Everyone’s so BUSY! To not be busy is to be lazy, indulgent and wasteful. It is no wonder many of us are going crazy in our own exotic ways.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is on the rise, apparently. Lots of analysis has been done, especially on kids, and the conclusion is that they are watching too much telly, going bonkers in class and at home and therefore have personal problems that need to be remedied. Fortunately, there are drugs for this, like Ritalin (unfortunately the side effects include stunted growth and depression, but at least you get a bit of peace).
For me, I cannot believe it’s due to sick people. But I can easily believe that it’s due to sick environments.
Some (most?) people are naturally wild, and need to unleash themselves, unrestrained and regularly, on a suitable environment. The outdoors is perfect for this, and was used as such for hundreds of thousands of years. A classroom, office or sitting room is not well suited at all.
In the past, the wild ones were probably the ones who caught the mammoths, or got loads of physical chores done. Not the studious seen-and-not-heard types. ADHD was probably a prized trait. The ADHD boys, with all their energy, agility and strength, probably got all the cute cavegirls.
In the 21st Century, through a mass-reinforcement that makes it seem so normal, we sacrifice control, and incarcerate ourselves and our kids in environments that overstimulate brains (the sensible left side anyway), steal free time and suppress exuberance and playfulness.
In The Last Child In The Woods, author Richard Louv shows how unstructured (unsupervised, unscheduled, “unproductive”) play in nature can be highly therapeutic for children diagnosed with ADHD. Having recently spent a week in nature with my family, away from an environment of media, technology and electricity (and people), I can vouch that it is highly restorative for energy, creativity and general demeanour, whatever the age.
And I met a filmmaker this weekend called David Bond who is making a feature documentary called The Nature Film (here’s the trailer), to reframe this debate, and reconnect humans with the outdoors.
Increased levels of meddling and Ritalin will solve little. I’m convinced the answer lies not in diagnosis, but in redesign.
Since that’s a fluffy statement, here’s my take on what that means in practice: consume less, compare less, get outside, make some space, seek some quiet, seek inspiration, eliminate distraction. These have felt like small but meaningful (although culturally unnatural) steps towards a place where there’s freedom, more control, less worry, less obligation, more options, better mental and physical health…and fulfilment.
More busy and stressed than you want to be? The great thing about Avoidable Detention and Hyperscheduling Disorder is that it is avoidable. It just comes down to revisiting priorities, and making choices.
The cage door is wide open, if you choose take a look.