Technology is great. It’s awesome, actually. I love living in the world I live in. Tech has enabled me to do a billion different things that you couldn’t do 10 years ago, including allowing me to build a business.
But it’s not all fun and games. Because technology has developed to such an advanced degree, we’ve turned basic human functionality on its ear, relying too much on technology to accomplish things that we, as human beings, need to be doing on our own – at least from time to time.
What’s happened? We’ve become largely out of shape, crabby, stressed, and whiny (i.e., the “we don’t have time to [insert good thing here]” excuse).
So while you don’t have to be old-fashioned about everything – even though I love being old-fashioned – there is merit to dialing back the technology and understanding what our bodies were actually built to do. Because ignoring centuries of functionality is damaging our systems to a dangerous degree.
We were built to run long distances.
Huh? Take off your shoe and your sock. Now look down at your foot (if you can see it). Pay attention to the shape of your foot. Look at all those little bones. Feel under your foot – notice where there is extra “meat” and where you just feel hardness.
Our feet are built to run, just not in the way we’ve been running for the past few decades. In the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall*, he wrestles with a problem: how did humans survive this long? In certain parts of the world, there’s no way we could. Predatory animals are generally much faster than we are, or they are more powerful. So A) how did we get away from them and protect ourselves, and B) how did we hunt them down without weapons to kill them from a distance?
The answer? We ran them down.
As he discovered, and as was displayed in the story of a Russian family that has lived in the forest, away from society, for decades, humans can hunt without weapons by exhausting animals until they collapse. We chase them, because our intricate systems of cooling down our bodies (sweating), along with an advanced cardiovascular system and a pair of feet and legs that are specifically designed to handle it all work together to support long-distance running.
So What? The running shoe has destroyed the way we run. Not only do they empty our wallets, but the cushioning in running shoes forces us to run with our heels hitting the ground first. But remember when you felt your foot meat (that sounded dirty)? Our heels don’t carry a whole lot of meat. But the front part of our feet, including our toes, are surprisingly cushiony. That’s because our bodies were made to run in a way that the front part of our foot hits the ground first. The more you look at the physiology of it, the more it will make sense.
When our heel strikes, the shock of the run shoots up our leg and is absorbed by our knees, which are not meant to take it. That hurts. When the front of our foot strikes, the shock is absorbed by the foot muscles, which are set up to do so.
Plus, it doesn’t matter if you have high arches, flat feet, or anything in between. All of that corrects itself over time as you develop your foot muscles again.
And What If I Don’t? Well, you don’t have to hunt anymore, but you do need to get off your butt and exercise. Humans need that, or our bodies become weak. If you already are running, you’ll blow a lot of money on running shoes and replacing them constantly. Oh, and you’ll stop hurting yourself when you run. Say bye-bye to ankle problems, knee problems, and plantar fasciitis.
How? Read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Then go run barefoot. Take your time, though. This is an ability that takes months to really develop, because you’ll be using muscles you haven’t used in a long time.
Our brains are wired to think and learn.
Huh? I know you probably feel that you think a lot, but you probably don’t. The average person relies a lot on external stimulation – especially children today. There’s a special power that you unlock when you stop to listen to the thoughts in your head, even allowing yourself to be bored. Plus, you can always increase your knowledge with continued learning.
So What? There is a lot of power in your subconscious mind. Problem is, we never listen to it. Sometimes, your brain can wrestle with a problem and figure out the answer on its own. But you have to let it. Along with that is continued learning, which will keep your brain sharper and smarter as you age. Life is rough, and you’re always going to deal with problems. Your problem-solving skills will step up to the task if you keep learning and growing that muscle. You’ll also increase your focus, which will help you out at work and whenever you are working on a big project.
And What If I Don’t? Well, then we become a society that relies on emotional opinions and other people to tell you what to do. Is that what you really want? Because that’s what we’re becoming. We’re making major societal decisions based on slick marketing campaigns, which makes me really uncomfortable.
In your personal life, you’ll be overwhelmed when challenged by life, which will increase your stress levels tenfold, and the frustration could dominate your life and your relationships with the people around you.
How? There are several cool ways you can increase your brain power:
- First, take up meditation. I know that sounds foofy, but hear me out. You don’t have to chant or sit criss-cross-apple-sauce on a cushion. You can do it in any chair. Meditation is just sitting in a quiet space for a little while. You can start with 5-10 minutes. Just close your eyes, sit up straight, and listen to the thoughts and feelings that are in your head. Listen to your environment. Listen to your body. Not only will this let you release stress, it will increase your focus. If you want a more organized/directed way of doing it, check out Headspace. I just finished their free “Take10″ program (10 minutes a day for 10 days), and I signed up for a year’s worth, because I already see how this is helping me work.
