Are we all living in the time of “The Great Angst”? And if so, is it permanent? Or can we head off the mental-health crisis infecting us all?
With the advent of the internet, so much in our world has changed. We now have access to information so readily, that we often take it for granted. And therein lies the problem. To be more specific, we are getting to a point where it’s difficult to discern fact from fiction.
Furthermore, don’t you feel like the world has become a more uncertain place since we came online only a few decades ago? I know I sure do. And it would seem that I’m not alone in this feeling. Infact, this fear seems to be everywhere I go, and expressed by almost everyone I talk to. So, I’ve decided to call it “the great angst.”
Days gone by
Only three decades ago, the world felt safer in so many ways. I can recall being a kid, feeling free of so much dread, angst, and mental pain. While I certainly had my challenges trying to figure out why I was so angry all the time, I had some things that are lacking today. Chief among them were mother nature and play. In those times, humanity wasn’t exposed to the addictive algorithms of social media and video games; we conformed to more of our natural human tendencies. Being mobile and making use of our imaginations.
The importance of play for children
If you’re a regular reader of The Road To Mental Wellness, you will know that I often refer to exercise as “mother nature’s medication.” Therefore, it’s not a stretch to lump play and actual mother nature under this umbrella. Why? Well, because they all do the same things:
Like exercise, they can help reduce one’s stress levels. In doing so, they also help to mitigate anxiety and other mental-health conditions. This is great news! And… best of all, it’s free! In addition to the stress-reducing benefits to getting out and being one with nature, playing helps kids’ neurodevelopment. How? If one is unrestrained and allowed to be creative, it forces them to solve the unknowns that pop up, encouraging neurons to make connections. And over time, these humans’ problem-solving skills are enhanced. After all, isn’t that what we want? Smarter, more resilient people?
So, in other words, the great outdoors and play are giving their brain a good workout. God! I miss the eighties.
As a side note, I am not advocating for the demolition of the internet – but what I am saying is that we must balance it out with the way mother nature intended. Mainly, to move and learn.
What can be done
In my view, we can start by listening to the science, for which there is lots. This data clearly shows the benefits of exercise, being outside and having time to play. What’s that? Adults don’t play? Well, if you feel this way, you should try it! Perhaps it’s more helpful for some to replace the word “play” with “creative.” Whatever you want to call it, the science that leads to better mental health is clear.
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In my opinion, our move away from what makes us what we are engineered for, has stoked the fires of mental illness, it seems to me that we have been pelted with the perfect storm of unhealthy indulgence. Well, more like addiction. And as far as I can see, no one feels good about it…. hence, why I have termed it “the great angst.” Feel like we are in trouble? Feeling an unidentified fear and anxiety? That’s because – or so I believe – our fight or flight is being constantly alerted to trouble.
Ans why wouldn’t it? It has every reason to be. The unabated concentration on wealth has almost stripped the world of a decent living, has damaged our beautiful earth, and has ruthlessly caused conflict.
As if that weren’t enough, the conflict is truly global. From far-off nations to your small-town streets, everyone is yelling at everyone… My friends, mental-health conditions are on the rise because we are disconnected, are being ripped off by the wealthy and feel “the great angst so intensely, that we are overwhelmed.
Although it seems bleak, I do have hope. We can do better, and we must! Let’s do our best to try and understand one another, or at very least, let your need to be right just remain silent.
What will it take?
While it may seem, there is no hope for us, I refuse to believe that. For if we are anything, we as a species are both adaptive and reflective. Humanity got this far in many ways. But chief among them were dependence of community (tribe), living in innovation (play) and problem -solving (common goals). We are now wired for connection, and therefore, NEED connection. If this is true and it seems to be the case, then we must ask ourselves; is our preference for isolation and reward good for us? Not just individually, but more importantly, as a global community? I argue that the answer is likely “no!”
Let’s fight back against the great angst by getting back to the things that makes us happier humans… Exercise, mother nature and connection. If we can do this, the greater good won’t let us down.
I believe this: “It is our very real human similarities that will save us – kindness, compassion, and connection, all universal, by the way…… Division, in any form, however, if allowed to continue on a grand scale, will wreak havoc on our very existence.”
– Jonathan Arenburg.