Modern humans are like domesticated animals.
We no longer live in our traditional wild lifestyle as hunters & gatherers.
People today are biologically almost 100% identical to our prehistoric ancestors, but our lifestyle has completely changed.
Have you ever thought about what this means for our society today?
Some researchers have suggested that around 70,000 BC there may have been as few as 1000 – 10,000 people living on our planet.
That’s like the population of a small town!
Today, there are approximately 7.6 billion people living in a huge variety of modern conditions ranging from complete poverty to unimaginable wealth.
All these living people creates a huge strain on the planet’s resources, but it also has massive cultural and societal implications for the health & well-being of modern people.
The human lifestyle has undergone a radical transformation from our beginnings in the wild.
And it’s not all for the better…
Let’s do a quick comparison of some key differences between modern humans and wild humans.
Here’s what’s changed on our journey from being wild humans to becoming modernized:
#1 Average Community Size
Most people today live in massive cities, surrounded by thousands of people they have no relationship with.
Communities are small, which contributes to close interpersonal connections. Everyone knows everyone.
#2 Interpersonal Continuity
People change relationships frequently. Moving is commonplace, sometimes at young ages, and multiple times throughout a persons life.
The result is having to “start over” multiple times and rebuild connections from scratch, but often the connections don’t go as deep. Loneliness is common, even when surrounded by people.
Lifelong relationships are rare, and even close family often suffer permanent ruptures.
Relationships are lifelong and required for survival.
You can’t just leave your family and start fresh in a new place, so cultural practices for emotional & spiritual healing become essential to survival and maintaining relationships.
#3 Material Possessions
People are entirely dependant on their material possessions. They require expensive shelters, electricity, and become addicted to technology.
People sleep with their phones, and measure success in terms of material wealth.
Material possessions are not important. Technology can be easily replaced and fixed.
The wealth of a community is held in the people & cultural traditions, storytelling, as well as skills used on a daily basis to provide the necessities of life.
#4 Connection To Nature
People spend almost no time in nature.
Any time they do spend outside is of the lowest quality because their sensory awareness and knowledge of ecosystems has become dull and sits undeveloped.
Rampant disconnection from nature is associated with mental health problems & lower levels of achievement, lack of empathy, lack of critical thinking skills & risk assessment.
The wild lifestyle is immersed everyday in nature. Nature is not only the physical environment for work & play, but also plays a key role in the culture of a people, filled with life lessons.
Each person has fully developed sensory awareness & pattern recognition skills.
#5 Work Skills & Conditions
Most jobs are tedious and require little or no skills. Workers are easily replaced so time becomes commoditized and people become slaves to trading time for money. The wealth gap also increases.
Most people would report their work life is stressful, and typically not done by choice.
This often also leads to sedentary lifestyles unless work requires physical activity.
Wild humans lead highly active lives, but the work isn’t perceived as stressful or frustrating… rather there’s an underlying feeling of play and enjoyment.
Vocational choices are structured so that work is not a requirement, but something done by choice, and in fact, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
#6 Food & Nutrition
Modern people have high calorie diets, but their food is nutritionally deficient food. Many people have food to waste, while others don’t have enough.
Food is transported from long distances and most people have no relationship with the actual growing & harvesting process.
There’s less food to eat, but it’s more nutritionally dense and diverse. Starvation is rare because animals just migrate if they can’t find enough to eat.
Everyone in the community contributes to the harvest and preparation of food. Food is not taken for granted and nothing gets wasted because it’s so valuable.
#7 Mental Health
All the above conditions including low nutrition/sedentary lifestyles, work stress, poor relationships, lack of connection to nature & focus on materialism are linked with epidemics of stress, depression, rampant addictions & other mental issues.
While mental conditions are still present, the low-stress conditions and emphasis on family connection enables people with these “disabilities” to play valued and respectable roles in the community.
Are We Living In A Social Desert?
The general trend here is not hard to see.
As human communities continue to get bigger and more global, we observe an accompanying decline in our sense of genuine connection with friends & family, work life, home life, food & nutrition, physical activity & mental health.
This is all simply a result of dramatic changes in human lifestyles.
I want to make it clear that none of this is intended to take anything away from the multitude of modern comforts and discoveries we’ve made along the way.
It’s really quite amazing to see the incredible creativity & intelligence of humans to harness technology and make the world a better place.
But we’ve also lost certain fundamental freedoms and an essential connection with what it means to be wild, alive and free.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the biggest declines in environmental health are also coinciding with the biggest societal changes in human history.
