Birthdays…we’re having more of them than ever in the history of mankind. The number of candles on our birthday cakes is swelling. And there is a growing concern that as we age, we might not be healthy enough to blow them all out. That is a depressing thought.
A demographic tsunami is coming. 7000 Baby Boomers will hit 65 just today. Worldwide, the population of those people over 60 has more than doubled since 1980. By 2050, expect over 2 billion. The implications to health and health care are staggering.
These are all good reasons to think about aging issues in September – Healthy Aging Month. Organizers of the observance call it “a time to reinvent yourself”. But that isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many look back to their salad days as the ideal model when they were at their peak of ability and stamina. Who doesn’t want to try to recapture youth with its promise of vitality and mental acuity?
It’s like being showered with post-it notes. Persistent conversations about ill health, reminders of seasonal allergies on TV, and snippets from friends’ reviews of their aches and pains can make us question our own health. The suggestions keep coming at you. Often, they stick.
“Don’t rely too much on labels, for too often they are fables.” That’s sage advice from 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon. It’s fair warning in today’s culture of tagging every ailment or pain with a name. There is a way of defending ourselves from this barrage of label making.
A titanic drift is occurring toward self-diagnosis as it relates to health concerns. This impulse is due in part to internet usage and social media. A Pew Research Center study reports 1 in 5 adult internet users going online “to find others with health concerns similar to their own.” The study concludes, “online resources, including advice from peers, are a significant source of health information in the U.S.”
With easy access to all this information comes the complexity of knowing what to do with it. Psychology Today reports “Spend enough time searching the internet for any given symptom and you’ll eventually end up with a grave prognosis.” Dr. Srini Pillay points out many dangers of self-diagnosis, among them thinking “there is more wrong with you than there actually is.” This can contribute to more worrying which makes matters worse.
Fads come and go. That’s their nature. Somebody starts something, it catches on, and before long everybody’s doing it, whether or not it’s a good idea. Eventually the novelty wears off and it’s on to the next “big” thing.
In the 1920’s there was flag pole sitting. In the 1940’s it was gold fish swallowing. Later came phone booth stuffing, Chinese fire drills and streaking. Today there are flash mobs, planking and batmanning.
Many fads are health related. Food and diet fads, exercise machines and routines, and medication and herbal supplements attract our fancy. How about the Beverly Hills Fruit Diet, jiggle machines, and Fen-phen? They have come and gone.
Today with many new drugs entering the marketplace, advertisers are hitting the airways with a product that needs a buyer. The buyer needs a reason to purchase. So the advertiser sells the symptoms that the product supposedly alleviates. During a 3 to 6 month advertising campaign the description of those symptoms can weigh on us. And that’s the point. Just accept one of the symptoms and the chances of you buying the drug go up.
This is also creating a culture of self-diagnosis. Not only can you preempt the doctor’s evaluation by telling him what’s wrong, you can prescribe just the right medication, the one you saw advertised on TV.
It’s just possible there is another “you” lurking out there in the vast universe. In fact, according to multiverse theory there could be an infinite number of “yous” or exact replicas.
The film,Another Earth, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, is currently in limited release around the country. It stars newcomer, Brit Marling and veteran actor William Mapother.
Another Earthis the story of a woman who has the chance to go to a duplicate Earth that one day appears right next to our own. Supposedly she will meet the other “her.” This weird premise is loosely based on theoretical physics studies in parallel universes or mutiverses. That’s right. According to the math, physicists believe it’s possible that there are more universes out there and more Steves, Susans, Johns…….
If you could meet the other you, what would you say?
Quoting American scientist, Richard Berendzen, who narrates the film, “Within our lifetimes, we’ve marveled as biologists have managed to look at ever smaller and smaller things. And astronomers have looked further and further into the dark night sky, back in time and out in space. But maybe the most mysterious of all is neither the small nor the large: it’s us, up close. Could we even recognize ourselves, and if we did, would we know ourselves? What would we say to ourselves? What would we learn from ourselves? What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves and look at us?”
Alaska – There is no better place to celebrate the summer solstice than above the Arctic Circle near the top of the world. The sun won’t set here today. How cool is that?! 24 hour sunshine. Midnight sun.
I’m in Wiseman, Alaska…population 13. Eighty or so miles above the Arctic Circle, everything is extreme up here, including the mosquitos! Jack Reakoff, area resident and Alaskan wildlife expert, says he hasn’t seen stars since May and it won’t get dark again until August. He’s explains that can really bother people.
All this light makes one realize how accustomed most of us on this planet are to the cycles of day and night. Everyday routines center on the sequence of light/dark created by the earth’s rotation. Eating and sleeping, jobs and school, and the tick tock of our body clock all revolve around a 24 hour habit. The same goes for time zones, clocks, and schedules. Even some religious observances are predicated on light/dark phases.
Are you a ‘morning person’ or a ‘night owl’? That’s the day/night phenomenon. Some are affected by SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, believed to be caused by too much dark. Those who have to work the night shift report feeling agitated. Continue reading Extreme day→
Writing about the connections between health, thought, and spirituality