I have a dear friend whom I’ve known for years. We now live several hundred miles apart and don’t see each other all that often, but we make it a habit to talk on the phone at regular intervals.
A few weeks ago it occurred to me that we hadn’t talked in quite a long time, so I called her at home. Of course, I got her voice mail, “Hello, please leave me your name and number and the reason for your call, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Two days later she called me from her car, Hi, it’s me. I’m so sorry I haven’t called in such a long time. Things here are just insane! I’ve been working so hard it’s unbelievable. I worked all weekend on a project, and when I’m not working, I have to take the kids to birthday parties and playdates. I haven’t had a minute to call. I’m so overwhelmed, I just don’t know what to do.”
I honestly couldn’t think of a response that wouldn’t be tinged with sarcasm. My friend hasn’t called me in over a month and she takes the first ten minutes of a conversation to tell me that she’s been too busy to talk to me. This rhetoric is not unusual. The culture we live in seems to find it necessary to go over in detail everything they do every minute of everyday. There appears to be a need to fill every moment with some task in order to feel valuable. Stopping to make a phone call to a friend or spending time with family and friends becomes a chore to be squeezed into a massive “to do” list.
Is everyone like this? Of course not! However it has definitely become a way of life for many. After teaching stress management for over thirty years, I have become a witness to how many individuals declare they are overwhelmed and fatigued. The irony is that getting together with people you care about helps to reduce stress and helps us to feel more energetic. Unless of course, they are energy vampires.
Years ago, we all lived in communities that were close knit, which is still present in some neighborhoods in big cities. Residing in suburbia creates a more solitary existence. Cars are necessary, and it often feels like the Twilight Zone. Having someone stop by for a cup of coffee seems to be a thing of the past that will soon become an exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum.
Face to face communication is an important and necessary ingredient to our health according to Dan Buettner author of The Blue Zones. Not through texts, e-mails, or phone, but in person. Perhaps its time to spend less time “binge watching” and spend more time “binge looking” at the people in your life.
According to the latest studies on obesity, which states that our population is gaining girth by leaps and bounds, fewer and fewer people are exercising. This seems totally contrary to the amount of gadgets that proliferate the ads on TV and magazines. I know many individuals who have Fit Bits and Smart Watches that report their every move who have not lost any weight and do not exercise. I think they believe that once they own the gadgets that they’re all set. Just having them will make the weight magically disappear.
It reminds me of when I owned a fitness center and people would sign up for six weeks, come a few days and never return. There were always dedicated individuals who showed up, but a lot of people lived with the allusion that once they paid the fee, they were all set. No need to actually exercise.
Today our way of life has become one that has removed a lot of active exercise. I hardly ever see kids in my neighborhood riding bikes or playing games. I remember coming home from school, changing my clothes and hopping on my bike. I loved riding up and down the neighborhood. My friends and I would build forts in empty lots and create all kinds of imaginary plots that entertained us for hours. Our parents would stand outside and scream our names until we finally gave up and went inside. There were some kids that were overweight, but most were sinewy and agile.
Our food intake was a non issue since no one walked around with snacks and drinks. I essentially ate three meals a day as did my peers. I loved sitting down to dinner since my mother always made great meals, but being able to play outside was one of my greatest joys. I wasn’t concerned about how many steps I took or journaling what I ate. I don’t ever remember hearing my family talk about how many calories were in the spaghetti and meatballs or anything else we ate. Calories were burned doing everyday tasks washing dishes, floors, walking to school and the stores. We actually had to get up from our chairs to change the channel on the TV. The newest gadgets are removing the last vestiges of calorie burning. You can ask your phone to do almost anything. I foresee a future that has humans propel themselves around in flying chairs equipped with remotes that respond to our every wish.
Gadgets may be fun and may encourage some folks to have healthier lifestyle. However, what may really work is a return to educating children and adults to incorporate play into their lives. Movement needs to be fun and more spontaneous. Making it feel like a military exercise replete with reports on how much we’ve done, somehow doesn’t feel like fun.