! Don’t you think? What I love about the Swedish approach to home and living is the art of bringing nature indoors but also their appreciation for nature all around them. The Swedish interdependent mindset’ is one we can all aspire to.

 

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The title of this book is based on a Danish word ‘Hygge’ meaning a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). I like how the author simply says it’s ‘cocoa by candlelight.’ Love it! Don’t you want more “Hygge’ in your life? That hot cocoa metaphor is easy to conjure and can be experienced in your real life easily. Especially this week in New Jersey! You can find my feature on the book here and also learn more about the author’s research at the Happiness Research Institute.

WWB Fav Section: What’s Love Got to Do With it? Oxytocin! That’s what. Also called the ‘cuddle hormone’  oxytocin is a natural neurohormone produced by our bodies when we experience a feeling of love, warmth and security. It requires a hug, cuddling or just general physical closeness. The amazing thing is you can release Oxytocin just by petting and cuddling with your pet!  However we achieve some cuddling, we all need more of it flowing through our bodies for our health and wellness!

 

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Hot off the press! Last but not least, this book was just released here in the United States this week. Lykke is a Danish word for happiness and what better way to explore the concept of happiness than with the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (the capital of Happiness!) Here’s the thing, the really really good thing, Meik Wiking believes we all have the ability to achieve happiness. His research allows him to talk to people from all over the world and he believes WE HUMANS have a lot in common no matter where we are from. He has found the common denominator of happiness and whether we are in New Jersey, Copenhagen or India, we get happy about very similar things. Reading this book you will arm chair travel with the CEO of Happiness around the world and discover what truly makes us happy!

There are so many good tips sprinkled throughout this book, like simply start doing little random acts of kindness. I just did this today. My neighbor is away, and I brushed all the snow off her car and pulled her wipers up! I worried by the the time she got home, with the deep freeze we are facing this week, she might not be able to get into her car. I was doing my car, so why not do hers? Random Acts of Kindness starts right in your own neighborhood! Shhh don’t tell her. It was random!

WWB Fav Section: Decouple Well-Being and Wealth. Need I say more? Okay I will. Money does not buy happiness. Especially in Denmark! What seems to work well in Denmark,  is enjoying a good quality of life does not have to cost a lot of money. In fact the Danes are not alone, there are other cultures he highlights in the book who know how to be happy without being wealthy. Here is another cultural mindset example. In America we are told we will be happier if we make more money and buy more new things.  But what the author’s world wide research finds is happiness is linked with experiences not things. You will find so much wisdom in this ‘Little Book of Lykke’. A very world wise and worthwhile read sure to inspire your resolution to truly be happy in 2018!

 

 

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WWB’s ‘Book Wise’ Fall 2017 Surprise: Two Inspiring Books Explore Cultural Ideals and Values for a Life of Happiness & Wellness. Special Q&A with Two International Bestselling Authors…

Nov 2, 2017 by

WWB BOOK WISE FALL 17 (2)

Book Wise Category: Non-Fiction/Wellness Wisdom & Inspiration

 

 

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Author Profile: LOLA A. Akerstrom, Author of ‘LAGOM’, The Swedish Secret of Living Well

Having lived on three different continents — Africa, North America, and now Europe — for extended periods of time, Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström is drawn to the complexities and nuances of culture and how they manifest themselves within relationships.

She holds a master’s degree in Information Systems from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Lola worked as a consultant and programmer for over a decade before following her dreams of becoming a travel writer and photographer, exploring various cultures through food, tradition, and lifestyle.

Today, she’s an award-winning writer, speaker, and photographer represented by National Geographic Creative. She regularly contributes to high profile publications such as AFAR, the BBC, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic Traveller, to name a few –
She has received photography and writing awards, including recognition from the Society of American Travel Writers and North American Travel Journalists Association. In addition, Lola is the editor of Slow Travel Stockholm, an online magazine dedicated to exploring Sweden’s capital city in depth.

Author Insight: “For me travel is about being an open minded sponge.”

