No claw-footed tub in the woods here. No Calgon fantasies for the frazzled mind or romantic shower under a waterfall. (Sorry to disappoint.) Think more science, less whimsy, but definite Primal roots. Forest bathing, as it has been dubbed, is actually a studied medical practice. In Japan, the research is spawning a whole new dimension of patient treatment called “forest therapy.”
Forests, like other wild settings, engage our senses in more subtle but evolutionarily familiar ways than our typical modern environments. Sounds in nature are quieter but more subtly layered. Our sight is more expansive. Our sense of touch, finer. Our smell, more acute. Surrounded by nature, our perception reorients to its default setting. As we’ve highlighted in the past, an increasing amount of research shows just how “natural” time in nature is for our physiological and psychological well-being. Exposure to green space offers protective factors against depression and anxiety and can help alleviate the symptoms of ADD. Instinctively, we know this and have likely experienced it. When we step outside our commotion-filled, asphalt-coated environments and truly inhabit a wild space, we’re more relaxed, more at peace. The mind finds quiet and the soul, release.
When you spend some time among the ever-growing circle of evolutionary-based health writers, thinkers, bloggers, and doctors, you notice a curious thing happening. Conventional Wisdom is becoming turned on its head. Saturated fat is generally healthy and excessive endurance training is generally unhealthy become the presiding narratives. Grains are either unnecessary or have the tendency to attack the gut lining, even guts with “clinically undetectable levels of sensitivity.” You don’t need six square meals a day to keep your metabolism up and running, after all; one or two a day will do just fine.
Less is more – as far as exercise goes – is becoming another accepted truth, especially when you understand that 80% of your body composition is determined by how you eat.
College students and healthy lifestyle. On the one hand it seems like the ultimate contradiction. Pizza boxes, Red Bull cans, Doritos bags, beer bottles, Captain Crunch at every cafeteria meal. They’re as much a cultural vision of college as John Belushi’s sweatshirt. If there were a Primal no man’s land, you’d think the residential campus experience would at least be a top contender. Nonetheless, college needn’t be the physical wasteland it’s made out to be. And, let’s be honest: most students do not really live/eat/drink this way. As many students exercise regularly and eat decently as send their bodies through the wringer during their college careers. Nonetheless, campus living is its own kind of existence, and it presents its own challenges for maintaining a Primal routine. Not surprisingly, I get emails from college readers asking for tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle. Here’s one:
I’ve been following the blog for a couple of months now and have been trying to get into a regular exercise routine like you describe. Unfortunately, I get some fitness momentum going and then lose my willpower once I hit stressful or busy times. I feel like it’s a game of two steps forward, one step back (at least). What do you say to someone who’s trying to hit a fitness stride but keeps backsliding? Do you have advice on how to boost willpower? Thanks!
Your question is a timely one. Much was made over a recent study (PDF) that demonstrated willpower as a limited resource. The crux was this: we have a finite amount of willpower in a day (so to speak), and when it’s used up, that’s it. In a given day we might defend against donut cravings at the office all morning, force ourselves to keep our head off the desk in an afternoon slump, resist the opportunity to chew out the neighbor for letting his dog poop on our lawn yet again, and make ourselves go out into the rain to set out recycling and put the kids’ bikes in the garage. Finally, we push ourselves to stay up late in order to finish a company project. Surely, we can be proud of our resolve, our diligence, our commitment to family, work and neighborhood accord. Nonetheless, we’ve left ourselves with neither the time nor remaining willpower to pick up the weight set. Too many tasks, too little energy and too much frustration have zapped our self-discipline, and the balance is zero when we go to direct some toward the day’s workout. The research says this: as much as we’d wish otherwise, we don’t have separate willpower accounts for different areas of life.
Technically this post is the 4th part of our PB Pronto series, and we’re rounding out the picture for Primal fans everywhere. We’ve covered food, fitness, stress and sleep. But no Primal man or woman is an island. Our happiness – and health – also depend of course on how we relate to the world around us. As our other PB Pronto posts have suggested, we know it can be a real challenge to cover all your bases when you juggling a packed schedule full of work, family and personal obligations. Here, as promised, are tips and commentary for boosting both your social and “naturalistic” wellness – most in 15 minutes or less.
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