The Times They are a Changing

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In a recent blog, “Upright and Steady,” I extolled the virtues of good balance as part of a long, healthy and productive life. Specifically, I was talking about the physical balance of the body and its importance in allowing us to stay active. Just as important is another type of balance-the balance in our lives, and the equilibrium that exists between family, self, work, and the world around us to maintain harmony. Without that, we run the risk of figuratively tipping over.

In Take Charge of Your Chronic Pain, I outlined what I considered to be “Seven Steps to an Extreme Makeover” for chronic pain sufferers. You may recall that one of these essential steps is to “Add Balance” to your life. Whether you have chronic pain or not, leading a well-balanced life gets a lot of attention these days as something we should pay attention to. In my practice, I see many flavors of imbalanced lifestyles. Some cases are women who have just too many responsibilities and things that they tend to. Others are men who spend too much time on just one thing-their work. Why is a balanced life so important?

I think one of the key answers is that the world is now rapidly changing. That means we need to constantly adapt to recalibrate ourselves. Remember, the history of man tells us that lifestyles evolved very slowly until the last hundred years or so, which is only a fraction of our recorded history. Regardless of where your ancestors came from, they probably were involved in occupations like farming, herding livestock, craftsmanship, or the military. Likely, only the men worked while the ladies maintained the needs of the home. The family structure that they were a part of was likely an important part of their culture and remained consistent from generation to generation. That means that some form of structure existed for each member of a particular society to fit into. You knew what time to get up and do things like milk the cow, cut up the eggplant, or open the shop because you learned it from your parents who learned it from their parents.

Because of the rapid growth in technology, the world of today is quite different from the one we were born into, and no doubt our present will be unrecognizable to the next generation. The social patterns of our youth are a prime example. For many of them, technology has wiped out boundaries about how they communicate and interact. There is no longer a well-defined, finite schedule in their day to socialize with each other. By virtue of texting, talking on Facebook, and e-mailing, they have 24/7 access to each other, and can rapidly pull others into their circle of activity in just a few clicks of their fingers. Is it appropriate and productive for students doing their homework or workers at their jobs to get constantly interrupted and distracted by continuous outside communications?

The content of the information delivered in these new forms of communication can also cross typical boundaries of social etiquette. Folks have a tendency to say things in an electronic message or a text message that they wouldn’t say to somebody’s face. Letting criticisms, judgments, and plain old name calling fly around cyberspace without the same old filters is where things have headed.

I think it is critical that as each new evolution in technology takes place, whether it is in communication, transportation, or medical treatment, we need to periodically take a step back and recalibrate our lives to maintain the necessary balance to preserve our physical health and emotional well-being. We can easily find ourselves drifting to a place where we become too inactive, eat too much fast-food, and get too stressed out to sleep in a matter of a few short moments.

I came across this quote from the great French writer Victor Hugo that sums up nicely what is needed most:
“To put everything in balance is good; to put everything in harmony is better.”