It has struck me at times that a person born in 1700 could have lived a lifetime without seeing any real change in their daily life. The same could be said for someone born even up to say 1850. Most people would never have even left the town they were born in. You would have no awareness of people or events outside your immediate vicinity.
I was thinking about how much the world has changed whilst watching a series on National Geographic about the 1980’s. Much of what we take for granted today had its genesis there. Things like the mobile phone, personal computer, and home and personal entertainment systems to name a few.
It is remarkable to think as we read emails or surf the web that none of this was possible even 30 years ago. A person born in 1980 has seen more change in their lifetime than has probably occurred in all previous lifetimes.
Within this small space of time we have seen the rise and decline of walkmans (superseded by MP3 players), VHS players (superseded by DVDs) with CD’s and even DVDs soon to be replaced by digital download. Even PC sales are in decline with tablets taking over.
We can now know instantly what weather events are occurring on the other side of the globe and what is happening in the lives of people famous, infamous or just happy to share where they eat lunch with the world via social media.
The increased availability of information is a good thing. We can get more views and opinions than ever before. The Internet is the best bulwark against censorship as it gives everyone with access a voice.
In health this is often decried as “Dr Google”. Yes there is a lot of nonsense out there but there is also a lot of good information, which previously people could not access.
The amount of information coming at our five senses can be overwhelming. Humans have not changed that much in the last 30 or even 100 years yet the sensory environment has changed enormously. Hence our senses are not fully adapted to sensory overload.
Does this mean we should switch off the modern world? It does not.
Having breaks from computers and mobile devices is a start. And no we cannot realistically pretend they do not exist or seek to go without them permanently. But we can be more rigid with using the off button and have “time out” from them.
Also there is an antidote to noise and that is silence. Taking time to be still, to do some slow deep breathing or some meditation is an antidote to the noise. It can help to centre us and reduce our stress levels. Ultimately much of the noise is stress inducing.
So we do not need to go back to living in caves to get some balance away from the incessant noise. We do not have to ignore the world around us or the events that occur. We can switch off both literally and metaphorically for a period of time each day.
Dr Andrew Weil suggests taking a news holiday for a week. Switch off all the bad news. By the time you switch on again you won’t have missed much of which really matters.
Maybe have a day when you don’t open the computer or tablet, or a day when you switch the phone off. Different approaches will work for different people.
Many of us are under constant stress. Much of this comes from external information, which can lead us to feel bad, anxious or stressed. Our wellbeing will be the better if we sometimes reach for the off button.