We’ve tasted the fruits of knowledge, but for many, it comes at the cost of our soul.
Exceptions To The Rule:
There are also some important exceptions to both scenarios that should be considered.
- Many modern people DO develop profoundly meaningful & lifelong relationships with friends & family.
- There are many people in the modern world who have successfully made technology their servants rather than becoming slaves to the screen.
- Many modern people do work for joy & love rather than need.
So it’s not that modern humans are incapable of having many of the same benefits of being wild, without having to go back in time.
And then on the other side…
It’s also important to mention that the often glorified image of human ancestors living in a peaceful earth-based utopia is not entirely realistic either.
Many traditional nature-based cultures consistently engaged in devastating warfare with other tribes.
The reality is that both extremes of peace and war can exist in both modern and wild lifestyles.
So what do we do?
Living With The Best Of Both Worlds
Hear me on this…
I’m not suggesting we go back in time.
Sometimes people look at the challenges of modern life with total disdain, while idolizing historical cultures with romanticized and rosy glasses.
Then they lose hope for ever having a bright future.
I don’t think we can go back in time, nor should we.
We’ve already come too far!
It’s important to realize however, that modern society is not an entirely destructive force.
It’s just about how we as a culture choose to live, and realizing that we can change things for the better!
When harnessed correctly, the human race has more power now than ever before to dramatically affect the environmental & cultural conditions on the planet, both for the positive and the negative.
There are many encouraging projects demonstrating that with human ingenuity, it’s possible to repair damaged landscapes and restore our planet to a lush & fertile paradise.
There are mental health & cultural repair programs operating in small pockets that actually work with amazing success rates!
We often don’t hear about these things because the news is so filled with negativity, but there are amazing things happening.
We can solve the biggest problems our world is facing!
This is what it means to live a wild lifestyle in modern times.
By emulating the best parts of our wild ancestral lifestyles, we can balance the current wave of modern technologies with the best lessons of the past.
The rest of this article will be devoted to how…
How To Get More Wildness In Daily Life:
I want to share 3 of the most important ways to reclaim your wild lifestyle.
If you can make a shift in any of these 3 areas, you will notice dramatic impact throughout all areas of your life, and the lives of those you touch.
These are core areas of high leverage for re-wilding your lifestyle that anyone can do.
#1 – Closeness With Community
If you look at most of the problems people suffer from in modern times, a huge amount of it stems from a lack of community.
But what does this really mean?
The idea of community has become almost like a buzz word, that people use without really knowing what it means.
It’s not just about being surrounded by people you barely know.
It’s taking time to really connect and form meaningful relationships!
Everyone needs someone to talk with – to share your stories and know that you’re being heard with love and non-judgement.
This is actually a key component of the wild lifestyle.
In some ways it’s a side effect of needing to create your own entertainment. It’s great fun to spend time connecting with others around a fire telling stories and laughing.
But you can still create this same effect in the modern world.
Have you noticed how you can be totally stuck and frustrated with life… Then get together with a friend and share from the heart… and by the time the evening is over, you feel completely different?
When is the last time you shared your recent life stories with someone who listens deeply and asks good thought-provoking questions?
Even many of the most tedious jobs on the planet would at least be tolerable if we were doing it with people we genuinely care and feel connected with.
This is why the world’s most successful businesses and corporations focus on workplace culture.
Here are some ways to build culture the same way our wild ancestors did.
- Storytelling: The overarching “technique” for creating deep connection with other people is taking time to sit and talk with other people. There are literally dozens of different ways you can find these opportunities. The important thing is to remember that it’s all about sharing and listening.
- Deep Listening: Many modern people have lost the ability to listen without judgement. We’re too quick to try and point out someone’s faults or solve their problem. But genuine connection comes from appreciating others uniqueness. We need to recognize that everyone has different thoughts and ideas and perspectives, and that there’s value in everyone. Paradoxically, when you can really suspend your own world and listen deeply, it leads to insight for everyone involved so solutions to life problems & challenges can present themselves naturally.
- Ask questions & get curious: Along with deep listening, you can also ask questions to clarify and draw out more of the story from others. The ability to get genuinely curious about another human being is a good sign that you’re connecting with them. Questions that come from a desire to understand and acknowledge the life path of another person can have a big impact, and you’ll build a reputation for being a great mentor & helper.
These 3 simple activities all take place in a dialogue. All you need is open-minded people and an excuse to get together and chat.
Weekly coffee dates, camp-fires, cooking & eating meals together, family meetings, family reunions, Skype & phone chats, nature walks, spiritual gatherings, work parties… These are all great opportunities to engage in dialogue that builds lifelong relationships.
