Monday, June 18, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality by Eva M Selhub and Alan C Logan

Outdoorsy folks have known it for years: Something about the big wild is very, very good for our souls. Really, anyone who’s ever noticed a change in their mood when they get out for a quick walk on a nice day knows it, too. And what about those insufferably cheerful people, swanning around, chirping about how their chronic health problems or depression became manageable when they took up a lifestyle including whole foods, time outdoors and exercise? (Full disclosure: I am one of these people.) Well - as is typical for us insufferably cheerful folks - there’s more good news: Some perfectly good science has emerged endorsing a holistic approach to lifestyle management. It’s been collected in a concise, eminently readable volume called Your Brain on Nature.

Written by an MD and a naturopathic doctor (both instructors at Harvard), Your Brain on Nature takes care to ground itself in history before taking off with all the newest, shiniest research. Around the world, there’s a rich history of health care providers recommending exposure to nature to cure what ails us. But, the explosion of the pharmaceutical industry in the latter half of the twentieth century started a trend. Without hard science proving exposure to nature helped our mental health, or that whole foods were better for our bodies than the new, processed foods meant to save us time and money, physicians and patients began relying on pills. Our health began to break down, with Generation Y becoming the first generation in Canadian history expected to live shorter, sicker lives than their parents. So what are we missing?

Selhub and Logan investigate many recent studies on the biggest changes in our lives, from the amount of screen time we log on an average day; to the cognitive effects of visual and physical exposure to natural scenes; to the science behind the whole foods movement and why processed foods are breaking down our health – they even examine literature on benefits of pet ownership. In plain language and with a sense of humour, they take on the health-eroding elements of our lives with a practical outlook. They don’t desire we all become smartphone-shunning Luddites eating homemade granola in tree forts; rather, they advocate a more mindful, balanced approach to the technologies, foods and pharmaceuticals that fuel our culture. After all, they argue, what we’re doing isn’t working. The science is in. We need nature, too. Your Brain on Nature is highly recommended to fans of Michael Pollan, readers of popular science nonfiction, and to anyone wishing to explain to their loved ones why they really do need to put down that phone and get out for a walk.

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on June 14, 2012. Written by Shauna Thomas, Librarian. 

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