 

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Héctor García  author of ‘Ikigai’ the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, is a citizen of Japan, where he has lived for over a decade, and of Spain, where he was born. A former software engineer, he worked at CERN in Switzerland before moving to Japan, where he developed voice recognition software and the technology needed for Silicon Valley startups to enter the Japanese market. He is the creator of the popular blog kirainet.com and also the author of A Geek in Japan, a #1 bestseller in Japan.

Author Insight: “I enjoy more creating things than consuming them, I’m a dreamer.”

 

 

Laura Connolly, Founder of WWB Opening (aka Lauroly)- It is only when we read books like yours, that we realize how important ‘ideals, values and rituals’ are to a happy society, when they are baked into the culture. Culture is a way of life and a collective mindset. What I enjoyed about both your books, is you manage to distill the little rituals and habits that any person in any culture can adopt. We hope so anyway! The challenge for a big melting pot like the United States, is we have so many cultures within one country, and the only common one we all seem to relate to is our love for success and independence. Starting from this premise, how does a country like the USA adopt ‘wellness mindsets’ like yours when our philosophical pillars are so different? ‘Independence’ as a way of life is very different from an ‘interdependent’ socially connected way of life. How will your prescriptions for happiness and wellness translate to a place like the United States?

Lola: You can tell a lot by a culture based on how it handles stress. I often say that some cultures prioritize fighting stress first so they can be productive while some other cultures try to be productive while working through stress. Sweden (and many Scandinavian countries) fall in the former category while the US falls in the latter category. And what are the sources of stress in our lives? Getting adequate food, shelter, money, healthcare, education, etc, as well as other physiological needs. What happens is, cultural mindsets that prioritize fighting stress first will put structures in place to create as much harmony, order, fair access and organization as possible first, while cultures that fight through stress can create more ingenuity and competitiveness to deal with stress. Both mindsets have their pros and cons. However, Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries) have been consistently ranking in the Top 10 for high quality of life, overall happiness, work-life balance, and other social indices for decades. So there is something we can clearly learn and adopt on some level from their cultural mindsets. This is why it was important for me to tackle the “why” of the lagom mindset on a deeper level in my book, not just “what” a lagom mindset superficially does (i.e., fika recipes, eat cinnamon buns, declutter, etc). A lagom mindset is all about balance and anything that tips that scale heavily to one side or the other (not too much, not too little) can be considered a form of stress so the mindset continually re-calibrates itself (just right) by trimming excess and unnecessary things – be they physical, relationships, or tasks.

Hector: I like to thing in terms of individualism(independence) vs collectivistic mindset. As you say U.S culture is very individualistic and that leads everyone to be always in a mindset of continuous competitiveness. Japan is a very collectivist society, there is competition but at group levels. If you try to be individualistic here and stand upon the group you will most probably fail here. You have to be much more careful and mindful about others by default just by being here embedded in the culture. So, how do you implement a wellness mindset in a place like the United States? I believe it all starts with having an awareness of things. It seems easy but is not. One way to gain awareness is by asking ourselves WHY are we doing certain things. Many times we will realize that we are just doing things to show off or to gain the approval of others (for example checking smartphone first time in the morning is a reaction of wanting to know if we have the approval of others on Facebook, Instagram etc.). Once we have the awareness that we are being driven by a very “independent” mindset the next step is to start finding what we really want to do in life, our IKIGAI. This is also not easy, but one of the first steps is to start by eliminating bad habits from your life. A simple one is to not check your smartphone during the first 2 hours of the day. When you start eliminating bad habits, you will naturally tend to start doing more of the things that you really like and love. Your life will start shifting naturally to your IKIGAI--your reason for living.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I found when reading your books, is both cultures value ‘simplicity’ and ‘nature’. It seems in your cultures, you do not separate the home from nature. In other words, your ‘interdependent’ mentality extends to nature as well. Share with us, how this leads to happiness in the home and the community in your culture…

Lola: Indeed. The Swedish love for nature is rather intrinsic and has been cultivated since youth (as early as kindergarten). Kids are bundled up under layers of clothes and left to play for hours outside regardless of weather (barring full blizzards). Many schools follow an active outdoor program. Babies sleep in strollers outdoors. There are several government policies in place (including Allemansrätten – every man’s right) that allows you to fully enjoy nature, camp. pick berries/mushrooms and use any public land as freely as possible. So Swedes see nature as their home and are proactive in terms of cleaning and taking care of it, just like our physical homes.