#2 – Quality Time In Nature
Nature helps humans to operate at their highest capacity in 2 ways:
- It breaks the addiction to technology so you don’t get stuck in limiting behavioural loops.
- It stimulates your brain cells across all sensory systems so you can think more clearly.
Being in nature will very effectively induce a meditative state that clears your mind and helps you move through life with greater freedom.
Nature is the original school of wildness, with an endless supply of challenges for the human brain.
And given the opportunity to reconnect with our wild instincts, humans are innately curious about the outside world… Which teaches us to be more effective learners.
It’s the only school that teaches science, sensory awareness, emotional intelligence, risk assessment, communication skills, & problem solving all at the same time.
Computers just can’t compare to that.
And you will definitely notice the difference. Even just 15 minutes of quality time in nature can have a dramatic effect on the overall well-being and functioning of a human brain.
Here are some simple ways to do it:
- Adopt a Sit Spot: This is a favorite spot close to home where you go to sit and immerse your senses with the rhythms of nature. Go there as often as you can to soak up the benefits of nature.
- Go wandering: If you find your mind is too busy to sit still, another idea is to go for a wander. Wandering is different from hiking because hikers typically are not actually paying much attention to nature. The goal of wandering is to move slow and really take in all the sights and sounds. Listen to the bird sounds, stop to eat blueberries, and go off trail.
- Learn the birds, plants & trees: There are great benefits to having real knowledge of the various plants, birds and trees you find outside. The important thing is not necessarily knowing the latin names of every species in your bio-region… but rather taking time to observe patterns.
- Animal Tracking: Tracking animals in the woods is one of the most rewarding skills to study outside. It’s very goal oriented, but there’s still lots of opportunities for improvisation. It takes your sensory awareness training to a whole new level by helping you to organize real life observations into meaningful insights and predictions about the local birds and mammals.
- Eat Wild Food: Everyone loves food. And food is what fuels us to be our best in life, especially when you eat a nutrient dense & diverse wild diet. It’s a great way for beginners to get started with nature because the pay-off is so immediate. If you’re not already familiar with how to use dandelions for personal benefits, this is a great place to start.
Anything that gets you outside, using your senses, and tuning in with the outside world will contribute to capturing more of the freedom of our wild ancestral ways of life.
And you don’t even have to become a hermit 😉
#3 – Living With A Slow Pace
Here’s the real question…
Will you now actually make time for community & nature?
Even with knowing how good nature & community are for you… I’ve noticed that many people who aspire to live a more wild lifestyle, just never end up carving out the time.
There’s always some kind of excuse like,
My life is just too crazy right now. I keep thinking I’ll have time, then I get busy.”
The problem is that our days are just too packed.
If you think about it… this is probably true for pretty much any habit you want to create (think about new years resolutions for example).
Rather than being choiceful about where to invest our precious time, we feel pressured into working overtime, doing things for others, or wasting time with computers & TV.
Many times these distractions will even conceal themselves as “self improvement” projects, so we convince ourselves it’s for our benefit… but then life is too busy to really think clearly.
People underestimate how much time they need to unwind and release the stress of a day.
We’re caught in a loop. We need money, so we have to work more hours, which leaves us too tired to give ourselves the time we need in order to clear our minds and make better decisions.
So how do you break this cycle?
While there may be some areas of life that will take long-term planning in order to simplify… most people also have a whole host of activities that just aren’t serve you anymore.
You simply need to realize that doing less activities will actually increase the power that each activity has!
Most people think that doing more means you’re accomplishing more. But actually all that does is make you less effective at everything you do.
So anything you can do to move to a slower pace, will make everything you do at that pace much more effective.
Look at your hobbies.
Look at what you read.
What you watch on television.
Look at all your favorite time wasters or half-finished projects.
Make a list of everything you do on a regular basis and ask yourself:
Are these things truly leading you where you want to go in life?
Anything that isn’t serving you, just cut it out!
Try to create the feeling of space in your life for reflection & moving slower.
Relax into this feeling and just let yourself be.
Then you’ll discover it’s 100x easier to connect with people and nature. You’ll be more present in your work, relationships, self improvement activities & nature connection journey.
So live slowly… but with purpose!
Obviously there’s a lot more to be said here, but hopefully I’ve opened your mind to think about your current lifestyle in a new way.
Now it’s your turn to take action…
For starters, I’d love to know which of these 3 high leverage areas of the wild lifestyle would you say are most challenging for you?
Community? Nature? Or living with a slow pace?