Humans are in a position where we don’t really have to worry about nature—the threat of wild animals, severe weather, or starvation are practically fictional ideas to the modern world at this point in time. And yet here we are: no less plagued by threats, increasingly more of which are products of our own accord.
Mental illness is surging, especially among youth. Meanwhile obesity is an epidemic heavily saturating developed countries and rapidly spreading around the globe. These are concerning trends which carry the potential to reduce social morale and societal stability, as well as burden valuable systems like healthcare (and their financial backers, the taxpaying citizens).
It was also a great misfortune to observe how these downward trends, among others, were amplified and accelerated by aggressive government measures issued in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. More than ever, we must each accept responsibility for our own health, and make conscious efforts to achieve and maintain overall well-being even in times of crisis.
Even with the Pandemic behind us, the very nature of modern society still poses regular threats to our mental and physical health.
It seems that when humans gain easy access to everything our ancestors required great effort for, our unprepared brains often bend toward subtly self-destructive habits. The idea of getting dangerously fat would have required tremendous imagination millennia ago; now, we must summon all of our willpower to stop from stuffing our faces into oblivion.
Solving these catastrophic issues on a grand scale will be complicated, energy-intensive, and time-consuming. But as individuals, we can start immediately with ourselves. And doing that much is simple.
HABITS FOR HEALTH AND HAPPINESS
Previously we have discussed habits for a functional body, which includes daily rituals such as deep squats and dead hangs. In this post we are focusing specifically on habits which promote physical and mental wellbeing. There is of course some overlap, as most aspects of body and mind are more integrated than we give credit for.
The act of walking is natural for us, and this may explain why the simple activity boasts so many benefits. Some of the benefits of walking (and cardiovascular exercise in general) include reduced risk of heart disease, improved immune system, lubricated joints, balanced blood sugar, and even higher cognitive function.
Alternatives to walking include cycling and swimming, as well as stationary exercises such as jump rope. Aim for 20 to 60 minutes of cardio movement at least two to three times per week to experience results, and perform your activity outside—ideally in nature—whenever possible, as studies suggest doing so enhances our mood.
Running is still the most commonly associated activity with cardio—but, for many, it’s not the optimal route. Running, especially on older treadmills and pavement outside,…
If you enjoy running, power to you. Keep on trucking. Me, though? I don’t like it very much.
Meditation has been practised for millennia, and its effects have been observed and studied for centuries. Like walking, the act requires no money, just some time and a little desire. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, control anxiety, boost self-awareness, increase attention span, and improve sleep. Aim for 10 to 30 minutes of meditation, daily if desired, focusing on quality of time over quantity.
Alternatives to meditation include yoga (ideally a flow focusing on breath work) and deeply engaging with an immersive book in a quiet and peaceful setting. While there is no true replacement for proper meditating, the idea here is to achieve a balanced, stable, and content state of emotional and mental being.
Ancient Greeks and Romans placed tremendous importance on physical education. Athenians, for example, aimed for mental, moral, and physical excellence—an ideal personified by their Gods, who in artistic renderings depict bodies of raw strength and pure aesthetic. The city-state went so far as to provide an educational system that encouraged youth to develop their physical and mental abilities. We can create such a system for ourselves today.
Cardio gives us blood flow and endurance, while meditation offers clarity of mind and emotion. We complete our trifecta of all-encompassing health through strength, which must come from some form of resistance training. This pillar can be constructed of bodybuilding, powerlifting, general physical training, or any combination thereof.
Opposing gravity is the essential act here, which is not achieved by walking, cycling, swimming, etc. We must build strength by resisting and overpowering external forces. A diet rich in protein and a surplus of slumber allow for ample recovery between sessions, which should take place two to five times per week. One hour in length per workout is plenty with proper programming.
Alternatives to strength training may include sports and group fitness classes. However, while these options can be fun and teach teamwork, progress is gained faster and more consistently through old-fashioned pumping iron.
BUILD AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM
Because the human system is integrated, we must maintain all of its aspects. It is unwise to cater to one organ over another. Mental and physical training are multifaceted and also intertwined; working on one offers overlap into the others, but only those which are not neglected.
Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson wrote in his latest book, “Beyond Order,” that an integrated human is one better equipped to deal with the rigours and variability of life. In today’s mad world, such resilience is highly valuable. If our body, mind, and emotions can align and work together, we can actualize our potential—harnessing the strengths of all aspects together rather than suffering according to the weakness of each.
Stay strong, live long, be happy.