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Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Aug

The Primal Blueprint For Busy People – Part 2: Social and Naturalistic Wellness

busyTechnically 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.

Social Wellness

Social 1

When we were kids it seemed so simple. Sure, we had homework, chores and the like, but the majority of our time was spent in some kind of social endeavor, even if it was just passing notes in the back of class. Psychologists would tell us it was our primary developmental task then, our job to learn how to feel out and fit into the social tapestry around us. As grown-ups we have other responsibilities, other primary missions as we build families and careers, not to mention just keeping up with all the smaller chores and duties of simply being self-sufficient adults. As for the social realm, we’re supposed to already know what we’re doing, aren’t we? We’re supposed to have it down pat. Problem is, the lifestyle backdrop has completely changed. We’re dealing with a whole new ball of wax: different set of life circumstances, a less communal living situation, and usually a major deficit of time these days. Sometimes it feels like it’s all conspiring against our ability to have any social life whatsoever. Ironically, the times we could use our social outlets and relationships the most are often the stages when we have the least time to devote to them (e.g. new child, family illness, job search, or other life change).

Our social connections, as we wrote about a few weeks ago, are an essential part of a full and healthy life. Take heart, all you on-the-go Groks out there. Even if life has you time-strapped and tunnel-visioned, you still have the chance for some social well-being. If you’ve been too unplugged, too isolated these days, check out these tips – and share your own!

Get back in the mode of connecting. Phone, text, Facebook, email, ecard, postcard (support your U.S. Postal Service). Sure, we know all the modern modes don’t confer quite the same “wellness” benefits, but just reconnecting informally with status updates and messages can sometimes be enough to get the ball rolling (or break the ice after a long hiatus) and spur a real get-together. If you don’t tend to run into many of your friends throughout the course of work and normal activities, it’s nice to have creative ways to stay in touch and in each other’s lives.

Take your life outside. Now we’re going old school. Front porches. Lawn chairs on the drive way. Kids in the front yards. Try catching your neighbors sometime other than National Night Out. Have your coffee or eat dinner out on the lawn. Use your condo community pool and grounds. Go for a stroll around the neighborhood. Stop. Talk. Catch up.

Take the initiative. Think of the old adage, “Be a friend to have a friend.” Bring some soup over for a friend who’s going through a rough time. Drop off a meal for a neighbor who had a baby or is nursing a sick child or spouse. Or put yourself on the line by hosting people. Quit waiting for your house to be clean. (If you have children, just accept the fact that it never will be.) Stop holding off until you’re caught up at work or you’re done renovating the porch.

Lose the big expectations. Unless you’re inviting Martha Stewart, forget the grandiose visions of swank dinner parties, novel recipes and clever drinks. Think small. Think casual. Think the easiest, simplest, most convenient means possible for getting people together –whether it’s just one person or a dozen. Instead of an elaborate dinner, do a minimalist brunch or potluck, or skip the meal all together. Cocktail hour in the backyard. After dinner drinks or dessert when the kids are in bed. Afternoon watermelon by the pool. If the point is socializing, don’t feel like you need to add layer upon layer of pomp and circumstance.

Nature

EnjoyNature 1

Last year we took up the “nature deficit” theory as author Richard Louv applied it to children, but the truth is we all need it. E.O. Wilson calls it biophilia. We’ll just call it our Primal nature. But whatever you call it, the impact is indisputable. As we’ve mentioned in the past, free time in nature relieves stress, enhances concentration, encourages physical activity and – according to Louv’s book – even engages a unique form of unfocused concentration (likely used for landscape scanning and hunting in our primitive days) that can relax the mind and even ease ADD symptoms. And, lest we forget, there’s the obvious object of PB Law #8, the sun of course.

It’s crazy that we have to think about getting outside, but that’s increasingly the world we live in. Many of us work indoors, and most outdoor jobs involve environments that aren’t exactly natural, tranquil settings (think highway construction). Add to this the technological bent and indoor focus of most modern entertainment, and suddenly it feels like you spend next to no time under the sun – or at least paying attention to it. To remedy the situation, try these tips for reacquainting yourself with good old Mother Nature.

Take it outside. (Turns out it’s good for both your social life and your “biophilic” nature.) Thoreau amused himself by bringing his furniture outside and enjoyed the chance of pace. Even if you leave the couch in the living room, look for ways to move bits of your life outside: your morning break, your lunch, your time with the spouse, that book you’re reading, the kids’ erratic energy. We’d argue that there isn’t much that isn’t better with a little sunshine.

Stop wherever you are. Right now. Look. Listen. Even smell. Rediscover the gentle sound of swaying branches in the breeze, the eerily thrilling spectacle of a harvest moon, the dark, earthy smell of a summer rain.

Lie down. Yes, we’re recycling from our last week’s PB Pronto post, but gosh darn it, we’re just big believers in changing your vantage point. Lie back and put your head in the clouds. (By the way, it works just as well at night. Some of us prefer it this way.) Watch the rustling leaves, observe the night sky, make pictures in the clouds. Teach your kids the joy of it, share it with a special someone (Romance brownie points, anyone?), or just relish the experience yourself. In the backyard, on the beach, in a field, with Sam I am. Wherever and however your heart desires.

