Photo courtesy of Suzan Marie
Lifestyles have evolved dramatically in the past 12,000 years. During the Stone Age, everyone lived in a hunter-gatherer tribe, engaging in hard work outdoors, eating nutritious diets, and getting constant social contact. Their physically active lives meant that they got an average of ten hours of quality sleep every night.
Fast forward to today’s Modern Age. Now millions of people lead sedentary lives, spending many hours each day inside windowless cubicles completing mind-numbingly endless tasks. Meals consist of fast food, which is low in nutrition and high in saturated fat. Many people are living life at a frantic pace, yet don’t sleep nearly enough – getting an average of only six hours a night.
Although lifestyles have changed drastically, the human genome has remained the same, and the effects of our poorly nourished, inactive, isolated, demanding, and insomnia-ridden lives are proving to be quite catastrophic to our physical and mental health. In contrast, the few hunter-gatherer tribes still in existence are healthy, strong, fit, and most importantly, happy.
Because of the disconnect between our environment and our physical and emotional requirements, a huge number of people are now dealing with depression and anxiety. In fact, my own depression is what started me on my journey toward self-fulfillment. Luckily, it has been proven recently that the adult human brain is changeable, as opposed to the previously held belief that the brain became fixed somewhere in adolescence.
Many therapists are now putting two and two together. People were happier in the Stone Age! With the new knowledge that the adult brain is malleable, many therapies to overcome depression and anxiety include incorporating some of these ancient habits in order to nudge the brain back toward a penchant for happiness:
- Get plenty of restorative sleep.
- Eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Alternatively, take 1,500mg of omega-3 daily (fish oil caps).
- Get at least 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight each day.
- Aim to spend 90 minutes a week moving your body physically.
- Connect socially. Although the brain thinks the pain of depression is similar to an infection and that we should isolate ourselves from others, what we really need when we’re feeling down is more human interaction.
- Be cognizant of what those before us have had to overcome, and how small our problems seem in comparison.
- Accept yourself as you are.
In addition to taking a page from the history books, also try to:
- Find a healthy escape that will keep you busy on a regular basis.
- Keep track of your mood. Try to identify triggers for your depressed times.
- Repeat positive affirmations to bouy your self-confidence.
- Avoid labeling yourself as “depressed.” Labels often stick and can be self-fulfilling. Constantly reminding yourself that you are a “depressed person” will likely only make you more depressed. Although depression is very real and serious, avoid getting bogged down by what can seem like a permanent sentence.
- Remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” As it turns out, my grandma was right.
- Take a look at the big picture. As evidenced when Voyager 1 took the now famous photograph Pale Blue Dot, everything seems much smaller and less significant with a little distance and perspective.
Once you’ve gained the appropriate perspective and shifted your lifestyle so that it fulfills your needs, your brain should start to react accordingly. Combining the above strategies with a visit to your doctor will get you back on the road to happiness. In order to stay on the right path: continue to respect your body’s needs and always be mindful of the amazing things that do exist in your little speck of the universe.