The boiled frog syndrome
If a frog falls in a pot of boiling water it will instinctually jump straight out and survive. If a frog is placed in a tepid pot of water and a very slow heat is applied, the water will gradually come to boiling point, the frog will not think to jump out and he will boil alive. This is because frogs aren’t good at detecting small shifts in temperature; they just acclimatise to the heat slowly and unfortunately won’t have the wit to figure out what is happening. This is known as the boiled frog syndrome.
Unfortunately a similar situation has happened with us, the modern urban-living human: instead of unknowingly being boiled alive like the frog, we have acclimatised ourselves to an environment that is increasingly hazardous to our health. This process of acclimatisation has, admittedly, been going on for some time, but in the last 50 years the heat has become intense.
The main hazards of our environment are three-fold: primarily we are being exposed to increasing levels of chemical pollution in our air, water, food and the built environment. Secondly we are being exposed to increasing and unrelenting levels of different kinds of technological pollution. Thirdly, we are gradually being overwhelmed by mental-emotional stress to such a level that it is impacting on many aspects of our health. Through this article I will look at a few examples of this noxious trinity, and give some practical solutions to help buffer these hazards and fortify your health.
Since World War II, more than 80,000 new chemicals have been invented. Many of these chemicals have been dispersed widely into the environment. Some will persist in the environment for decades and even centuries. Most of these chemicals did not previously exist in nature. Over 2million tons of toxic chemicals are released by industry into the US environment each year, including 36,000 tons of recognized carcinogens. Of the top 20 chemicals discharged to the environment, nearly 75% are known or suspected to be toxic to the developing human brain. In recent studies nearly 300 chemicals have been found in newborn babies, many of which are known to be toxic. This is especially troubling given that foetus’s and newborns are the most vulnerable to environmental toxicity. In short, our landscape, our homes and our bodies are saturated in toxic chemicals.
What I call technological pollution is two-fold. On the one hand we have ‘screen-life’, where our relationships at work and with our family and friends are flattened into 2D smart-phone or computer screens. This flattening degrades our language and the way we express and relate to each other (and the world at large). Our humanity is defined by our language; as a species the health of our language, the way we speak to each other is intricately related to our health and well-being. More significantly, ‘screen-life’ has a developmental impact on children and youth. When we are raised in or become acclimatised to a 2D environment held at close range this gradually limits our ability to keep perspective with the sensuality of the world at large. In short, ‘screen-life’ has a detrimental impact on our relationships, which are also a key part of keeping in good health. On the other hand there is the slightly controversial topic of electromagnetic radiation/pollution. It is controversial because industry and our own entitlement to the comforts of technology make it extremely unpopular and inconvenient to give credence to the notion that mobile phones and Wifi may be hazardous to our health. This creates a significant obstacle in carrying out scientific research- there are still many unknowns as to how EM radiation interacts with our own EM field and health and much of the research is obstructed or tainted by vested interests from the industry. That said, when it comes down to it, it is better to be cautious when there are serious potential risks at play. (The World Health Organisation cautions against prolonged mobile phone use due to it's connection with the development of brain tumors.)
The third ‘boiling frog’ factor is the overwhelmingly high stress levels of modern living. When did you last feel truly and totally relaxed, both in mind and body? If it takes you some time to answer this, we can assume that although we know what it’s like to relax and unwind, there may well be underlying streams of tension that keep you on guard even when you don’t need to be. This tension will have a dampening effect on the incredible restorative, regenerative, and healing capacities of your own body.
The good news is there are many things we can do to counter-act this onslaught from our environment. Here is a list of things I find useful for myself:
- Drink clean water, invest in a water filter.
- Eat clean foods, avoid all synthetic, pesticide-sprayed, non-organic foods as much as possible.
- Be cautious about taking medications when not essential, be wary of becoming addicted to opiate-based painkillers, sleeping pils, or anti-depressants. Always personally research potential side-effects of medications.
- Support the detoxifying capacity of your body- research foods and herbs that support the liver and cleanse the body. Research different detox protocols and get to know how to detoxify your body.
- Find ways to naturally improve the quality of your sleep. Our sleep is the main period for mental and physical restoration, detox and healing.
- Limit your screen-time. Create a cut-off point in the evening where you switch all phones and screens off. Try to make this at least an hour before sleeping.
- Give your self a ‘digital detox’ for a whole day or weekend.
- When making a call on your mobile do not hold the phone next to your head until the other number has picked up. Hold your phone at least 1 inch away from your ear. This simple practice will greatly limit your exposure to the most intense radiation from your phone.
- Learn to self-regulate. Explore your breathing habits, practice awareness-based exercise such as qigong, taichi, yoga, or pilates.
- Make time for being in nature, enjoy your local wildlife.
- Invest energy in your friendships- “True wealth is not measured by a man’s riches, but by the strength of their relationships.”
Even though living in a big city can be highly stressful, it is worth remembering that it is not just the environment that determines the stress, but it is how we choose to respond or react. Being able to adapt to constantly changing pressures is a skill worth developing. This way, we’ll begin to notice when the heat is rising, and jump out of boiling water!
Writings on health, happiness, and innovating between traditional and modern lifestyles.