Its possible that returning to some quite old fashioned stress management techniques can help us, even in the present age. The global economy requires constant growth and encourages intense competition, and human and planetary health and quality of life are compromised in the interests of profits and GDP growth. Those making and consuming the goods sacrifice their best years to make money to buy more stuff. We stand or sit inside all day at work, and suffer from stress, insomnia, social isolation and depression in big cities. We are exposed to thousands of untested industrial chemicals and eat too much refined food. We are chronically inflamed deep inside. At a young age we have metabolic syndrome. That is a combination of: high blood pressure, stomach obesity, high blood sugar, low good cholesterol, and high triglycerides, a type of fat which is used to store unused energy, in fat cells.
Metabolic syndrome predicts disease better than anything else. After ten to twenty years we have heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer or Alzheimers or some other inflammatory disease. But, according to doctors who work in the Kalahari, it is rare for hunter gatherers to get these diseases.
Gardening is known as one of the most healthy life prolonging hobbies, because it brings together so many aspects of health. If you don't have a garden, spending time in nature, growing herbs on a windowsill, or just buying lots of vegetables, can improve your health and well being.
There will be more on food in the healthy food article. Moving a lot also helps. In the section on natural purposeful exercise there will be more ideas on how to move more. But the most important health enhancing behavior is relaxing with friends. You can combine it all, and cook with your friends who are also on a health kick, or hike with them, dance and many other activities. They will probably be glad to do healthy things with you.
When we don't know how to reduce stress it helps to remember our ancestors. Rural people in the super healthy blue zones have strong communities, and solve problems together, whereas in the city many suffer from loneliness and lack of support. This predicts early death more than smoking and alcohol. Bonding and touch produce oxytocin (see the free course at Berkeley on the Science of Happiness), an antidote to stress hormones. After a long hard day's physical exercise, they would socialize and tell stories, while we often unwind with addictions. They generally relied on God, rather than competing with each other to earn more money and buy more stuff. They had just the right amount of physical stress from rural life, but few industrial poisons in their environment, whereas we have it too easy, sitting all day with air conditioning, to much food, and lots of appliances. Our furniture, upholstery, wall paint and computers give off VOC'S, or volatile organic compounds, that off-gas from plastic and disrupts hormones. we also swim in cancer causing radiation from wireless devices, and our cells are stressed.
Find a community. Deepen your existing relationships, laugh with your friends. Research has found that a supportive community, affection and relaxation predict longer life. aughing with friends reduces blood pressure and inflammation in the whole body. Generosity spreads and when people give to you, you give to others. You can find community in gardening projects. The sight of lush plants calms an ancient part of ourselves, assuring us of abundance, without fighting over food. green trees, even in a photograph calms people and real green space increases mental clarity, prosocial behavior and reduces crime. Its as relaxing as meditation to just sit and stare at your garden.
Leave unnecessary luxury, go out barefoot, harden your body. Chronic emotional stress harms the body, but small amounts of safe physical stress, or hormesis, toughen us. We make new mitochondria, the tiny organelles inside your cells which produce energy, increasing our vitality and organ function. Gardening supplies hormesis. Going out there in the cold, and heat, getting a light sunburn, and working hard are all good hormetic stressors.
Protect your precious microbiome
Throw out sanitizers and replace them with bicarb and vinegar. Sanitizers in the home kill the germs you need to have a healthy skin, lungs and colon. They also are poisons, stressing your cells as they irritate the skin and lungs.
Don't fret about possessions and success. In the garden success is not up to you but nature and you have to let go of control. You can grow plants from kitchen waste, cuttings, and sharing seed with friends and make compost without money. If you have a lovely garden, you care less that others have fancy cars and appliances. It gives you another kind of richness.
Look up !
Find your spiritual base. Adam and Eve's first job was gardening. It is deep in us and fills us with awe at creation and can make you feel closer to God.
Hack that habit
Conquering addictions is so hard. At least gardening can distract and satisfy us, and most importantly calm us. It is often used as a from of rehabilitation. I think you need every little thing that helps on this particular journey.