The Biggest Lie We Have Been Sold
"It's no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." - Krishnamurti
In our modern existence, we've been sold a lie—a lie that equates health and happiness with money, prestige, and financial success. We believe that accumulating wealth will lead us to a state of contentment, but the truth is far more complex than this simple equation.
Our lives today are faster and more frantic than ever before in human history. Each year, things seem to get busier, more rushed, and more aggressive. Stress is pervasive, lurking in the tone of the barista's voice, the lack of eye contact from the ticket seller, and the hurried attitude of the person on the other end of the phone. We rush through life, often without taking a moment to breathe. I remember a yoga teacher once saying, "Enjoy these moments of stillness, before you rush out and start your busy day."
Our society values stress, busyness, possessions, pace, achievement, striving, persistence, success, and money. The rapid pace of modern life threatens to blind us to its deeper aspects and the true meaning of our existence. We have been conditioned to fit into this culture, to follow the well-trodden path, and to conform.
Neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to change and adapt, has shown us that we can relearn and adapt to overcome challenges, even when areas of the brain are damaged. However, what we often overlook is that neuroplasticity is constantly at play in our lives. We adapt to stress and become better at coping, but this also means we normalize the overwhelming busyness of our lives.
In his book "The Inner Self," social psychologist Hugh Mackay points out, "While we thrive on change and need disruption and surprises to maintain brain plasticity, we constantly complain about the impact of those changes on our lives." We resist change, even though it's essential for our growth and well-being.
Society tends to discourage those who go against the grain. Families often follow the same patterns for generations. Change is rarely convenient or well-received. But change is a necessity because, despite the remarkable aspects of modern life, it doesn't inherently foster good health.
Consider the following alarming statistics:
- In Australia, 40.7 million prescriptions were filled for mental health-related medications in 2019-20.
- Nine people per day take their own lives in Australia.
- Lifeline receives 1.2 million calls each year.
- One in five teenagers has experienced an anxiety disorder.
- About 25% of Australians will suffer from an anxiety disorder, affecting approximately 5 million people.
- 46% of children have experienced bullying at school.
- Anti-depressant use in people aged under 18 has increased by 60% over the past five years.
Furthermore, rates of obesity, anxiety in children, dementia, and cancer are on the rise, not to mention the deteriorating health of our environment, including soils, forests, oceans, and wildlife. These issues collectively impact our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, as well as the health of our society.
Australians are working longer hours than anyone else in the world, and stress levels have reached unprecedented heights. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2.4 million Australians aged 18 and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2017-18, a 12% increase from the previous year. Millennials are particularly affected, facing an epidemic of insomnia, road rage, screen-time addictions, body dysmorphia, and loneliness.
The World Health Organization has stated that stress is directly and indirectly responsible for more than 80% of lifestyle-related diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Conditions exacerbated by chronic stress, such as asthma, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, tension headaches, chronic pain, and poor attention, have become so common that we now perceive them as normal aspects of modern life.
It's time to challenge the notion that giving up leisure and embracing relentless work is the path to success and well-being. To feel truly well in a highly pressured and stressed world is not a genuine measure of health. We must recognize the need for change, and we can begin by acknowledging that our mental health challenges are often responses to unrealistic pressures from our culture.
- You're not alone in your mental health challenges.
- Consider your mental health issues as reactions to unrealistic societal pressures.
- Our brains are adaptable, and we can make them either helpful and healthy or unhelpful and unhealthy.
Written by Dr Michelle Woolhouse.
Based on 1st chapter of The Wonder Within.