- Second, carry a pocket notebook. Sometimes a great idea comes to you while on the run. It really helps to jot it down so that you can act on it later. This is also useful when you are someplace where you can’t be focusing on other stuff, like church, in a meeting, or when you are trying to sleep. Writing it down releases that thought from your conscious mind so you can return to the task at hand, and your subconscious mind will then work on it without you even realizing it. Seriously.
- Third, start reading. Anything. Get a Kindle if you need a tech-y way of doing it. Get a library card if you need a free way of doing it. Expand your mind. Find a topic that interests you. I don’t care what that topic is. If you say “reading is boring”, then that’s because you are choosing the wrong things. Write down 5 topics that interest you, then search on Amazon and find books related to that topic with 4 or more stars. It’s that easy.
- Fourth, sign up for a free account with Lumosity. This is how I start every day, and it’s a nice warm-up for the day. Lumosity is a collection of “brain games” designed to help you develop different parts of your brain. It’s fun and easy (except for that stupid Penguin Pursuit maze game – I hate those days).
- Fifth, and finally, take up productive hobbies and activities. Watching TV and playing video games are not hobbies. They’re fine to do, but you need to carve out some time to do something that stimulates you mentally and/or physically, while being productive at the same time. Start whittling. Learn to play the guitar – there are plenty of online sources to help you. Start writing. Instead of sitting on the couch watching shows, turn off the TV, turn on some music, and play a board game with your spouse and/or kids. Or get a cheap deck of cards. Get lost in conversation and enjoy people’s company. These are productive uses of your time. That doesn’t mean you can’t watch TV – I love TV. But draw a line in the sand. Then don’t cross it. Use your brain.
Your body is built to use pain as a warning sign.
Huh? Ever have a headache? Suffer from migraines? Does your back hurt all the time? Are you having problems in the bathroom? Heck, are you just feeling grumpy sometimes? Hey, these are signs of a bigger problem.
So What? We have a medical industry that runs on money. I’m not directly saying that doctors are keeping us sick so that they make money, but it might/could be an underlying factor. There’s money in prescribing things to treat symptoms, not curing the problem.
Pain isn’t just an annoying thing that goes away with a pill. It’s actually your body trying to tell you something – ever listen to it? It means you’re doing something wrong, 90% of the time. It means you’re using your body in ways that is pushing it too far, or you’re putting something into your body that is hurting it.
How often are you popping pills? I don’t mean stuff for chemical imbalances, like bipolar disorder. I mean stuff like aspiring, ibuprofen, or migraine pills? Do you practically live on that stuff? That’s a problem. That means you’re shutting up your body when it is trying to scream something to you. You’re hurting it, and you need to make some changes to your lifestyle.
And What If I Don’t? Again, you’re going to spend way too much money on medications. You’ll spend more money on doctor visits for injuries. Your quality of life is going to tank. Stress will skyrocket. Your health will suffer, and in some cases, you’ll die early.
Get the picture?
How? The best way to improve your mood, health, and quality of life is by paying closer attention to what you are doing. One of the easiest and most effective methods in doing so is by tracking virtually everything you do for a while. By doing this, you’ll be able to pinpoint triggers in your diet and lifestyle that could be causing the problems.
So here’s what you do: start writing down everything you eat and certain other lifestyle choices, like how often you exercise, how much sleep you’re getting, and how much water you are drinking every day. Sounds tedious? Get used to it. Along with it, track those things you are trying to get rid of, like when you get migraines, when you have a bad visit to the bathroom, or when you are feeling grumpy.
Do this for a couple weeks so that you can start looking for patterns. Then, treat your body like a science experiment: test a hypothesis. This is a fancy way of saying “pick one thing to change and see what happens”. Like, spend a week focusing on drinking more water and see how that affects the stuff you’re dealing with. It’s important to only change one thing at a time to test, so that you can be sure that’s the cause.
It sounds like a lot of work, but once you get into the habit of doing it, it’ll be fairly automatic. I’m doing this right now to fix some things about me, and I’m starting to get some great insights. You can fix a lot of your problems naturally – you just have to put the effort into it.
So what have we learned?
Your body, naturally, is a resilient and hard-working machine. It can do a lot, but like anything, it only works properly when you are treating it properly. Keep it running at peak condition, and you can greatly increase the quality of your life.
Got any tips on naturally solving problems with your body and/or your life? Share in the comments!