I was astonished to read recently of an exercise program for the elderly in a local park. My surprise stemmed from comments made by many of the participants, most of whom were in their seventies and eighties. One woman had lived in the area for ten years and had never visited any of her local parks. Other people said it was energizing to breathe fresh air and how little they had done so until the program began.
These startling remarks reinforced my sense of how extreme our divergence from the relatively recent past has become. We are disconnected from nature to a profound extent and paying a disturbing price physically and mentally.
In Part One of this article, I suggested our minds, like our digestive systems, are better adapted to the conditions of the Mesolithic era. Our species evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in a quieter world where we moved with the seasons and no one tried to sell us anything. The globe was simpler, greener and less frenetic.
Despite the unhurried pace, it was no paradise and I don’t intend to paint a whimsical Mesolithic Nirvana – it had its own dangers. As my friend Angie rightly points out, the average age of these people was 45, so they certainly bypassed the nursing – home industry. However, our current incarnation has us living longer than ever in a madhouse of our own making. Confused by too much choice we end up making bad choices, and trampled with mounds of information we’re more overwhelmed and passive than ever. This hellish landscape is further degraded by the ubiquitous noise and vibration of a machine-army, poised like a steel-trap to sap our mental clarity.
I suspect our minds are ill-equipped to deal with this onslaught and so they don’t. Prescriptions for antidepressants and antipsychotics have increased markedly in the last decade and there’s no sign this will change any time soon. Even our children are increasingly medicated. So, the key to living longer and staying sane could be to adopt the most attractive Mesolithic qualities and weave them creatively into our lives.
We can make a start by reconnecting with nature every day. This could be as simple as stepping into your garden and staying there awhile. Visiting the local park (do you even know where it is?) is also a pleasant option. Ensure you walk there, too – Mesolithic people walked everywhere. Minimise your exposure to noise and turn off your gadgets occasionally unless they are absolutely necessary.
Mesolithic people also made their own music – a very satisfying thing. Take up your own musical instrument instead of listening to manufactured music played on yet another piece of technology. Finally, spend a small portion of the day (start with five minutes) doing absolutely nothing. This last point is crucial as, contrary to what you might think, Mesolithic people had much more leisure time than we do.
You can adapt this to your own circumstances and the basic principles are easy to understand.
Claire Bell is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body available on Amazon.