Nina (my wife) and I were lying in bed the other night and she said, “I wish we could go back to the 80’s life was so much easier and innocent then.” And I nodded replying, “that’s so true…”
I knew exactly what Nina meant because when we were kids in the era of big hair, colourful clothes, and breakdancing we only had the cold war and mutually assured destruction to worry about.
In truth, there are always bad things happening in the world, however, unlike the 80’s the bad things in the world today are amplified and exaggerated to such an extent that we become saturated under an information blanket thicker than Grandma’s knitted woollen doona!
With the negativity, in general, playing over and over on our TVs and in our social media feeds we could be forgiven for wanting to just shut down and do nothing or blow up and hate everything, but neither is going to make us feel any better.
However, I can tell you from experience what does make people feel better during times of frustration and hardship and that is staying connected to family, friends, and nature.
Making time to check in with family or call a friend (even if you can’t by law see them in person due to covid lockdowns) helps a great deal in lowering stress levels and making us feel better. I often talk about self-sufficiency but I never advocate for ostracising oneself from society or living off-grid away from everyone because I don’t think it’s a desirable or healthy endstate for 99% of people. Yes, there are some that prefer to live as far away from civilisation as they can in the bush or jungle but not many.
Most people are not loners, by choice anyway, and even if you are the type that enjoys your own company there comes a time when communicating with and/or being around others is important for our sanity.
Having said that, and without downplaying how critical relationships with family and friends are when it comes to our happiness overall, an aspect that is regularly overlooked with respect to mental health is nature.
We, humans, are every bit a part of this world as any other living thing but sometimes I think we see ourselves as outsiders or intelligent beings above nature simply because we dominate the planet. However, deep down we really are connected to the earth and I would go as far as to say part of its natural beauty.
If we allow ourselves to tune out from the manmade distractions that are all around us, we soon tune back into nature and realise this is where we came from and where we really belong.
Getting out into nature and “getting into it”, (as I tend to say) whether that be on a walk around the park or out in the garden tilling the soil, pulling weeds, or sowing seeds being out in nature is a tonic that when taken often has only positive effects on one’s physical and mental well-being.
What will certainly make you feel worse is binge-watching the news on your favourite corporate or taxpayer’s funded TV channel every day. The owners and employees of these networks have agendas and narratives (sometimes beyond monetary) that are often not disclosed nor in the best interests of their viewers. They get paid to freak normal people out with the next shocking story of Chicken Little (it’s a legacy media form of clickbait) and just like the online world this form of media should be viewed sparingly and with healthy scepticism.
Plus less TV means more of Self Sufficient Me on YouTube… Only joking, less TV means more time to do other things that enrich your soul (so cliche) or perhaps even help you understand the meaning of life, which everyone knows is to have as much fun as possible before you cark it.
In these times, the temptation is huge to sit on the couch for hours watching the 24-hour cycle to catch the next breaking news update that practically doesn’t make much of a difference to anything. That is not fun and it’s not being informed either.
There are too many people with the classic case of the above syndrome spending way too much time getting worked up and worried by the hype disguised as the latest “advice” based on “experts” on the telly.
I have to say, during normal life, there are enough crises as it is to get through rather than worrying about an over-exaggeration blown up by a media whose best interest is to keep you watching their show. In order to live with the ups and downs, we do need to coast for as long as possible to catch our breath between them.
Seriously, the real problems and hard times one experiences can leave unwanted scars that are part of life and we do have to live with them because the machine to go back and change the bad things in history or the terrible things that happen to us has not been invented yet. There are no good alternatives there are only ways to cope and navigate the moguls until we meet our last one, hopefully with feet off the pedals and hands off the handlebars waving in the air as we yell with glee on the way down.
For me, gardening has not just been fun it has been my therapy for most of my adult life and recently I’ve started jogging again (well, it’s more like a jog/walk) but already my head is less cloudy and I’m feeling fitter.
My Grandfather who was a WW2 Vet used to spend many hours out in his vegetable garden tending to his crops or in his back shed turning wood into ornaments and furniture that he’d give away. He never explained to me as a young boy why?
