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.
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.
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.