Most concisely of all: what you choose to do, and therefore what you don’t do.
It turns out that living a too-processed-and-programmed life, a too-dumbed-down life, has consequences for your health, success and happiness that are far graver than lack of exercise or unhealthy diets … in part because the impact hits you faster and harder.
(And because the consequences of misdirected experience choices – consequences such as lack of energy, anxiety, and depression -- lead people to make lazy, short-sighted and dangerous choices elsewhere in life, such as diet, exercise, finances, relationships and career.)
It turns out that our mass obsession with living a surface-dwelling life -- spreading ourselves thin, trying to get more and more done quicker and quicker -- versus diving down deep to feel, explore and experience more intimately is more dangerous and deadly than the crispiest French fries washed down with a Diet Mountain Dew followed by an unfiltered Lucky Strike.
But of course it will take more time, attention, and the typical getting-past-the-naysayers for that to be widely acknowledged.
People hate to give up what seems easy and convenient, after all … so much so that, as with fries, aspartame and cigarettes in the previous evolutions of holistic health, they don’t even want to hear the truth.
Everything in moderation, the saying goes.
And that would apply to “the conveniences of life,” and routine in life, and mind-candy entertainment, and spirit-numbing experiences like mall shopping, too.
Some of those things sometimes -- along with deep, engaging, new experiences that challenge and expand different parts of you at other times - would be good.
But as it is, almost ALL people are mired in a massive blob of convenience, routine, and mind- and spirit-numbing experiences and entertainment.
Add to the blob that most jobs these days are service-oriented or “specialized” – i.e. far more repetitious, removed, mind- and spirit-numbing, and unfulfilling than the employed ever hoped they’d be.
Across the span of their waking hours people are, by and large, spending their most precious resource – their energy – on the shallowest, emptiest and most unrewarding things.
Things that provide little to no growth, deep fulfillment, or reward.
Of course people are going to feel tired, anxious, stressed, unfulfilled, restless, frustrated, and depressed – and age prematurely, and get chronic diseases -- as a result!
It’s like having a hundred dollars to spend on dinner and buying a hundred bags of potato chips. Or getting to take a trip anywhere in the world and choosing your office.
Only far worse.
We were born to dive deep, there is a world of new experiences to dive deep into, so what does anyone expect except feeling shallow and insignificant when they stay at the surface?
Consider further … consider the “stuff” that surrounds you, that you use, and that you do routinely:
The stuff on TV and oozing out of Hollywood is mostly the same … shift the actors and their costumes around all you want but you’ve still got the same blah formulaic stuff repeated over and over.
The stuff that most people read, if they read at all, is mostly the same … gossip rags, muscle and diet mags, and the same-old same-plot thrillers, mysteries, and romances, the scandalous celebrity bios, half-brained political tirades, and obligatory diet-fad-of-the-moment book.
The stuff people spend their leisure time doing is increasingly the same… shopping and “errands”, watching TV, shopping and “errands,” watching TV, and more shopping and “errands.” And maybe a nice dinner out, a barbecue, or a movie at the theater, and then some TV, shopping, or a few more errands.
What about this big notion of convenience and “saving time,” and the stuff associated with it like cars, cell phones, riding mowers and microwave ovens?
It is pretty much a cliché that they don’t really save us time versus making us feel like we should be getting more done … more phone calls, more errands, etc.
(In truth, they are inanimate objects and don’t “make us” feel anything, of course. Those are choices people make with them in the go-go-nowhere-faster lifestyle that so many people lead.)
But relying on so many of these conveniences day-after-day poses risks and numbs the mind and spirit in ways that most people aren’t even aware of.
It compounds the dangers of us committing so much of our energy to the Bud Lite version of life.
As neuroscientist and psychologist Kelly Lambert writes:“…I do think we have to examine whether our cushy, digitally driven contemporary lifestyles – replete with SUVs, DVDs, laptops, cell phones and, yes, microwave ovens – may be at the root of soaring rates of depression in people born in the latter part of the 20th century. Did we lose something vital to our mental health when we started pushing buttons instead of plowing fields? From a neuroanatomical point of view, I believe the answer is yes.”
