Our brains are amazing…well, most of our brains are amazing. Probably a bit too soon for humor, but truly, I can’t get through life without it, so please indulge me. As I was saying, our brains are amazing. They are about 15 petabytes of stored information from all our sensory experiences, many that we don’t even remember. In fact, our senses pick up far more than our conscious minds detect and that is not always a good thing. In fact, I believe it is a reason for many false memories, distorted perceptions and dreams that simply don’t make sense. Add to this the onslaught of information most of us are bombarded with on a daily basis and you have neurological overwhelm. I see this in my Patients and people around me who, on one level, seem like decent human beings, but behaviorally, are afraid, angry and acting out. For those of us with children or who work around children, what do overwhelmed children do? They act out, misbehave, scream, yell, etc. Well, so do adults when they are exhausted and overwhelmed.
I have always had a freakish intrigue with observing people. They are curious creatures to me, and this observation was not excluded from myself. I oft observed my thoughts and actions, sometimes to the point of getting depressed or having to find individuals weird enough to tolerate my desire to process human behavior. Oh, and I was a kinetic, impulsive 10-year-old…give or take. What I detected in people is that they are oppositional forces, like the Daoist description of the Universe through yin and yang. They are intelligent, and at times, almost completely lacking. They are hateful, yet loving. They focus on the negative, but can be so positive. It is as if they are driven by outside forces that ping-pong them back and forth trying to keep them in balance, every once in a while, swinging them so far out of whack that the person becomes ill, either physically and/or mentally.
I also realized that life is like math. I hated math in school…and am not a big fan of it, now, but I also appreciate the predictability of it, as I do the unpredictable nature of life. Did you see what I did there? I hope so, because truth is not what you think it is. No, I am not suggesting that the imbeciles who are trying to manipulate you into following their twisted ideologies are all spewing truth, but THE TRUTH of life is dynamic and needs to be appreciated from different perspectives. Let’s get back to math. We are subject to Universal Laws that we define as fixed, reproducible and observable phenomenon and thus, are known as facts. The law of gravity. That law of attraction, The law of thermodynamics, and on and on. The key is that some laws are elementary, while others are more obscure and need to be practiced to be understood. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if we drop something it falls to the ground. It does take some work to get that we have the ability to create with our minds, and thus, have the ability to get in our own way, too. Math and Physics are loaded with equations that try to explain life. Life is full of variables; matter and energy, or objects and the forces that affect said objects.
Let’s take this idea of life is math and whittle it down some. How about making the statement, Health is Math? I say this to my Patients all the time. What they need to grasp is that they are not uniquely broken. They don’t get to be some special exception that gets to eat all the pizza, coffee and donuts they want because it really does make them feel better! There are known, identifiable causes of disease, interestingly, many are out of the reach of our so-called “science-based” medicine. Don’t get me wrong, allopathic/Western Medicine has its place, but the marble halls they have created have been built on drug money and ignoring said causes of disease. Instead of educating Patients, they lead them down paths to life-long drug consumption and/or surgeries. I’m sorry, but this is incredibly foolish. We have become entranced by the magic of invasive medicine and completely turned our backs on common sense approaches. Sure, these approaches don’t allow for endless sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed food consumption, but if you are paying attention, neither does our current system! We are the sickest population on the Planet! Let that sink in for a minute. Americans have more chronic health issues than anyone else on Earth. That, my friends, is not only inexcusable, but it is downright idiotic!
First, we have to admit to our addictions. We, as a culture are riddled with them, and they lead to over-consumption, improper consumption, lack of exercise (in some cases, over-exercise), mal-nutrition, diminished sensory activity, over-burdened nervous systems, and more. Just look around you at all the drugs, both legal and illicit. If someone isn’t drugging themselves with liquor, tobacco, cannabis or a prescription, they are doing it with caffeine and sugar. Let’s not forget screens/technology and sex.
Addictions are that which distract us or control us. We use endless excuses to avoid facing them and allowing them to continue their choke-hold on us. They arise, often, to fill a void. What common voids to we Americans have in our lives? We lack in connection; real true connection. That starts with self-love and respect. Culturally, we are raised in competitive environments where we are constantly knocked down. Now, please don’t think I’m one for “everyone gets a trophy” because that is more disgusting to me and has created a generation of entitled brats. Ok, I’m over-generalizing and being judgmental, but seriously, helicopter Parents who want to give their kids everything have ruined an entire generation. Thankfully, there’s been some kick-back to balance some of this foolishness.
Let’s get back on track. What voids lead to the disconnect and addiction? Lack of love, yes, but what do you see all around you? If you look at magazines, TV, movies, social media, and listen to teenagers and young adults…and now that I think of it, a whole lot of older adults, too, you should be overwhelmed with how superficial our interactions are. More information means less time deciphering, asking questions and learning. We sense and react and move on to the next impulse, and over and over and over, again. We should be getting approximately 1/100th to 1/1000th of the info we are getting every day, assuming you watch TV, surf the internet, play video games, work on a computer, etc.
