The 3-Day Effect: Hug a Tree, Hug Yourself (How’s This Book?)

Written and Narrated By Florence Williams
Published September 27th, 2018
Audible Original
Length: 3 Hours
Link to Purchase

When I picked this one up, I had all kinds of jokes in mind. I was going to make fun of it for being a book all about the healing powers of hugging a tree and why we need to protect nature. But upon listening to it, I realized that I couldn’t joke about this one. So, if you’re expecting any of my usually dry and sarcastic quips, you’ll be disappointed. This book deals with some serious subject matters, such as PTSD regarding military service and sex trafficking. Joking about those would diminish those who suffer because of them.

The 3-Day Effect is less of an audiobook and more of a radio documentary. Rather than telling a non-fiction story, it presents a simple scientific experiment. Instead of one or two narrators retelling the stories of each individual experiment, we’re given audio clips of each of the people in the different treks into nature. As such, we get to experience their thoughts and the effects of the experiment first hand. However, it is worth noting that the experiment which they use to test the 3-Day Effect is flawed in several different ways.

The experiment is simple. Author Florence Williams heads out for a three-day camping trip with people who suffer from PTSD and other such mental problems, typically induced by trauma. She takes veterans of the Iraq war river running in Utah, a group of sex trafficking survivors and former drug addicts on a hiking trip, etc. Their mental states and behaviors are monitored to see how being in nature for three days affects them.

It is a really nice idea. Joining these people as they relax and heal in a small way from their past is heartwarming. However, it does need to be said that the experiment itself is highly flawed.

Firstly, the experiment ends with three days in nature. However, it is worth noting that the aftermath is equally important. How did these people’s lives change after three days in nature? Did they change at all? Does one need to repeat the experiment to get the full healing experience after a prolonged time? Do the effects lessen after repeated trips? These are important questions that are never addressed.

Secondly, there is no unbiased control group gathering the data. There is no benchmark for any of the data gathered in the experiment. This is incredibly important for any kind of experiment. Without it, the data is questionable.

Third, they do have some pretty bad implications here. There are several points where they mention that being in nature does more for them than therapy or medication. While I don’t doubt that being in the woods made them feel that way. But it is important to remember: if you’ve been prescribed medication or attend therapy sessions for your trauma, simply going camping is not going to replace that.

Fourth, it was never clear which was doing the healing. Was it being out in nature? Or was it the feeling of connecting with people who have suffered just as you have and moving on further with them? At no point do they experiment with being out in nature alone to further prove their hypothesis.

In theory, the 3-Day Effect is incredibly interesting. But this book needed to be more thorough in their experiment. As it stands, I am completely skeptical as to whether or not this theory is true.

Recommending this book is odd. If you’re interested and want to know more about the experiment, then I would recommend giving it a listen. However, if you want to wait for a more complete and thorough presentation of this information, which would prove the theory completely, then I’d pass on it. Still, it is one of the more interesting routes if you want to learn about what the 3-Day Effect is.

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