Our early ancestors who lived during the Paleolithic time period lived very differently than we do today. They lived and worked in close-knit groups and ate whatever they could find in nature, which was a diet high in meat and plants. Their hunter-gatherer lifestyles were full of physical activity. There were difficulties of course, as they had to run away from carnivorous animals, which developed what we call today the fight or flight response.
Today, a quick run to the grocery store satisfies our need for nourishment. The food available is hardly the same as our ancestors ingested. Much of it is processed and modified from their original version. For survival, most people work high-stress jobs for long hours, which occur indoors and require little to no physical activity. With such a busy work life, there is little time left for family and friends, and exercise is often out of the question.
Our Paleolithic brothers and sisters may have lead more dangerous, unstable, and shorter lives than we do today. However, studies show that they may have been happier, and their lifestyle might hold several keys to help people today avoid and overcome depression.
Stephen Ildari, author of The Depression Cure, believes that depression is not a natural disease. Rather, it developed over time as modern civilization evolved. People’s everyday lives became more hectic and we disconnected from nature and each other. According to Healthline, 1 in 10 Americans are or have experienced depression. However, in hunter-gatherer societies such as the Kaluli people in New Guinea, depression is reportedly very rare.
Below are three simple (though not necessarily easy) ideas from our hunter-gatherer ancestors of ways to fight and avoid depression which our modern life may be lacking.
Physical Activity: Ildari stressed the importance of exercise in fighting depression, saying that if “it could be reduced to a pill, it would be the most expensive pill on earth.” Exercise releases endorphins in the body which boost your mood. It is a powerful coping strategy which often gets you out of the house and interacting with others, reduces immune system chemicals which lead to depression, and raises body temperature, which can create a calming sensation. It can allow you to feel more in control in coping with depression.
Social Interaction: The Paleolithic people lived in groups and often hunted and gathered in groups. Families worked together and could therefore spend more time together. And obviously their socializing was done face-to-face rather than through devices or social media. Getting out and spending time with family and friends can be difficult for people with depression. However, social interaction often provides the distraction and energy they need to boost moods and see circumstances in a more positive light. Recent studies also show that being part of a social group or having a group identity can benefit people with depression.
Diet: Unfortunately, many foods today are processed, full of additives, and high in sugar. These foods lead to inflammation in the brain and abnormal gut flora which affects your brain’s health.
Poor brain health often contributes to mental illnesses such as depression. At MindWhale, nutritionist and biochemist Nicholas Hundley will work with you to create a natural plan towards healing through diet change. He teaches the Brain Health Course at fxWellness.com to help people implement a lifestyle more in tune with our paleolithic roots. Take the Brain Health Quiz today to learn more about your own brain health and how to improve it.