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How to Thrive While Living in Captivity

 mushroom growing in mossI have had the pleasure and honor of co-authoring 13 scientific pa­pers with Dr. Loren Cordain, the founder of the Paleo movement and the world’s foremost authority on the evolutionary basis of diet and dis­ease. Dr. Cordain teaches that humans who were living actively in the wild, eating only natural foods that they gathered and hunted themselves, did not develop the ubiquitous chronic diseases like high blood pressure, dia­betes, osteoporosis, depression and Alzheimer’s that afflict our modern cultures.
In other words, wild humans, like other animals living in the wilderness, generally do not suffer from diseases of aging and seldom show signs of senility or extreme old age. On the other hand, they also generally failed to achieve their maximum lifespan because of early death due to prob­lems like infant mortality, infectious diseases, parasites, predators, extreme weather, accidents, violence, starva­tion and exposure. Without question, living in the wild as a hunter-forager was not for sissies.
The truth is that most animals live much longer in zoos than in the wild, especially when they are fed a whole­some diet of fresh, natural foods, get plenty of socialization and exercise, and receive good medical care. Weaker animals who would probably perish in the wild can live lengthy and healthy life spans in captivity, as long as it’s a nurturing and stimulating environment and they are fed their natural diet.
For example, a tiger who is lucky to live 10 years in the wild can survive twice that long in a modern zoo that is giving the creature the best of both worlds: simulating its natural diet, sur­roundings and lifestyle, while provid­ing it with the best of 21st century science to make sure it stays safe and healthy.
The Best of Both Worlds
The same is true for us humans; those vigorous and hardy stone-age foragers had average life expectan­cies of about 30 years. While their heart was lucky to beat 1 billion times, a health-conscious 21st century American ought to get at least 3 bil­lion heartbeats from their ticker. But to accomplish that, you too must take the best from both worlds.
Today it’s possible to consistently eat a wholesome diet based almost exclusively on fresh fruit and veg­etables, nuts, berries, eggs, fish and seafood, and modest amounts of lean meat. Drink only natural beverages like water, coffee, tea and sparkling mineral water. Get to bed by 10 p.m., and rise before 7 a.m.
Take a nap when you can, and spend some time outdoors getting at least a little sunshine and/or fresh air each day. Surround yourself with family, friends, plants and pets. Like the other zoo animals who achieve their maximum lifespans, it’s important to get good, state-of-the art medical attention, preferably from a qualified health professional who truly cares about you and is someone you feel you can trust to do what’s best for you. Life in captivity, though not as “wild” as it was in prior millen­nia, can be fun, interesting and a lot longer.
The Toxic Speed Trap of Time Urgency
While I am reading by the fireplace in the evening, our cat Lola often hops onto the chair and curls up in my lap. I gently pet her soft sleek coat as she purrs affectionately and shuts her eyes. I love basking in her tranquil presence, and watch the obvious pleasure she takes in relaxing and just being there with me. Lola exudes the opposite of time urgency—she indulges herself in the luxury of leisure time, and knows how to enjoy living in the moment.
My brother-in-law, Joe, as part of his work for an international telecom corporation, studied what the average customer considered an acceptable computer response time—that is the total amount of time it takes for the computer or smart phone to respond to a user request such as a memory fetch, database query, or loading a web page.
What he found shocked and amused him: the fastest response time the person had ever experienced in their life was what they considered an acceptable computer speed. In other words, speed fuels the need for even more speed—it’s a vicious cycle.
Modern life has been ramped up to warp speed, instilling a feeling of time pressure in our day-to-day existence. This time urgency locks us into a per­petual rush hour, even when there is no need to hurry.
Rushing around and being driven by a vague sense of the scarcity of time leads to a harried and anxious mental state. Chronic impatience also leads to irritability. What’s more, frequent clock checking with a zero tolerance for waiting more than a millisecond promotes hostility toward others around you.
Chronic Time Pressure = Cardiac Danger
Time urgency, when combined with anger, is a recipe for heart disease. Individuals, even young people, who report feeling chronic time pressure, are two times more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure). Worse still, recent research out of Harvard Medical School found that people with a persistent sense of time urgency and impatience are at height­ened risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Time urgency can come to control your life: You stress over being delayed by a red light, or a slow-moving eleva­tor, or a slow Internet connection. You work yourself into a dither hurrying to the FedEx office before it closes so that your package will be there overnight. Rushing around generates an altered mental state akin to intoxication. You might do things while in your rushing mind that you would never do in your rational mind, like run a red light, or being nasty to the elderly lady in the express checkout lane because she has too many items in her basket.
The stress caused by chronic time pressure can poison your system and provoke anger and hostility. This con­stricts blood vessels and predisposes to clotting in the arteries. Researchers at the University College in London, in a review of 43 studies on the topic, reported that anger and hostility significantly worsened the risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, some stud­ies suggest that hostility might be as cardio-toxic as high cholesterol, smok­ing or excessive alcohol consumption.
Studies show that people with high levels of hostility or depression have two- to three-fold higher levels of inflammation compared to more friendly and happy folks.
The Rushing Mentality
Time urgency revs up the amyg­dala—the brain’s command center for the stress response. A frenetic pace can spawn emotions of fright and fear, hijacking the rational brain and making you over-react to perceived threats.
Watch for signs that you are getting sucked into life in the fast lane - hur­rying from one task to another, speak­ing fast, gulping down food, always checking your watch, interrupting people to complete their sentences, generally feeling impatient and irri­table. You shouldn’t feel like you need to be in high gear 24/7. Ask yourself, “Is this really an emergency or perhaps just a speed trap?”
I must admit, my kids think I need to be medicated for hyperactivity disorder, and truthfully the song, I’m in a Hurry by Alabama, has always resonated with me. When I feel like I’m racing around, I try to remind myself that life moves pretty fast, and if I don’t stop and look around now and then, I might miss some of the joy and beauty of being alive.
The remedy for time urgency is focusing our full attention on the moment; being fully present here and now. Step outside and go for a stroll, breathe in the fresh air and appreci­ate the beauty of nature. This is our moment in the sun. Time we enjoy wasting, is time well spent!
“I’m in a hurry to get things done. I rush and rush until life’s no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die. I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”
In Good Health,
James O'Keefe, MD
Picture Credit: Pixabay