The Paleo Diet is based on the idea that our digestive system is best adapted to the eating habits of our stone-age ancestors who ate lots of vegetables, berries, lean meat and fish. Our physical structure has changed little, but our diets have and the modern food fandango of sugar-saturated, processed foods is damaging our bodies. This damage manifests in the many health conditions stalking the human (mal)nutritional landscape including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
This brings me to the parlous state of the human mind. If there’s an optimal diet for our bodies – based on the food eaten by our distant ancestors – is there also an ideal stone-age diet for the mind? Are our minds better adapted to the quieter, slower world our species inhabited for hundreds of thousands of years? Could it be that all the input we receive from our mentally overburdened society is scrambling our minds in the same way the junk we eat is damaging our bodies?
My answer is “Yes” and the evidence is easy to spot: rising rates of depression, anxiety and stress-related illness devastate people of all ages and they are a disturbing feature of a culture that prefers information over wisdom and activity over stillness. As a counter to this chaos, I’d like to introduce you to my Mesolithic Mind Diet which nurtures the mind in the same way the Paleo Diet nourishes the body.
The Mesolithic (Middle Stone-Age) Period was part of the Later Paleolithic and it’s thought to be where humans first learned to hunt in groups, domesticate plants and animals and to make pottery. The Mesolithic is where we became more convivial by banding together in creative, productive and practical ways.
It must have been a quieter, stiller world with no cars, trucks, machinery, books, electronics or people trying to sell anything. Small groups moved around constantly, hunting, foraging and finding shelter. Conversation was likely less sophisticated and demanding; there were no CVs to write, tax forms to submit or exams to pass. Distractions – other than from their immediate surroundings – were much less than now and their contact with nature probably equalled the amount of time we spend with our mobile phones and computers.
In Part 2 of this post, I describe the components of a Mesolithic Mind Diet and how it can return us to a quieter, calmer and less distracted state. By adopting some of the crucial features present in the Mesolithic Period, we may once again walk upon the Earth with a steady, unhurried pace and an inner stillness lost generations ago to the incessant demands of industrial society.
Claire Bell is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body available on Amazon.