What If The Answer Is Less?
Stop. Breathe. Think. Move.
Many of my colleagues go for walks around campus during their lunch break. I’m happy for them, and sometimes do the same. While I’m enjoying the sun, as one should, I might as well get some (more) exercise, right? Because more is better, right?
For my colleagues, this is probably true given the global rates of obesity, inactivity, diabetes, and Vitamin D deficiency. However, as I’ve delved into breath work recently I’m more and more aware that “more” has never been my problem.
I find myself conflicted when I see things like this…
To be fair, I’ve long been a fan of Chris Palmer’s work and his most recent book Brain Energy is definitely on my to-read list. However, as is often the case, my frustration lies in the conveyed messaging.
I find myself both defensive of my profession as a therapist and also irritated by the lack of nuance and discourse in these types of posts — of course, sound-bite “social” media posts have always been limited in this fashion.
With some reflection and maturity I realized it’s not their fault. They (Chris and Sarah above) are trying to help people; and I’m sure they’ve done so successfully many times over. However, they and I seem occupied with different audiences.
The “regular people”, the ones who are mostly overweight, mostly diabetic, mostly trying to stay informed, mostly do the right thing(s), and are mostly on social media are exactly the ones who need that type of blunt and broad messaging.
They are not the types of people I identify with, training with, or mostly even working with these days. For example, there is a U-curve regarding the effectiveness of exercise in treating PTSD with veterans (ref.) — something I pointed out in Sarah’s post above and didn’t get a response.
I suspect that the types of people who’s depression is “cured” with diet and exercise are mostly curing shitty lifestyle (metabolic, movement, and environmental habits). I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s suffering. I’m trying to illustrate the depth and complexity of human nature. We are fundamentally relational creatures and a large part of “healing” takes place therein.
I’m also not making an excuse for anyone’s lack of responsibility for their diet and fitness. There are multitudes of benefits to eating more meat and exercising more. That message is relevant to more than 90% of people receiving the posts above.
What happens when exercise becomes a form of self-harm and deprecation? A tool for avoidance, shame, and masochism? And the same of diet and the corresponding pathological need for control? The need to be “right”? The quest for a panacea? The inability to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty?
I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I work with it every day.
I don’t get angry at those types of Instagram posts, though I’m aware of my initial inclination. I recognize the difference in function. Mass appeal will inevitably water itself down, yet it has it’s usefulness I suppose. If there is another MO I’m not privy to, or just not intelligent enough to recognize, then so be it.
Nutrition started as a performance-seeking means to an end for me in the early 2010s — performance at all / any cost; even over health. The intention shifted over the next 10+ years to something more akin to “we all have to eat, so I might as well learn to do it intelligently.”
There are a few other things we all have to do:
Occupy Space (move through and exist in an environment)
Relate / Attach to Others (even through avoidance or dismissal)
We might as well learn to do those things well also.
Much more congruent with the needs of my life, my lunch break routine looks like:
Find a green space.
Find a sunny spot.
Take shoes and socks off to sit on the ground.
Breathing exercise (~5-10 min)
Mobility routine (~5-10 min)
Maybe you don’t need 10,000 (more) steps, a cold plunge, a sauna, more supplements, more time, more hacks, more news, more “social” media, more bullshit…
Maybe you need more sustenance. Maybe you need more focus rather than more time. Maybe you needs something important; important enough that all the biohacks, memes, and RCTs in the world could never fill the void you’re left with without it.
Maybe you need to breathe.
“When you think you do, when you feel you become.”
~ Brian Mackenzie