Hector: Simplicity is key in Japan. When I arrived here with my European mindset I found Japanese shinto shrines so simple that I was not impressed at all (I was used to European cathedrals and churches). But with time I came to appreciate more and more the beauty of Japanese shinto shrines precisely because of how simple they are. I learned that simple does not mean easy. We humans tend to get attached to all kinds of objects or possessions. Training our minds and souls to be happy with as less as possible is not easy, but once done we will feel freedom in our souls. I will use the same analogy with nature. Japanese shinto shrines are almost always surrounded by nature, even when found in cities, the shrines are filled with trees that cover them in green. Japanese know that nature is not part of life, they understand that nature is life.

Lauroly Q- Daily rituals are a big part of both cultures. Which rituals do you think are driven by the cultural values of your country? Can you connect the value with the ritual? Which ones do you think can translate and work in any culture?

Lola: One of the most notable rituals is the daily act of observing fika – which is breaking several times a day (3-4 times even) to enjoy coffee and a sweet treat with colleagues, friends, or family. While on the surface it may seem like just a sweet tradition, it is a form of re-centering to keep that internal lagom scale balanced. Working too much is an antithesis of lagom. Work-life balance is collectively pushed within the Swedish psyche through lagom. Partaking in fika is an act of re-calibration, so you can carry on processing the day from a point of balance and harmony. The tradition of fika is firmly rooted in lagom.

Hector: One big daily ritual in Japan is to bath in hot water. It is done most of the times before going to bed. It has been shown lately that both hot water baths and saunas 3-4 times per week have many benefits to our health. This is just one of the most common rituals, but Japan in general is a ritualistic culture, in which “micro-rituals” embed the life of everyone. For example, before starting any business meeting there is always the same business card interchange ritual with very precise manners that sets the mood of the meeting. It is not about specific rituals that will change your life, it is more about using rituals or micro-rituals to do things daily without having to be stressed to make decisions or be stressed about doing something. Rituals automate many things in our lives and help us to focus on what is important.

Lauroly Closing- I am so honored to share both your books as ‘Book Wise’ picks at World Wise Beauty. Both books are inspiring and together create a healthy cultural cocktail we can all enjoy and digest. I would suggest including each of them in a loved ones stocking for Christmas. Or each can be given on days of Hanukkah!  Here is to a lovely holiday season full of wellness ideals like slowing down and spending time with family and friends. we have to find a way to make this more of a daily experience in our lives.

Lola Closing: Thanks so much Laura. The beauty of observing how other cultures work and what they do exceptionally well is that we can pick and choose which elements of their mindset we can adopt to make our own lives richer in many ways. Lagom doesn’t hold all the answers in life but what it does hold is the mental key to free us from overt and needless consumerism by paring down what we truly need to be focusing on, buying, or maintaining in our lives.

Hector Closing: Totally agree Laura. We have to slowly shift our awareness from always trying to stand out, be successful and compare ourselves to others to being more present to our friends and family. The more we listen to the people we love, the more they will start also listening back and forgetting a little bit about getting more likes on their social networks. We humans, we are social beings, let’s be together in our lives and not alone and “individualistic”. In a way it can also be something to make us better, since the more love we give the more supported we will feel by the people around us, and the more love we feel, the healthier we will be and the longer we will live. This is what we discovered when visiting Ogimi, the village of the longest living in the world to write our book about IKIGAI. They live in very close communities in which they all support each other. Thank you for featuring us!

