A really, really long time ago, we were hunter/gatherers, living with and of nature. We were exposed to the elements, we breathed fresh air, drank clean water and ate natural foods. Then, some 10 000 years ago, we moved into agriculture. That pretty much wreaked havoc to our health, leaving us with tooth decay and a more fragile bone structure. We also became shorter, and archeologists have found that our health in general was declining from that point onward.
Then, of course, came the industrialisation. Up until then, at least we would work on the fields, and be staying outside and in movement much of the time, but after we invented machines and factories, things changed even more dramatically. We all know that story. But the thing is; our bodies are still genetically the same as when we were hunter/gatherers. We still crave the same foods, the same movement – the same natural life. And every step we take away from that, takes us further into health problems like obesity, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
Let’s stop for a moment and think about this: What would happen if you were to take a wild animal and put it in a cage, depriving it of both its natural foods and ability to move freely? We all know how that would play out, don’t we? That poor animal would first become agitated, anxious and nervous, it would stop eating, get more and more apathetic and eventually it would get sick and perhaps even die.
A few days ago I was driving in my car and listening to the radio. A story about some rats in a lab came up, and some researchers did a test on the rats’ response to morphine. While in their normal cage, they were given the option to hit a button and then get access to the morphine. Soon enough, they became addicted to the stuff, and some would even hit the button so often that they overdosed and died. «Aaah,» thought the scientists. «Rats don’t know when to stop, the morphine has completely taken over!». Sounds like a sane conclusion, right? Not quite. Then another scientist thought; «Yeah, but if I were caged in like that, I’d probably want to overdose and die too!». And so he changed the terms. The rats were moved to the perfect Rat Park, as close to nature as possible. Then they did the morphine test again. A few still chose the morphine, but to a lesser extent than before, and most opted out completely. Noone overdosed.
Our society and our way of life is much like a cage. We are bubbled up most of the day, first we sleep under a covet, in a room and in a house, then we have a few seconds of fresh air between the door and the car, we are bubbled up in that car for as long as it takes to get to work or school, get a few seconds of air between the parking lot and the door, and then we spend the rest of the day inside a building again. And that’s pretty much it, if we don’t make an effort of changing things around.
And on top of that, we are eating processed food, sitting in much the same position in front of a computer for hours and hours, before we come home, crash in the couch and watch TV while we comfort eat junk (the equivalent of the rats’ morphine) until we fall asleep.
No wonder we are getting obese, sick and depressed. No wonder anxiety is prevalent in our society today, with so many of us being nature deprived.
Research has shown that a walk in the woods does us a world of good. Stress hormones and blood pressure gets lowered, we become more relaxed, more happy and more alert. We are in our natural environment. We are no longer caged.
It has also been found that in terms of weight loss, in spite of Zumba, aerobics, cat slides and all those new options, walking and running are still the best ways to lose weight – being our natural way of moving, preferably in nature, as a lowered stress hormone will also help get rid of those pounds.
Are you nature deprived?
There is an easy fix- start spending more time outside and make an effort to get a more natural life. I promise: you won’t regret it.