Hugh McLeod say it all in this Cube Grenade which part of a collection that you can buy - I bought one for my son. It is the central message I think of our time and of my book You Don't Need a Job - You Need a Network
Culture is the issue.
For most of us live in a industrial world where every part of our culture conspires to weaken our health. Going to a job reduces our physical activity, keeps us inside, weakens our social ties, makes us lose sleep and to only eat food that bad for us. We are surrounded by signals and forces.
The advice to have better health is to sleep more, take more exercise, eat better food, have a better social network, take more time for ourselves. This is good advice. But so long as each of us fully live in the Job world, this becomes very very hard or even impossible advice to follow.
It seems that so long as the Job is the centre of our lives, we are up against it. So what to do? We cannot change all the modern culture. How can we help ourselves?
This article in the NYT shows the result of living in another culture on the tiny Greek Island of Ikaria where the focus is life itself. What I find especially interesting is that the control group live on another small Greek Island, Samos, not far away, who share the mainstream culture and so all its problems. What this says to me is that, if we can pull together small supporting "tribes" or "Islands" of the alternative, then we can set ourselves on course to live much happier and more healthy and longer lives. We don't have to wait for all to join us.
We can work to create our own Ikarias.
My Xmas book - You Don't Need Medicine to Make you Healthy - will explore this in detail.
So here then is a lengthy snip from the NYT - I encourage you to read it all.
"If you pay careful attention to the way Ikarians have lived their lives, it appears that a dozen subtly powerful, mutually enhancing and pervasive factors are at work. It’s easy to get enough rest if no one else wakes up early and the village goes dead during afternoon naptime. It helps that the cheapest, most accessible foods are also the most healthful — and that your ancestors have spent centuries developing ways to make them taste good. It’s hard to get through the day in Ikaria without walking up 20 hills. You’re not likely to ever feel the existential pain of not belonging or even the simple stress of arriving late. Your community makes sure you’ll always have something to eat, but peer pressure will get you to contribute something too. You’re going to grow a garden, because that’s what your parents did, and that’s what your neighbors are doing. You’re less likely to be a victim of crime because everyone at once is a busybody and feels as if he’s being watched. At day’s end, you’ll share a cup of the seasonal herbal tea with your neighbor because that’s what he’s serving. Several glasses of wine may follow the tea, but you’ll drink them in the company of good friends. On Sunday, you’ll attend church, and you’ll fast on Orthodox feast days. Even if you’re antisocial, you’ll never be entirely alone. Your neighbors will cajole you out of your house for the village festival to eat your portion of goat meat.
Every one of these factors can be tied to longevity. That’s what the $70 billion diet industry and $20 billion health-club industry do in their efforts to persuade us that if we eat the right food or do the right workout, we’ll be healthier, lose weight and live longer. But these strategies rarely work. Not because they’re wrong-minded: it’s a good idea for people to do any of these healthful activities. The problem is, it’s difficult to change individual behaviors when community behaviors stay the same. In the United States, you can’t go to a movie, walk through the airport or buy cough medicine without being routed through a gantlet of candy bars, salty snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages. The processed-food industry spends more than $4 billion a year tempting us to eat. How do you combat that? Discipline is a good thing, but discipline is a muscle that fatigues. Sooner or later, most people cave in to relentless temptation.
As our access to calories has increased, we’ve decreased the amount of physical activity in our lives. In 1970, about 40 percent of all children in the U.S. walked to school; now fewer than 12 percent do. Our grandparents, without exercising, burned up about five times as many calories a day in physical activity as we do. At the same time, access to food has exploded.
Despite the island’s relative isolation, its tortuous roads and the fierce independence of its inhabitants, the American food culture, among other forces, is beginning to take root in Ikaria. Village markets are now selling potato chips and soda, which in my experience is replacing tea as the drink of choice among younger Ikarians. As the island’s ancient traditions give way before globalization, the gap between Ikarian life spans and those of the rest of the world seems to be gradually disappearing, as the next generations of old people become less likely to live quite so long.
The big aha for me, having studied populations of the long-lived for nearly a decade, is how the factors that encourage longevity reinforce one another over the long term. For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle, I have become convinced, they need to live in an ecosystem, so to speak, that makes it possible. As soon as you take culture, belonging, purpose or religion out of the picture, the foundation for long healthy lives collapses. The power of such an environment lies in the mutually reinforcing relationships among lots of small nudges and default choices. There’s no silver bullet to keep death and the diseases of old age at bay. If there’s anything close to a secret, it’s silver buckshot."