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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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World Wise Beauty Presents the Winter 2017 ‘Book Wise’ Pick and it Promises to Keep You Warm From the Inside…Out

Feb 18, 2017 by

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BOOK WISE Winter Pick: The Little Book of Hygge –The Danish Way to Live Well

 

CATEGORY: Wellness/Non-Fiction

 

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Denmark

 

AUTHOR: Meik Wiking

 

OF NOTE: Book was a best-seller in the UK and just released in America in January,

 

 

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It is with great pleasure to select the ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ as the WWB ‘Book Wise’ Winter Pick! The timing couldn’t be better, as we all can use more ‘hygge’ in the winter. I came across the word Hygge back in June 2016 when interviewing Dr. Tim Lomas, who launched the Positive Lexicography Project, an online glossary of untranslatable words that describe positive traits, feelings, experiences, and states of being that had no direct counterparts in English.

Check out his project via the link above and the WWB Q&A with Dr. Lomas here. The author of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ also spends time on special words and their meaning and even shares a Hygge dictionary in the book.

So for those who are wondering what the heck is Hygge? I will share a few lines from the the author’s introduction of the book….

“Hooga? Hhyoogah? Heurgh? It is not important how you choose to pronounce or even spell ‘hygge’. To paraphrase one of the greatest philosophers of our time ‘Winnie the Pooh’–when asked how to spell a certain emotion “You don’t spell it–you feel it.” ~Meik Wiking

 

 

Let’s indulge you anyway with a quick definition and you’ll be all caught up with our new favorite word.

 

 

DANISH: Hygge (n) : a deep sense of of place, warmth, friendship and contentment

 

On a personal note, a very dear friend from the UK sent me this book for Christmas and I was tickled. It was the best Christmas gift ever, especially because I know she is also a lover of all things Hygge, and we share simpatico (another great word!) in this area. I should be careful about using the word ‘things’, as the author will tell you, Hygge is about an atmosphere and experience rather than things. Yet a beautiful little teapot sure does contribute to the hygge in a room!

If you have been following this blog, you know that I am a lover of wellness wisdom and books. Anytime I can glean wisdom or ideas from other cultures particularly in the wellness arena, I am eager to share them with you.  The Little Book of Hygge was written by none other than the CEO of Happiness! Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark and has the best job in the world, wouldn’t you say? How cool is it, that there is an actual institute studying happiness! It all sounds fun, but this is a serious institute studying the causes and effects of happiness, and how to improve quality of life for its citizens. If you aren’t aware, the Danes rank number one as the happiest culture in the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t catch up to them though! As the author reminds us in his book…Hygge is for everyone. If you aren’t inspired yet to read this book, then I suggest you go on your curmudgeon way, because I am about to share the 10 important values from the HYGGE MANIFESTO included in the book…

HYGGE MANIFESTO

1- Atomosphere–Turn down the lights

2- Presence–Be here now and turn off the phones

3- Pleasure —Coffee, chocolate, cookies and cakes ( oh my!)

4- ‘We’ over me--share the tasks and the ‘airtime’!

5- Gratitude–take it in, this might be as good as it gets

6- Harmony–it’s not a competition, we already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements!

7- Comfort– Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation

8-Truce–No drama, let’s discuss politics another day

9- Togetherness–Build relationships and narratives ” Do you remember when we…”

10- Shelter–This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and securityes here

What a wonderful manifesto and all this gets baked into a very happy Danish culture. Not hard to understand why they are so happy with social values like these. I did really respect the author for including a section in the book on the dark side of Hygge. He points out the downside of the close, tribal, and social landscape found in Denmark, is they don’t welcome newcomers very well. This syncs with N0. 10 of the manifesto  ( the sense of peace and security one feels within your own tribe). We all want to belong, but I happen to believe there is nothing more cozy than making someone feel welcome and included.  Of course, as long as they practice number two, four and eight of the manifesto!

Enjoy the book my wise friends, and may your winter days be full of Hygge!

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