Reclaiming Your Health in the Modern Age
Five ways to take better care of yourself every day
Despite the fact that we know more today about health than ever before, we are not necessarily healthier. In fact, in some ways, we are less healthy. The structure of contemporary life makes maintaining great health hard work.
Some aspects of contemporary life make staying healthy more challenging, but there are steps you can take to change them:
- We aren’t in Kansas anymore. Only 4.6 million of our 313 million population live on farms; less than .015 percent. That means most of us are not involved with producing our own food, and many more of us don’t even cook, but rely on commercial food products.
- What you can do: Eat real food, as little processed as possible. If you don’t cook, learn to, and prepare food yourself at home. Keep it simple, fun and delicious.
- We’re sedentary. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that “sitting for prolonged periods raised the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14 percent, cancer by 13 percent and diabetes by a whopping 91 percent.
- What you can do: Get up and move around every hour. Exercise more vigorously at least once a day. Get a step-counter to keep you on track.
- We’ve accepted the multitasking myth. Many employers require it, and many of us pride ourselves on an ability to multitask. David Meyer, cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan and one of the country’s leading experts on multitasking, says we are not actually more productive when we try to focus on more than one task at a time. His work “has helped demonstrate that humans have distinct bandwidth challenges, which makes multitasking problematic.” That also makes it stressful.
- What you can do: Learn to focus on and complete a task before moving on to the next thing.
- We’re isolated. In Growing Up Suburban by Edward A. Wynne, first published in 1977, the author discusses rising suicide rates and rising levels of anti-social behavior among American teens. He attributes this phenomenon to the nature of suburban living, with its privacy and isolation. People are social beings and feeling separated can increase stress and negative feelings
- What you can do: Find a community and become an indispensable part of it. Find ways to connect with neighbors, organizations and people.
- We’re touch phobic. In 2009, DePauw University psychologist Matthew Hertenstein studied touch as a vehicle for communication. Psychology Today, reporting on the study, said many participants in it were hesitant. Hertenstein said, “This is a touch-phobic society. We’re not used to touching strangers, or even our friends, necessarily.” Yet, to Hertenstein’s surprise, “Participants communicated eight distinct emotions—anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness—with accuracy rates as high as 78 percent.” The article also points out that touch enhances connectivity, encourages cooperation, improves performance, calms us and slows our heart rate.
- What you can do: Relearn the power of touch. Reach out to a friend with a hug or hold hands with your partner. Regular massage is another way to learn to appreciate receiving touch.
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