But they can’t see the light (that’s right)
‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
One of the great joys of living in our increasingly technological society is the easy access that it provides to the increasing volume of well conducted research; research that we can integrate into our daily lives to make them both healthier and more satisfying.
We have spent too long living in a world that is always on, with its instant access lifestyle. In this situation our evolutionary heritage can work against being able to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
Many of the systems with which evolution has equipped us helped us survive to become the top predator in the world. These systems are no longer appropriate to our more “civilised” culture and are now working against us. The chronic low-grade stresses that form part of our twenty-first century, consumerist society can result in high levels of allostatic load and leave us living in a state of chronic, low grade stress.
This allostatic stress contributes to many of the problems of the twenty-first century. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes and depression to name just four. The toxic effects of this allostatic load means that the baby boomer generation may be the last one to live longer than their parents.
Several apparently disparate areas of scientific research are coming together to provide answers to this difficulty. Positive psychology, Mindfulness, Happiness, dietetics and longevity research seem to point us in the same direction. What we choose to do and how we choose to think contribute more to a sense of fulfillment in our lives than any number of possessions. Indeed a life full of shared experiences is a vital part of living to healthy old age.
8 men have the same net worth as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population
Use it or lose it, is an aphorism that applies to many aspects of human life. Using our health to stay healthy and using our minds to fight off the effects of ageing seem to be key ingredients in longevity and good mental health.
A newly published book by Johann Hari – Lost Connections. Uncovering thereal causes of depression and the unexpected solutions. – posits an alternative explanation as to why depression is increasingly prevalent in the westernised world, and has had a mixed response from psychiatrists, with most seeming to condemn it out of hand.
A life full of shared experiences is a vital part of living to healthy old age.
The book highlights the very rapid changes in our lifestyle since the industrial revolution kicked in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The move away from the land to cities, away from small, supportive communities that grew their own food and looked out for each other to crowded urban areas where people hardly know their neighbours, lead very sedentary lives and eat highly processed foods. I am always entertained by one of my neighbours who drives down to the local gym to walk an a treadmill….
When we add social media to the picture we have the appearance of community without any of its benefits. The excessive stimulation that comes from the beeping of electronic notifications means that our brains are starting to need a much greater stimulus for the same effect. This not only contributes to a sense of emptiness but also depletes the brain’s ability to respond to novelty – one of the key things that keeps our brain young.
When we limit the input to our brain, we get a greater impact from a lower stimulus and have a happier brain. A brain that has greater focus is better at paying attention and leads to greater contentment. We can appreciate and take joy in the small things of life. We can actually watch our child perform in the school play rather than stress ourselves by taking a video and missing out on a first hand experience.
Materialism: more and more is more.
When we complicate our lives we only add to this allostatic load. The modern materialistic, consumerist world generates dissatisfaction, selling an image of a happy lifestyle based on owning objects. This quest for more is fed by the promises of the advertising world.
It always amazes me how the roads in car adverts are always empty, how drinking alcohol is associated with living a cool life through hip adverts and the sponsorship of sporting events. Worst of all I find it laughable that the people shown as needing/seeking cosmetic surgery are already in the top 1% of good-looking humans.
Living an uncomplicated life will lead to greater happiness. When we fill our lives with the things we need to live a healthy life we find that we only need enough to live on, that the world in which 8 men have the same net worth as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population is no more. There is enough fo go round and to feed the world – if we just want to do so.
Minimalism: less is more than enough.
We seem to live in a world where the ownership of things is equated to happiness and the trappings of success are more important than happiness. A world in which we pursue the latest shiniest new toys expecting them to make us happy. The only problem is they are all out of date the moment we buy them. The latest NewToy mk 6 will be out tomorrow. We allow ourselves to be held hostage by our possessions.
The time has come for us to stop expecting the external world to provide us with happier healthier lives. Finding a sense of purpose in what we do will give a sense of purpose to our lives.
When we take time to be in direct contact with other people, as part of a real world community, if we are kind to others and live a simpler life based on our purpose, this will allow us all to be happier and to lead more productive lives.
We will again be able to take joy in the small things.
The wind in our hair, the smile of our love, the songs of the birds.