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Return to Nature with Emma Loewe

Emma Loewe is the co-author of The Spirit Almanac, and she is the senior sustainability editor for mindbodygreen, and she has just released the amazing book, Return to Nature: The New Science of How Nature Landscapes Restore Us. In it, she shares the different kinds of landscapes, how they effect your mental health, studies about why they improve your mental health, and things you can do to counter-act the effects of climate change on these landscapes. This discussion fits so well into this month’s theme of “finding home,” and I hope you love this conversation about the return to nature with Emma Loewe.

Ocean & Shore, Forests & Trees

Since Emma’s book outlines information about eight different environments, I thought it would be best to focus our discussion on the two that felt the most interesting and restorative to me. I live in California, and I find that the ocean and shore are often one of my go to places for getting away. And, having spent a lot of time each summer in the Santa Cruz mountains, I also have a strong affinity for the Redwood Forest there.

Research shows that oceans and shores are one of people’s favorite natural landscapes. When Emma and I talked about my time at UC Santa Barbara and how I spent a lot of time at the beach during my senior year there, she shared this about the ocean:

“One of the main theories as to why getting out in nature is so restorative for us mentally has to do with this idea that nature presents a certain set of factors that tend to be very cognitively restorative. And one of them is the sense of being away: stepping outside of your everyday routine and feeling like you’re in a new place.

They’ve done research in the UK that correlate living close to the coast with like decreased rates of depression. So it does seem like even when people live at the beach, it’s still very beneficial to them. It’s not something that they have sort of grown immune to, so to speak.”

The pandemic shifted how this book was written

It’s interesting to me that when Emma pitched this book, she envisioned traveling to the various landscapes and experiencing them as she wrote about them. This wasn’t ultimately possible because her proposal was accepted just after shelter in place hit, and instead she found that going online for her discussions and interviews opened up new opportunities that she hadn’t considered before. This feels like a through line for these recent interviews on Jump Start Your Joy: at the two year mark of the pandemic, many of us now have enough distance from the early pandemic to see how it’s impact has played out. For Fred LeBlanc, it was revisiting his earlier works for music. For Emma, it was re-envisioning her book, and as you’ll hear from Laura Joyce Davis, it was the beginning of her podcast (that changed a lot of things in her life).

In this episode, Emma Loewe and I talk about:

  • How the idea of this book came about
  • A profound memory Emma has of a maple tree in her yard growing up, and why many of us have anchoring memories that revolve around nature.
  • My resonance with the landscapes of oceans and coasts and forests and trees.
  • What a forest bath is, and how to experience one
  • The fractals in trees, and why that is soothing to humans
  • How to handle grief and anxiety over climate change in an effective and non-overwhelming way

Resources

Emma Loewe’s book, “Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us” on Bookshop.org

Emma Loewe’s website

Emma Loewe on Instagram

Interview with Fred LeBlanc on Jump Start Your Joy