Make a date with Mother Nature. Seriously, put her in your calendar. Daily date, weekly tryst, special occasion (maybe catch the tail end of this month’s Perseids meteor shower?). While you’re sitting on the bus or stuck in a boring meeting, make a list of five things you want to do outside this month (e.g. puddle stomping, apple picking, walk on the beach, geode hunting, kite flying in the park). What did you used to love doing outside when you were younger? What happened? Weave them back into your life one by one.

Start and end the day under the sky. Get up a few minutes early to enjoy your morning coffee with the sunrise. Finally, instead of spending the last few minutes of your night watching the news, rifling through the bills or doing email, shut it all off and head out the back door. (It’s the end of summer after all. Enjoy it while you can!) Stop and savor the moment. Forget everything else, and let the quiet settle in. Goodnight moon.

Before I wrap up this post let me say that I realize this is probably the type of advice that can easily go in one ear and out the other. It all sounds nice in theory and you might agree that a little extra attention paid to connecting with friends and the outdoors would serve you right, but actual putting this advice into action is a different beast altogether. Remember there is a huge difference between reading, agreeing, understanding, and learning, and actually doing. So if anything above struck a cord with you commit right this moment to working it into your busy lifestyle and then follow through.

Have other tips for staying connected with society and nature? Share your ideas and anecdotes with all our MDA community.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’ve been hiking and walking a minimum of 2 hours a day outside lately. Only another month before it gets real nasty around here.

    I’ve been less social since going primal. Everyone I know wants to sit around inside watching TV or be in the drinking atmosphere. They think I’m on some weird diet when I don’t eat a bunch of junk food.

    My social events with family have become way better. Any many are slowly converting to primal, even if they haven’t realized it yet.

    Here is an idea… put the couch on casters so you can roll it outside instead of dragging :)

    Grok wrote on August 20th, 2009
    • Some kind of weird diet: CHECK. My friends think I’m a food snob and have told me so. “We can’t take you anywhere!” My family complains that I “make nothing they can eat!”

      But on the flip side, I’m losing weight, feeling better and gaining muscle mass. My friend complained to me just the other day, “I gained 15lbs last month and you’ve lost 12lbs this month?! How??!” Maybe we’ll see some converts.

      Piper wrote on August 20th, 2009
  2. I’ve been going to the Nature Preserve at a local park with my dog several days out of the week. While walking the miles of trails has helped tremendously with stress management, it’s giving the dog the primal outing that he craves as well!

    Andrew wrote on August 20th, 2009
    • My dog loves to be outside, too! I have 2 parks where i walk, one is a nice cement pavement but runs along a creek. Th other is very woodsy (the real thing) to be out in mother nature. I believe if a dog is stressed out, it helps them to go for walks, just as people do!
      I love dogs!!!!

      Donna wrote on August 20th, 2009
      • Reedy Creek Park has a 727 acre nature preserve with 10+ miles of trails. I don’t think me and the mutt will tire of the place :) Probably the most relaxing thing about going is my job allows me to go in the middle of the day when most people work, so it’s fairly empty.

        AWilson wrote on August 20th, 2009
  3. Great thoughts!! Another is to join an urban garden! You’ll get outside, meet people and grow lettuce too!

    fritchbeetle wrote on August 20th, 2009
  4. This year, over several summer weekends we’re able to escape to Fire Island to enjoy the ocean breezes and all the fun the seaside has to offer (beach sprints anyone?) along with good friends & great food. Although the ‘hood we live in is pretty leafy & lush (trees & yards galore)we are still in NYC. I often yearn to live near the sea or in the countryside, but I take what I can get and try to enjoy the little bit of nature here (right now we have crickets at night and the birds always wake me at dawn so that’s wonderful).

    marci wrote on August 20th, 2009
  5. Ouch, being social is the area i lack most in my life. 22 years without contact to opposite sex surely sucks.

    damnregistering wrote on August 20th, 2009
  6. So many ways to get together in the midst of mother nature. Camping is a great way, everybody going together is so much fun,bring the bicycles to go bike riding, everyone loves that and it’s great exercise. Boat riding is fun, walking a trail, i enjoy fishing.
    I’m all for camping trips!
    The dog enjoys it too :)

    Donna wrote on August 20th, 2009
  7. Chicago is a tough city to crack. Like NYC we have lush areas with trees, and having a dog to walk is a great excuse to get out (especially when you want to leave the party at 10). I always loved the lakefront because it is like having a national park that spans a 1000 square miles. When you’re on the water you can imagine yourself anywhere (at least in summer…let’s not think about chicago winter now)

    Mikeythehealthycaveman wrote on August 20th, 2009
  8. great post! lots of great tips.

    barbara wrote on August 20th, 2009
  9. Excellent post Mark, we are so on the same frequency/vibe/wavelength, dude it must be a #Primal thing! ;)

    As a guy who does alot of Social Media (for fun and business) I can sometimes spend an extended time in front of this screen and on my arse (not #primal), however I almost always start my day with time in the sun (walk, run, swim) and will often take lil mini breaks and get OUTside and breathe in the air, sun and nature, as it recharges me and keeps me going an feeling IN TUNE as i re-connect to my ‘True Nature’!

