There are some fabulous resources for meditation and mindfulness online – our favourites are linked to below.
However, on a website with the word ‘Paleo’ in the title, it is worth addressing perhaps the most obvious naysayers’ criticisms when it comes to the concept of Meditation and Paleo…
“I don’t think Palaeolithic man meditated, did they…?”
Truth be told, we have zero idea. But is it likely?
It actually doesn’t matter.
Whilst meditation is an ancient practice, it seems actually more suited to modern environments: situations in which stressors are accosting us from every angle, be they environmental, chemical, emotional, mental, nutritional or lifestyle in origin.
Meditation, in essence, is the art of detaching the mind from the freneticism of life and the burden of being human and allowing a centred disconnection from attachment to all of the ‘real world’ issues.
It seems like we might need it in modern day more than ever…
And this is why this ancient practice that there is no proof that hunter-gatherers engaged in appears in a Paleo resource:
At Paleo in the UK our entire purpose for choosing/promoting/endorsing “Paleo” nutrition is because it removes stressors, i.e. foods, which are ‘challenging’ to digestion and immune health from your body and your life.
Stressors – whether they’re in our diet, in our environment, in our relationships, our careers or in our own psyche – are the direct stimulators of inflammation, immune dysregulation, nervous system issues, mitochondrial dysfunction and ultimately poorer health outcomes in both the short- and the long- term.
Luckily for us, this means that feeling better is not about a singular solution. It is about recognising that every stressor presents an opportunity to lighten our total burden of things that drain our wellbeing and vitality.
Far beyond the kitchen, life today is full of stressors and pressures. We also feel an overbearing pressure to ‘keep up’ with those around us and to prove our worth as humans.
Social media doesn’t help, demanding that we are constantly plugged in to whatever everyone else is doing, exposed to others’ lives and forced to reflect on how we compare. Whilst it is a base human instinct to belong and to be respected and accepted by those further up the hierarchy than ourselves, in the modern world this translates into social media one-upmanship and a constant sense of never being quite ‘up to speed’ with the world around us.
Not only has life become seemingly more competitive, with the demands and expectations placed on us now excessive, we have also moved far away from tribal societies where the village raised the child and everyone lived close to family who were unequivocally supportive.
Modern life is not like that – we can feel unable to depend on others and literally overwhelmed with the sense that we have to do everything, be everything to everyone – and most importantly, do all of this alone.
The consequence is something that has become known as “Ambient Anxiety”. i.e. an ever-present, gnawing sense of angst. Mentally this is distracting and distressing. Scientifically, this is proven to have concrete health implications – affecting everything from our nervous systems to heart function, immune systems, hormones, digestion and appetite regulation (including cravings and influencing the usage of food to salve emotional conflict and stress).
Stress underpins almost every health condition we can name and contributes to inflammation at the most basic of levels. The stress of modern life, therefore, is one of world’s leading contributors to disease and death.
This lengthy segue into the stresses of modern life should hopefully make it obvious why Meditation – or mindfulness, or active relaxation, or self-care practices, or colouring mindfulness, or any mental zen technique you choose to think of – is part of a true Modern Paleo approach.
Like the Paleo diet removes the nutritional stressors, Meditation provides us with some way of removing psychological and psychosocial stressors from our lives.
Mindfulness and meditation is about stopping our inner mental chatter. The way they do this is understood to some degree – just typing Meditation into PubMed will give you lots of results.
And yet we could link to every study ever conducted, but what really matters when assessing the role and value of meditation is experience.
Everyone’s experience with Meditation is entirely different – and everyone may resonate to a different form of Meditation.
There is no way to know which form of Meditation will suit you. And it has been said that when the time is right Meditation will find you – or you will find it. What we are going to do is leave a list of resources for you to explore so that you can understand the true value of Meditation in modern life.
However, we want to leave you with the reminder that health is about the whole being. Meditation is in no way mandatory in order to be healthy, because as we said it is highly unlikely that we’ve always meditated as a human species.
And yet if you recognised any of the descriptions of modern life laid out above: if you feel overwhelmed and under-resourced when tackling daily life, if you recognise that you are trying incredibly hard to achieve and to be OK and to be accepted, all the time, if you feel on some level that you are always failing just a little bit – then you are experiencing the weight of societal and psychological stress. Do not for a moment think that this is not affecting your physical health, because it absolutely is.
At Paleo in the UK we are not going to say that Meditation is the only way to handle these life stressors and psychological and social pressures. The only thing that matters is that you recognise these stressors for what they are and fine some way – your way – any way – to do something, (anything), about letting them go.
Further Reading & Resources:
Chris Kresser’s Article on Beyond Paleo – showing the diverse effects of stress on the body
Interesting Binaural Beats Meditation tracks to aid Meditation – this one’s kind of cool!
Also – brain.fm – not quite meditation, but meditative… works wonders