Back then I assumed my Grandfather simply enjoyed these hobbies (did them for fun); however, I now know that growing food and making things out of wood was more than fun it was his way to chill and de-clutter his mind from what he experienced during the war and other hardships or losses he tackled throughout his life. Such as his beloved daughter Dena who unexpectedly died in a car accident or when his favourite son-in-law Guido perished in a freak plane crash. These events rocked our family but somehow we moved forward.
I guess my Grandfather also used his hobbies or activities as a method to tune out from the daily yelling match society can become so in his case rather than sit watching the idiot box for all retirement he whittled wood, grew food, went fishing, and built a camp in the opal fields of Lightning Ridge instead.
None of us gets through life unscathed. Some may have less turmoil than others but who’s to be the judge of that in the end it’s relative. My point is, it’s how we cope with setbacks and how we get through bad times that counts and understanding your inert connection to nature will give you superpowers to cope with whatever comes your way.
I know people from my military service who are obsessed with all the bad things that happened to them and all the awful things they witnessed. This obsession never helps. I find it sad that some are so wounded mentally that they can’t clear the fog. Nevertheless, I do think working out if they have an obsession could help – although, I suppose I should stress I’m not an expert and I can only explain what has helped me in the hope it might be useful to someone in some way.
On the other hand, I know those (including myself) who have “moved on” and found peace through a common theme of connection through family, friends, and nature (and yes, God does play a part too, in my life anyway). “Moving on” doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting or hiding from the past or that you shouldn’t fight for what’s right and the rights of yourself and others but that when you do you shouldn’t dwell on these issues day and night.
Nature can help you to de-stress and detach. Nature can help people cope. If I ran a pharmaceutical company I’d make a bottle of medicine but instead of pills to swallow, each capsule would contain a small note that the prescribed had to abide by. The notes would say things like: go for a walk through the park for an hour, sow a packet of carrots in a raised garden bed, or go sit on the beach and watch the sunset today (hopefully you live near the sea).
Meditation can be useful but where you meditate makes a difference, therefore, is it the meditation or the location that relaxes the mind? Try meditating on a busy, noisy roadway in the city breathing in carbon monoxide and diesel fumes and then try at the beach or a remote mountain stream. Yep, going to that happy place in your mind is surprisingly easier if you are in that happy place physically.
I meditate in our garden without even thinking about it – literally… Just being in this environment takes me away from the irritating screeching of politics and madness in the world and welcomes me into the hum of bees and rustling leaves in the tall gum trees (that end bit rhymes).
Sure, we do need to be across politics and have a finger on the pulse of what is happening around us as responsible members of a community but limiting our exposure to the sensational magnification of these events, as I briefly wrote earlier, is one of the keys to reducing unnecessary anxiety.
As a content creator, I know the art of pulling triggers to attract eyeballs from the ordinary normal person but there is a line that is easy to see and that shouldn’t be crossed. This line crosses over into sensationalism and lies using negativity and division to make people consume more out of fear, confusion, shock, and manufactured hatred.
In the past 20 years, I’ve seen the amazing benefits of the internet age but I’ve also been wise to the moral demise of information technology, particularly “news” media, being used mostly as a way to persuade opinion and make money rather than deliver facts and let the consumer decide.
Being in the industry of content creation for the past decade and also being obsessed by wanting to become a success at what I do has given me a great insight into the psychology of mankind when it comes to consuming information. Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who are easily manipulated – don’t be one of them.
The best way to stay grounded is to get back to Earth (literally) and out into nature as often as possible in whatever form that might be. And, the best way to consume news and current events that may affect you is to be diverse in where you get this information from… There are no “trusted news sources” anymore so cross-reference what you see and hear from a number of sources and then formulate your own opinion.
Using the internet to your advantage by reaching other points of view is the key to making you better informed but also use this information highway in moderation and don’t go chasing rabbits down holes. Rather, dig your own holes and plant some fruit trees or seedlings out in the garden and then surprise yourself with how good you feel.
Even if it’s getting out into nature a little each day, you’ll soon understand that much of the hysteria you see and hear is not near as important or urgent as they say because the changes you’ll see out in the garden are incremental like the new leaves on an emerging tomato plant and then when you go back and turn the TV on you see that nothing much has changed so why worry your pretty head about it?
Finally, if the world does go to hell in a handbasket at least you’ll be ahead of most people being self-sufficient in something from your own garden that you created and that’s how getting into it can help.