It starts with understanding!
- It is safe to say that life has never been easier or better...yet an enormous amount of people suffers from physical or emotional distress. Why?
After 50.000 years of recorded modern humans’ presence on this planet, we can say that in general, the conditions of our lives significantly improved.
It is safe to say that life has never been easier or better in all human history for the vast majority of people.
In this relatively short period of time from the evolutionary perspective, we humans did overcome tremendous issues such as famine, infections, large distances, and many others. So, we could assume that most of us are happy in this convenience-driven way of life or at least happier than our ancestors.
However, simple observation (world affairs, interactions between neighbors or even the pharma shares on stock exchanges... for example) reveals that this isn't the case. An enormous amount of people suffers from physical or emotional distress. Why?
There are many answers to this question yet each of them is related to the simple fact that modern life poses challenges (or lack of them) to which the human body has not had time to adapt. Changes are simply happening too fast for our biology.
Our core body functions, including brain functions, didn't change nor adapt to the way of life we are facing. We still function pretty much the same as we did 50k years ago when our body was constantly physically stressed by an energy deficiency, temperature oscillations, microorganisms, and other stressors. In the past, we spent over 50% of our energy needs to find food. We had to rely on our thermoregulatory mechanisms and the immune system developed during 600 million years of evolution.
And then, somewhere down the line a human with a larger prefrontal cortex came and invent tools, control of fire, clothing, the wheel, vaccine, the airplane, air condition, smartphone, ... and things become more complicated.
- The convenience, that we enjoy and work so hard towards, those very things that make us comfortable, sickens our bodies and shortens our healthy lifespan.
Suddenly, we don't need so much energy to find food or to overcome distances. Our clothing and air-conditioned dormitories make our thermoregulatory system sleepy. And our immune system... with introducing thousands of new molecules year after year, we mess with it like there is no tomorrow. It sounds like the perfect setup for a downward-spiral...
Probably the biggest issue in the modern way of life for our health is the lack of physical challenges, besides the processed food that we eat. In other words, the convenience that we enjoy and work so hard towards, those very things that make us comfortable sickens our bodies and shortens our healthy lifespan.
Of course, there is no way to give up comfort or progress. No one can propose or expect something like that. Moreover, modern technology, AI, and automatization will make things even more severe.
- For a long time we understand that our body needs physical challenges. It developed to be active, and there is nothing "under the counter" to substitute that, no magic molecule nor genetic engineering or, ... Is it?
And yes, for a long time we understand that our body needs physical challenges. It developed to be active and there is nothing "under the counter" to replace that, no magic molecule or genetic engineering or,...or is it?
Well, good old exercise will do the job best. Cardio and resistance training, they both are extremely beneficial and well-documented ways to improve our health. But, sometimes we can`t exercise for various reasons. And it is worth to know that exercise is not the only way to challenge our body and benefit from it. There is one, probably the most underestimated measure that can be used not only to improve health, wellness, or athletic performance but also to prevent and treat some common diseases, the Sauna bathing.
We are all familiar with the Sauna. At least with the word itself. It is one of few words which originated from one language (Finnish in this case), and migrated to almost all languages across the globe with the same meaning and becomes even synonymous for a hot, humid environment.
- The times when the sauna was used only for relaxation and “detox” has long gone.
And It is almost incomprehensible, how many people know the Sauna yet so little of them use it. Isn't it? Ok, let’s admit, seating in a small extremely hot and sometimes humid “box” isn't always appealing to everyone.
However, all those benefits that the sauna bathing have, it is hard to ignore. The times when the sauna was used only for relaxation and “detox” has long gone. There is a growing body of evidence from the scientific literature, supporting the beneficial effects of saunas on maintaining the muscle, fat loss, insulin sensitivity, skin rejuvenation, the immune system stimulation, arthritis and chronic pain, athletic performance, cardiovascular health, brain & mental health, longevity, and more.
These effects are the results of the systemic adaptations that occur over, similar to adaptations to regular exercise. Kind of body’s way to deal with heat stress caused by sauna bathing. In other words, heat exposure causes a body’s physiology to react to heat stress out of self-defense to prevent injury. And, with the right approach, everyone can experience the benefits and the pleasure that sauna bathing can offer when the body is acclimated.
What about the mind?
Not much different or, in some respects is even more complicated. Of course, to function well, firstly, it needs a healthy body apparatus. Not only the brains, which are the main "muscle" and a command center for the majority of body functions, but also other organs, systems, and processes that take place throughout the body. They all need to work like a symphony. If those organs or processes are impaired, the mind can't function optimally. Hence the awareness that exercise is healthy for the mind as well.
Regarding the mind, we are facing another, probably even more important issue, informational noise, and emotional overloads. In a way, the reason is just the opposite of that of the body facing. Instead of too little, it is faced with an excessive load.
- Too much information consumes the attention and creates a poverty of attention.
As Nobel Laureate Herbert Alexander Simon described the relationship between information and attention some 50 years ago: “….information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Since attention is the psychological tool we use to tune out irrelevant information, so we can focus on what is important to us, the abundance of irrelevant information can contribute to mind destruction.
It may be contributing to the increase of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders which are skyrocketing. Maybe also as a coping mechanism. The strategies people often use in the face of stress and/or trauma to help manage painful or difficult emotions.
Impaired attention faculty doesn't do us a favor for sure, but even bigger issue can be emotional overloads. Our inherited emotional (triple F / Fight-Flight-Freeze) response is not able to handle itself the challenges we are facing in this modern society. It simply wasn't designed for that.
Paul Ekman, an American psychologist, argues … "if we want to improve our emotional life, we need to practice conscious awareness since nature didn't want us to do this naturally... That's why we need to do it by ourselves. And it is probably the hardest task for our mind."
In this respect, western civilization is way behind the easterners. With their understanding of the mind more profoundly and holistically, they practice different meditation techniques for millennia. They understand this as a secular technique for enhancing concentration and observational skills, and for changing the old habit patterns of human behavior.
- At times, it seems that people deliberately complicate the definition and techniques of meditation, which is actually easy to understand but extremely difficult to practice.
Lately, the words meditation and mindfulness become very popular and mainstream in the western world. All kinds of definitions and descriptions are floating around.
At times, it seems that people deliberately complicate the definition and techniques of meditation, which is actually easy to understand but extremely difficult to practice.
Like Indian author Jaggi Vasudev says; "It is important to understand that meditation is not an Indian thing or an Eastern thing as it is being understood by many. It is paying attention to the inner nature of who we are. A technique by which you get to know yourself better, not only on an intellectual but at the level of experience."
And, for many, this can be a very novel and unique experience.
Besides, It helps to navigate throughout life easier, with more confidence and less suffering.
It starts with understanding!
To be continued!