    I also do an outdoor fit camp for women and kids (and few men too now) 3 days a week where we re-connect to nature and also take my lil girl (and her friends) to park/playground often, in fact just yesterday we went to the park and then walked over to the Library next door and then took a break and went back outside to re-connect and recharge.

    In a busy high tech world, we have to remember the HIGH TOUCH aspect as well both inter-personally/relationship wise as well as with our souls and spirit, have to stay connected with nature and our true self, it’s hard wired into our DNA, it’s who we are!

    Thanks for the reminder, great post Mark!

    To our Healthy Success!

    Jared
    @LeveragedLife

    jared maidenberg wrote on August 20th, 2009
  10. Things that brighten my day:

    1. Do something nice for someone and don’t tell anyone else. Carry what you did with you all day. Go ahead and glow about it.

    2. Do something nice for someone who will never be able to give you something back for it – like handing that homeless guy a five dollar bill instead of a few coins or a glare – just because you can.

    3. Do something nice for yourself every day – even if it’s something that might be silly to other people.

    4. Compliment people! You’d be amazed how often people don’t hear “You look great!” So tell them they look great. Find something to compliment them on: “You look so put together today!” “I love that brooch,” “I think your hair looks fantastic,” “That’s an awesome T-shirt,” whatever. People eat up compliments and they really are spiritual food – but make sure you mean it!

    5. Be an emotional alchemist! When someone does something that makes you angry, hurt, or upset, channel the energy that pain or anger generates into doing something nice for the next person you see.

    6. Reconnect with yourself. The best way I’ve ever found to do this is:

    Go to the nearest open window, or outside.

    Breathe in. Breathe all the way to the tips of your lungs. Hold it for a few seconds.

    Breathe out. Breathe it all out. Use your stomach muscles to push out the last of it.

    Repeat this a few times, and you’ll feel better, more grounded, and more energized. It always works for me, no matter how rotten of a day I might be having otherwise.

    Griff wrote on August 20th, 2009
    • A few years ago my new years resolution was to compliment people. Not artifically, but when you notice someone in the lift has a cool bag, or fab shoes, don’t just think it – tell them. Same for any other positives you notice.

      People light up, and suddenly you’re having these little positive interactions scattered throughout your day. And it helps me – I make a point of noticing the joys around me, and love it when people smile.

      Costs me nothing, and good for all.

      Rachel wrote on September 30th, 2010
  11. I am looking forward to the primal BBQ in Seattle this weekend. I have been avoiding friends (for the obvious reasons). It’s hard enough to explain and deal with family members. It will be refreshing to meet some more primal people and have some fun eating meat together!

    Sofia wrote on August 20th, 2009
  12. Great blog post!

    I really love how PB meshes so well with my Paganism- especially when it comes to nature.

    Unfortunately I’m lacking a tribe. It would be great to find a community/society to be a part of offline as well as online.

    Diana Renata wrote on August 20th, 2009
  13. Just came back from a long morning walk and had some berries and nuts for breakfast along with coffee, its important spend as much time as possible outside especially in the summer when the days are long….
    A nice walk to start and finish the day is great, I usually use the time to listen to a podcast and walk around my local area….
    As for socializing and eating Primal things get a little more difficult, I find its best just to eat the primal way and not comment about what your eating or judge others for their poor food choices. Also when in restaurants its pretty easy to get a meat and veg/salad based meal so I don’t find it a problem….. Although once in a while a good pizza with beer or wine serves as a nice treat while socializing.

    Chris - ZTF wrote on August 21st, 2009
  14. My journey to and from work includes a 30 minute walk each way, and I also try to get out and walk on the nearby common at lunchtime. When you’re hunched over a computer and surrounded by machines all day, I think it’s important to get out somewhere green for a bit, especially if you live in a large city, in a small flat with no garden, as I do.

    Indiscreet wrote on August 21st, 2009
  15. Last Child in the Woods ––
    Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
    by Richard Louv
    Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
    November 16, 2006

    In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

    But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building “forts”, farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what’s to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

    It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though (“conveniently”) never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, “Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!”, at http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3.

    It should also be obvious (but apparently isn’t) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don’t learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building “forts”, mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

    On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: “Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back.” Then he titles his next chapter “Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?” Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are “nature-lovers” and are “just hikers on wheels”. But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It’s not!

    On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one’s health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one’s experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the “civilized” world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I’ve been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can’t remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

    It’s clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.

    References:

    Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

    Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

    Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier — An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

    Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

    Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

    Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods — Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

    Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

    Reed, Sarah E. and Adina M. Merenlender, “Quiet, Nonconsumptive Recreation Reduces Protected Area Effectiveness”. Conservation Letters, 2008, 1–9.

    Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

    Vandeman, Michael J., http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande, especially http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/ecocity3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/sc8, and http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/goodall.

    Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

    “The Wildlands Project”, Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

    Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

    Mike Vandeman wrote on August 21st, 2009
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