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Our Paleolithic program may need a reboot

According to scientific evidence, we are all Paleolithic brothers and sisters. Our basic physical bodily makeup began millions of years ago and has evolved to who and what we are today.

Originally hunter-gatherers and tribal cave dwellers, our big decisions of the day might have been who builds the fire, hunts for roots and berries, fetches water and helps harvest the occasional wild game kill. A simple lifestyle with lots of time to sit around the fire and reflect on the events of the day, assuming we had verbal skills in the early days of our social development. Our ancestors were focused on the basic wants and needs for food, warmth, clothing and perhaps companionship. Striving to make their daily lives easier and more comfortable while surviving the challenges of the environment.

Many of us are still drawn to outdoor camping and a simple existence that might resemble our ancient ancestors. We escape to one of the many campgrounds available to us in the Rogue Valley and Oregon Coast. Great numbers of us still crave the lure of the outdoors. Watching the sun set, tracking the rising moon, looking for constellations in the quiet and comfort of a camp chair while watching and tending the fire. Returning home after a peaceful holiday to very complex and often stressful lives. Our Paleolithic DNA struggling to meet the demands of modern life and combat the stress in our everyday surroundings.

I wonder if our bodily construction has the capacity to keep up with the demands of modern life. Why do so many of us, in fact 20% to 25%, struggle with depression? Symptoms that include feelings of sadness, low self-esteem and hopelessness. Many of us suffer from insomnia, sleep apnea and night terrors. A sleep disorder can affect your overall health and quality of life. Are we pushing our limits while creating life-threatening conditions? If we look at a cross section of society, some people are able deal with the pressure and complexity of what we now view as normal life while it appears that many are unable to cope and meet the daily demands of modern society. As technology and information expand rapidly to new levels, can we all keep pace? So, I beg the question, is our shared Paleolithic mainframe adequate to deal with this rapid metamorphosis and not impact our health? The proof may rest in the overall wellbeing of the population.

I am concerned with social evidence leading me to another brutal statistic. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. for all ages. The CDC reports that suicide takes the lives of over 44,965 Americans every year. You must ask yourself if these startling numbers could be reflections of our inability to deal with today’s demands. Has our Paleolithic superstructure kept pace with the demands placed on our minds and nervous systems? Clearly the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the tensions we are all feeling. There are clear warning signs that may be driving social unrest in our cities and the measured scientific deterioration of people’s health (Jackson County Crisis Hotline: 541-774-8201).

It may be time for all of us to examine our priorities and focus more on our mental health and wellbeing. Is our prehistoric mainframe telling us to balance our current priorities and lifestyles? Is it time to revert to a simpler and more tranquil time of sitting around the campfire and focusing on the common needs of our friends and neighbors? Perhaps you have noticed the campsites are full in Jackson and Josephine counties. People seem to be fleeing their current environment. This could be a sign that folks miss their Paleolithic connection and have hopefully begun a healing process. Is our ancient DNA telling us it is time to make a change?

Bill Haden lives in Medford.

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