Most of us need to reinvigorate our sense of curiosity, if we ever had one at all. We need to ponder, wonder, express gratitude, listen, be still, take notice of the “little things,” etc. Advancement has led us down a path where, instead of life being easier, as advertised, it is more complicated. Want more evidence? There are more people in Therapy now, than ever before. There are more people medicated with psychotropic and acid-reducing medications than ever before, and the numbers aren’t even close! Life and Health Coaches are cropping up all over the place, and unless they have serious credentials, I urge you to find a Practitioner, either on the Western or Alternative side, who is licensed in a Profession that didn’t pop-up overnight to grab a piece of the pie without investing time and money in the career.
A couple decades ago, we saw books on the self-help shelves that addressed simplifying and other things that I have been talking about here. What happened? Did people not listen? Addicts rarely do, or not for long, anyways. And most, if not all of us, on some level, are addicts. So, if you’re like me, you’ve probably skimmed down to this point looking for the nuts and bolts; give me the answer, Paul!
Who am I to argue with you? Here you go. And next time, take a breath, be more patient and say please.
What to do:
Restrict and schedule screen time for yourself and your kids. Ideally, screen time would be limited to 60-90 min/day. In today’s world, research, writing and work often demand several times that, and then people go home and watch TV or surf on their phones. This is simply unacceptable. Fix it. Don’t say you can’t or won’t. Make the effort to bring other things in to fill that time, like…
Exercise. Do some alone, and others with family. Make it fun when you can. Play active games; tag, keep away, touch football, dodge ball (probably good to talk through any family issues before playing this one), family yoga, go to a club, take a class, dance, walk in the woods, create a family exercise bucket list, do challenges with prizes, etc. The idea is to move as much or more than you sit.
Learn from others where technology is not used. Read, go to a story-telling event, pass along family stories, play make-believe games with your kids, practice hobbies, individually and as a family/couple, etc.
If meditation is too difficult a concept for you to wrap your head around, then let’s make this easy for you. Schedule regular time to be in silence with nothing on; no TV, no music, no phone calls, no surfing…nothing. Your brain needs it. All of our brains need this, and they aren’t getting it! If you are open-minded, there are APPS (yes, I get that there is tech involved here, but I’ll make an exception for guided meditation as your eyes will be closed and you will be actively relaxing, if that makes sense. Headspace is a good one, but I’d recommend putzing around on Youtube because there are plenty of relaxation and meditation programs which you can try and put in your favorites and listen to for free. If you opt for this route, PLEASE also incorporate some options that do NOT involve tech.
Use your weekends and vacation, wisely. Far too many families default to screen time; movies, TV, sitting around on lap-tops, phones and tablets. Just like with anything, the body needs counter movements/activities to keep the balance. An example of this are those who rarely look far away and they become near-sighted. Think about the people who work on screens and then spend the rest of their time reading or doing needle-point or something like that, where their vision is almost always within 3 feet. The muscles that focus the eyes for distance are rarely used, so they atrophy and then the person wonders why looking off in the distance is blurry!
Identify the excuses that “prevent” you from doing any of the above and CRUSH them. Example: “The weather is so awful, I can’t exercise.” B.S. Sorry, but that is a terrible excuse that so many, including myself, use. Do jumping jacks, run in place, do push-ups, dips, squats, wrestle…there are endless activities you can do at home. If you truly want to do something, it will happen. If you don’t want to do something, investigate the roots, both by yourself and with a trusted friend/partner. Maybe you are depressed. Maybe you are truly lazy and need to face the real you. This isn’t a shaming statement, it is simply asking you to look at the facts. Don’t be a fraud. There’s already far too many of them out there…and if I’m being honest, everyone I know, including myself, has been fraudulent. Don’t believe me? Ask people what their New Year’s resolutions are in December, then talk to them in February or March. Most of those resolutions are things of the past, by then.
Create a life practice that is sustainable. A continuation of number 6. If you are honest with yourself, you will find things that work for you to bring balance and peace to your life. If you can’t seem to get it right on your own, hire a personal trainer, therapist or health practitioner.
No matter what you decide to take away from this, please remember this: Health, and thus, the lack thereof, may be worked like a math equation. Most of us know what the variables are and yet, when we get out of whack, we look for simple answers that often don’t deal with the roots. It is simply amazing how many Patients I have worked with who say things like: “This was so simple,” or “I figured I should be doing that, I just couldn’t stay with it until I got into working with you,” and so on.
Good luck on your path. I, sincerely, hope you find health and happiness in your life. Life is relatively short, so get out there and enjoy it to the fullest.
Paul Gerst L.Ac. is available for in-office consultations and care at The Balanced Path Wellness Center in Medway, MA or Easton Health Solutions in N. Easton, and also through SKYPE or DUO online consults/sessions. Email: email@example.com or call 774-283-2726