The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
“Those who dance are considered insane by those who can’t hear the music.” – Attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche
All over the world, elections come and go but Covidus Uninterruptus seems unimpressed and continues its rampage. It ain’t easy, not for the youngsters who tend to be least vulnerable, not for our isolated elders and certainly not for the ones who get sick. The collateral damage seems to be as bad, maybe even worse than the disease, with suicide and drug addiction apparently up everywhere.
COVID-19 or no COVID-19 a friend of mine, almost my age, took a new job teaching in Vietnam just a handful of weeks ago. He managed to get there, was put under strict isolation for two weeks and then underwent a complete physical. I sent him an email to see how it was all going and he responded: “They asked me why I am in such good shape. Liver perfect, Prostate fine, Kidney has a small issue but the blood pressure is perfect and they wonder why I am so lucky. I quoted you: just move and all will be fine.” Not bad for a man who has passed retirement age.
I am not a doctor, nor have I been trained in any area of health care, mental or physical. What I do know comes from simple observations mainly what happens to me and people I know well. I believe in moving. It is the secret to a long and healthy life. Keep on moving, keep on trucking. Not for me, talking to Alexa. I would rather get up and put on an old fashioned CD or even better, play an LP. I would rather start the fire from scratch than buy a chemically altered log or even worse, get a gas fireplace. I would rather walk up or down the stairs than use the escalator.
I would rather get on a bicycle, no matter the sun or rain, summer or winter, than get into a car. I would rather chop the wood than have someone deliver it to me. Not only does all this keeps me healthy and alert but keeps me sane or let’s just say, balanced. Yes, like many of us, I can easily get depressed, sad and melancholy. How do I control it? Get moving. Go for a long walk or a bike ride or a swim. Tennis would work as well, though my wrists are not longer up to that.
I am not the only one who holds this kind of belief. Swedes and Norwegians have a whole lifestyle they call Frilufsliv, which translates to ‘fresh-air life’ or ‘open air living’. The Japanese have something they call ‘forest bathing’ which is a physiological and psychological exercise to connect one to nature. And these societies are not the only ones. American President Theodore Roosevelt used to suffer from Black Care, or what we call depression. How did he deal with it? He adopted a heavy physical regimen in the natural world; swimming, hiking, exploring, hunting. Canadian troubadour, poet, author and singer Leonard Cohen spent years in an ashram and even there he couldn’t get rid of his depression. He decided to travel to India and spent half a day walking the streets of Mumbai. His depression disappeared.
So is COVID-19 getting you down? Here is some easy therapy. Get outside! Cycle, jog, walk or play some pickle ball, the fastest growing sport in the world. Psychologist Brock Bastian, author of The Other Side of Happiness, proposes that “we need painful, negative experiences to know what happiness is – they give definition and meaning to lives.” He goes on to say that “By engaging with adverse or difficult experiences we increase our capacity to access pleasure in life. Pain also makes us more resilient. Research shows that more we have to endure in life, the better we get at coping with it. But a lot of pleasures in life comes from pushing ourselves and exposing ourselves to risks. I think that’s the key to a meaningful life.” Yes, we are going through difficult times but believe it or not, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and at the end of this, we may even be happier than we were before.