Making Spaces of Awe and Restoration With Florence Williams

Imagine an investment in your body, mind, and soul that only costs your time.

Florence Williams has a passion for telling audiences how to harness a powerful force that can improve lifestyles. She forges a path through urban spaces so we can all benefit from nature’s proven abilities.

“I’m passionate about this idea because it’s a simple, inexpensive and an egalitarian way for us to access our humanity and feel better about ourselves and each other,” Florence said.

Her passion was first ignited by a move from the open-spaced Rocky Mountains to congested Washington, D.C. A flame began to grow inside her during an Outside Magazine assignment to look at nature and human health.

“As an author and freelance writer, my contribution is to inspire others to make spaces of awe of restoration, like urban planners, and to inspire all of us to make time in our lives to use those spaces,” Florence said.

This inspiration led to Florence’s trek across Utah with Dr. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah. While camping with David and his psychology students, she saw first-hand the science behind the value nature holds.

“I’m looking at the brain and how it converses with the environment around us in ways we don’t always realize,” Florence said.

Her research with Strayer was featured in the January 2016 National Geographic magazine article, “This Is Your Brain on Nature.” The science behind nature’s capabilities on our psyche has led to profound results.

“When we spend time in nature, we become happier, healthier and more creative,” Florence said.

Florence has always had a connection to nature. As a child growing up in the heart of New York City, she understands personally the immense effect a dose of nature can have.

“I spent as much time as possible in my favorite place — Central Park,” Florence said. “I later learned that park’s designer, Olmsted, believed that greenery makes us better humans and even makes our institutions, like democracy, stronger. Ironically, nature is good for civilization.”

Florence has focused on the environment, health, and science as a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University.

“I’ve always been interested in the connections, often hidden, between people and the environment,” Florence said.

Florence is an acclaimed writer who has won six magazine awards and was named “Author of the Week” by The Week in May 2012. Florence also wrote BREASTS: A Natural and Unnatural History.

The book, “BREASTS was an environmental history of a body part, looking at how the outside world affects a particularly sensitive organ in terms of toxins, growth, and evolution,” Florence said.

BREASTS received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction.

Florence will discuss her  research on how to make spaces of awe and restoration in her TEDxNavesink Makers talk on April 9, 2016, at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theater. Her focus will be on creating those spaces in an increasingly urban and frenetic world, looking at the latest science behind these powerful, but understudied emotions, and how inspirational pioneers in urban planning are working to improve our cities and our brains.

You can enjoy her TEDxNavesink talk along with other inspiring speakers on Saturday, April 9. Limited seating is available and last year’s event sold out; buy your tickets before the big day.

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