ill’s Of The Modern World
In my reading I often come across the fact that hunter gatherer populations didn’t and still don’t suffer from many of the chronic health problems that we suffer from in the west. One of these conditions (or families of conditions) is Rheumatoid Arthritis, which Adult Onset Still’s Disease is part of. I’ve been very interested in this fact and it’s part of the reason that I’ve adopted a ‘paleo inspired’ lifestyle. However as I think about it more it’s really not that surprising.
Looking at some of the characteristics of these Palaeolithic ancestors of ours:
- They moved around for most of the day at a leisurely pace, with occasional sprints, tree climbs and lifting
- Most of the time they were in the companionable company of their tribe
- They ate a lot of vegetables and berries, some eggs, fish and every few days likely gorged on meat (nose to tail)
- They exercised a lot, so they ate a lot, so they had high levels of essential nutrients
- They didn’t clean their foods to the extent that we do so they were constantly exposing themselves to all manner of, mostly healthy, bacteria and they kept their immune systems challenged
- They spent a lot of time relaxing, dozing, playing, repairing, whittling, preparing food, singing, dancing, story telling
- They died mostly of infections and violence, those that survived were remarkably healthy well into old age
- They had few attachments, they only had what they could carry and if they lost that they could make it again themselves from the natural world
- They lived mostly in the moment, with few attachments, few plans were needed, most days followed the same pattern
- At one with the natural world, knowing that it provides everything needed for a good life and spiritually connected to it through ‘natural gods’
Is it any wonder that they didn’t suffer from our chronic health problems, because they didn’t:
- Experience the hedonic treadmill of working longer and harder to buy things that we don’t need and don’t have time to enjoy
- Suffer from chronic stress due to worries about money, office politics, health concerns and long commutes and traffic jams
- Sit at a desk or or in an arm chair most of the day looking at a screen
- Constantly carry around the burden of all those things we own, worry about loosing all those treasured family photo’s, what if the house burns down, what if my car’s stolen, the dish washer will need repairing soon, the roof is leaking after last nights storm. All those attachments!
- Eat mostly processed foods or battling with the temptation to eat them
- Bathe in antibiotics, pain killers and myriad other drugs that define modern health care
- Attempt to sanitize the world with antibacterial, alcohols and bleaches and many other kinds of detergents. As a result they challenged their immune systems, whereas our unchallenged immune systems challenge us with auto-immune conditions
- Live in the past reliving past errors or the future, looking forever forward or a bit of both
- Go to war with the natural world, ripping down forests to plant fields, building on it or paving over it, spraying it with poison to control weeds, ants and flies and dumping our mountains of waste in the ground or rivers
In attempt to heal myself I’ve worked hard over the last two years to move in the paleo direction, I’ve:
- Stepped off the hedonic treadmill, I’ve not bought anything for myself for 221 days and otherwise only replaced things that have broken or bought consumables, food or experiences
- Dramatically reduced my working hours and the stress that accompanies them
- Moved around a lot more, incorporated regular stretches into daily life and a few strength exercises
- Spent much more time at one with nature
- Simplified my life and practiced reducing attachments and releasing the burden of all that ‘stuff’
- Dramatically reduced the number of drugs I take and eliminated any products containing antibacterial agents from the house
- Tried to live mindfully, and in the moment and tried to meditate for a few minutes every day
- Tried to live more sustainably, reducing water usage, stopped flying, recycled diligently, stopped using the car for short journeys
Unfortunately I still have a very long way to go, I still:
- take too many pain killers, often as many as 12 days a month
- have an incredible amount of stuff and it weighs me down
- battle daily with my subconscious that craves foods that my conscious brain knows I shouldn’t eat. It’s humbling to see how often my subconscious wins
- sit for an unbelievable amount of the day
- worry about money and as a result still need to work even though the office politics, unhealthy competition for ideas and just downright stupidity often drives me crazy. I dream about the old days of collocated teams, clear objectives, autonomy and good customers
Progress is clear now though, my mental and physical health have both improved, my cost of living is reducing and as a result I’m only a few years away from financial independence. I have the time and am developing the willpower and skills to deal with my remaining challenges.
What’s amazing though is that with all our advances since Palaeolithic times it really shouldn’t be this hard!
The photo today is from a winter hike in the Lake District around Haweswater, when I’m out walking life seems a lot less complicated.