I had mentioned that scientists and the academic community are finally putting a lot of focus on this final and most important aspect of holistic health … the importance of new, deep and transformational (i.e. intense) experiences.
On this note, be sure to read about the 3 to 1 positivity ratio developed by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson.)
Another article I urge you to read is “Depressingly Easy,” in the August/September 2008 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine. It is actually an excerpt of Kelly Lambert’s book, Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist's Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain's Healing Power
Lambert goes on to explain that:
“Our brains are programmed to derive a deep sense of satisfaction and pleasure when our physical effort produces something tangible, visible and – this fact is extremely important – meaningful in gaining the resources necessary for survival.”
In short, we NEED to feel deeply involved in DOING things and experiencing the reward of doing them to feel whole, substantial, connected and healthy.
Grabbing boxes off the shelf at the grocery store instead of growing our food … tossing it into the microwave instead of preparing things from scratch … even our mass reliance on convenience is ripping us far away from deep, rewarding and essential experiences.
The point is not to join the Amish and give up the mind-candy movies, TV, gossip magazines, strip mall trips, or your day job.
Nor is the point to abandon the grocery store, cars, cell phones, or emails.
Just as, in eating healthy, you don’t need to give up dessert, or potato chips, completely. And just as, in exercising, you don’t need to lift weights constantly.
As in the other aspects of holistic health, the point IS to seek balance.
In this regard, I have followed what is pretty much a standard story for someone with a vision that can truly help people and the world, and a strong sense of mission to do so:
I have worked for years trying to tell people about the unparalleled importance – for their emotional, mental and physical health, and for achieving success at whatever they desire most -- of directing some of their energy at doing deeply engaging, revealing, transformative things … at having intense experiences.
For the longest time, so many people have viewed those things as perhaps interesting, but not critical for their health, success and happiness. Meanwhile, they put other aspects of holistic health on a much higher pedestal, such as eating right and diet.
Only now are people beginning to realize intense experiences are just as or even more important than those other aspects.
No complaints, though. I expected it. It takes a while for the most important things to catch on.
I am of course ecstatic to see more and more attention focused on the importance of intense experiences from the academic community and from those at the forefront of holistic health and wellness. (And I hope that in five years or less the concept is just as understood and accepted by the many people striving for health, success and happiness as diet, exercise, etc.)
My first published book was ultimately centered on that theme (as were several unpublished ones before that). I of course have built my website -- IntenseExperiences.com -- and the now-very popular free IntenseExperiences.com newsletter around that theme, too.
Finally, of course, that’s why I spent years developing The 9 Intense Experiences.
I realize that, in a sort of vicious circle, people feel trapped in their way-to-fast and too-much-breadth-and-not-enough-depth lifestyles.
You also may not be sure HOW you can invest your time and energy in deeply transformative experiences when you don’t even have time to finish all your to-do’s at home and work.
That’s why I designed The 9 Intense Experiences to be simple, to not take up tons of your time to do, and yet to be as powerful, transformative, healthy, engaging and beneficial as experiences get.
The solution, in other words, is to be sure to incorporate such intense experiences into your life, in the same way you should incorporate eating your veggies and exercising.
To balance your life with them.
People complain of not achieving success – in terms of their wealth, health, career, relationships and beyond – that intuitively they know they are meant to achieve. (And their intuition is right.)
But then they keep doing the same things they always do in life – they keep repeating the same patterns, the same experiences, over and over (and over and over).
That’s like complaining about lung cancer as you keep smoking cigarettes, or complaining about being fat as you eat a Krispy Kreme.
Of course nothing is going to improve! Instead things will only get worse.
If you want to change your life, change where you are directing your energy in life. Not all of it, but some of it. Dive deeper. Live deeper.