We're currently living in a time, that in spite of all of our technological advances, and progress if you will, people are coming full circle and looking to the past for answers for the future, by asking the question, how were our ancestors living 10,000 years ago?
There's more and more buzz about getting back to our roots. There is an increased awareness that our bodies and genetic makeup have not evolved past that of our ‘hunter gatherer’ relatives. Though our surroundings have been evolving at the speed of light, from self-driving cars, to 3-D printing, we’re essentially operating out of the same cave man minds and bodies that we were several thousand years ago.
So what do I mean exactly by, getting back to our “roots?” I mean people are taking a hard look at how they live their day to day lives, and wondering which things they do are adaptations to the modern world we live in, and which lifestyle choices seem to be truly natural and harmonious for the way we're wired.
A good example of this is that people are becoming much more conscious of the food they put in their bodies. Whether or not you are an advocate for a paleo diet, or a vegan diet, or somewhere in between, I think the shared goal of either of these "dietary advocates" is to put food in our bodies that come most natural to us. People are becoming more aware of the health risks associated with the convenience of modern man-made creations like pop tarts, skittles, and frozen pizzas, and are opting for ‘fuel’ our bodies originally adapted to run on. This has resulted in seeing labels like “organic” and “non-gmo” in every grocery store you enter today.
Another popular lifestyle analysis that the masses have become more mindful of for quite some time, is how we get from one place to another, and what an average day at work is like. The modern industrial and technological advancements of cars/buses/trains, and computers, have equated to sedentary days for most folks. Most people drive, bus, or train to work, then sit in a chair at a computer all day. When taking your daily audit of what comes natural, and what does not, this lifestyle most definitely falls into the latter category. Those that do their homework on our hunter-gatherer relatives find out that every single day consisted of a tremendous amount of movement, walking 4-10 miles at the very least searching for food and shelter. It's safe to say that this raised awareness has resulted in the nearly ubiquitous daily supplementation of exercise that most of us at least try to squeeze in to our busy lives.
When it comes to the above examples, how one eats, and one moves, it’s nearly consensus opinion that the further away you get from what comes most natural to human beings, the more your health declines. What other lifestyle aspects have we not evolved past that we should be attempting to restore and "supplement?" What about communication?
I believe we’re in the middle of an unprecedented time in regards to the primary ways we now communicate with each other. Did our tribal ancestors, who's biological needs we share, ever spend several days alone communicating through screens, never sharing space with another human for authentic communication? Would our ancestors feel comfortable walking through crowds of people, brushing up next to them, without even saying anything, or at least acknowledging each other’s existence like we do today? If most people would agree that it's true that we haven't evolved past the dietary needs and exercise needs of our ancestors, is it farfetched to say that we haven't evolved past their needs socially and communicatively either? Many of us "supplement" our lives with natural dietary choices and exercise choices, but might it start to become more popular to put all the screens down for a moment and make the same natural choice with communication?
Stephen Illardi, Psychologist and author, states in his book "The Depression Cure," that "Anthropologists who visit modern foraging tribes invariably notice something peculiar about their hosts’ social lives: Hunter-Gatherers almost never spend time alone. Whether it is hunting, cooking, eating, playing, foraging, sleeping, grooming; regardless of the task, it is carried out in the company of others, loneliness and social isolation are virtually unknown." Wow…how different from our modern world! So many of us work alone, sit in traffic alone, eat alone, and feel alone when everyone we’re with is sucked into the virtual world of their phones!
I’m sure we can all attest to a time when we were leading very healthy lives across the board; eating healthy, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, but we still felt a little off and out of balance. Then after meeting up with someone, spending time together and having great conversation, we left feeling invigorated and in perfect balance.
What is it exactly about sharing space together and communicating face to face that has these unique healing elements to it? Now what might that say about the sort of communication humans are wired for? Is that the missing piece of the puzzle that so many people are missing in our increasingly isolated and technology laden society? There was an interesting study done in 2004 called the “Blue Zones Project” that may have proved just that.
In 2004 National Geographic and the world’s best longevity researchers teamed up to identify pockets around the world where people tend to live much longer lives. In these “Blue Zones” they found that people live to 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States. Out of all these random “Blue Zone Communities” around the world, from Japan, to Italy, to Loma Linda, CA, they identified nine lifestyle common denominators among them. In addition to the more obvious lifestyle traits of healthy eating habits, and moderate exercise, three out of the nine lifestyle common denominators were community based: engagement in social life, engagement in family life, and engagement in a spiritual or religious community. These are all ways of being in community with one another, and as the great American philosopher, educator, and author Mortimer Adler once said, “There can be no community without communication.” I think we all can agree that community cannot exist without a rich source of communication and interaction.
As more studies like this emerge, and we continue to become more and more isolated in our tech-saturated lives, might there be a "communication movement" or "communication revolution" the same way there's been a "natural foods movement" and a "exercise movement?" Might it become just as common to see “dialogue centers” in every neighborhood the same way we see gyms, yoga studios and Whole Foods markets? Who knows.....that might just be the missing piece to the puzzle in our shared quest for optimal health!