How to overcome our evolutionary biology
Modern-day life is increasingly overwhelming and bizarre. If you don't believe me, just Google 'Florida man' and look at the most recent news stories.
It's easy to get caught up in social media, screens and non-stop notifications and forget we are primates.
We are mildly clever primates (maybe less so in Florida (sorry Florida)) that have achieved a lot. But in some ways, we are the victims of our own success.
Our evolutionary history has shaped our brains and bodies to be well-adapted to specific challenges and environments but less well-suited to others.
This adaptation can have some nasty unwanted consequences.
Evidence suggests that anxiety, depression, and obesity rates have been on the rise in many Western countries in recent decades. While many contributing factors are at play, one crucial factor is our inability to adapt to modern life.
Here are some ways our evolutionary biology doesn't do us any favours:
- Our bodies are adapted to respond well to acute stress. We trigger one-off fight or flight responses. Ideal if we need some adrenaline to escape a predator. However, modern life involves chronic stressors our bodies are not well-equipped to handle. These stressors, such as long work hours or financial worries, can repeatedly trigger the fight or flight response. This can lead to various physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
- Humans are adapted to be physically active. Many people struggle with this today. Modern life often involves jobs where you sit at a desk for 40 hours a week. Often people's jobs are so mentally exhausting people only have the energy to sit and watch TV in the evening. This lack of movement is different from what our body wants. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to various health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Our history has made us social animals. We thrive on real social interaction and connection with others. Technology has the power to help us connect with our friends around the globe, but it does cause problems with our need to face to face social integration. Social media can give the illusion of social connection. Still, it can lead to shallow, superficial relationships that do not offer the same benefits as deeper, more meaningful connections.
- We evolved to seek out high-calorie foods. You will have felt this first-hand. The pull of the biscuit tin or basket of chips is unreal. Back in the day, high-calorie foods were scarce in our ancestors' environments. However, modern food environments are often saturated with high-calorie, processed foods that can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.
Our hardwiring is against us. Without conscious effort, it will impact all areas of our life, but chiefly our happiness and fulfilment in life are in jeopardy.
We try to use ancient wisdom to allow us to connect with the present moment and make decisions that are in our best interest. To short circuit our hardwiring and make it work for us.