Friday, April 30, 2021

The Sedentary Lifestyle

The sedentary lifestyle leads to unhappiness.  It is so popular today, too!

I get e-mails from various Democratic Party affiliates, warning me that dire things are going to happen, unless I send them $25.  It is an interesting thing to read these - before I mark them as SPAM and delete them.  They are catering to the political-obsessives who watch far too much television and are angry all the time about politics.  I am seeing the Democratic side, I am sure the same fundraising and scare-mongering techniques are done by the GOP as well - in fact, I know it.

It is sad that so many people today are so wealthy and well-off and so damn unhappy.  And I think Mr. LaLanne is on to something - our sedentary lifestyle tends to breed unhappiness.  Sit in front of a computer screen or a television screen or a smart phone screen, all day long, without moving a muscle, while absentmindedly munching on unhealthy snack foods, and well, you've got a recipe for depression.

The people I meet who are most angry all the time about politics - and it doesn't matter Left or Right, same shit, different day - tend to be sedentary and watch an awful lot of television and other forms of "screen time".  Many are obese or have other health issues.  They are angry, all the time, for living in the United States and having too much food to eat and too much fuel to burn in their gas-guzzling cars.  It is all so unfair - because someone else has even more.

There is one aspect of Mr. LaLanne's video that I think is inaccurate.  I mentioned before the "Mexican Grimace" that we saw in Mexico and we see in the USA with many recent immigrants.  Simply stated, if you are smiling all the time in a third-world country, someone will assume you have money and try to rob you.  So many people, even if they are happy, will adopt the camouflage of a miserable person so as not to stand out.  It is like riding the NY subway in the 1970s - or indeed, today.  You don't make eye contact, and act as though your dog just died.  If you don't, you will be approached by a beggar - if you are lucky - or a robber, if not.

But outside those confines, he is right - a lot of people in poor countries are often happier than in the West, as they have little, but then again, they are grateful for what they have.  And they have little.  So you would think that we would be ecstatic with our standard of living.  But such is not the case.   Everyone, no matter where they stand on the socioeconomic scale in the US, has a tale of woe and outrage to tell, and yet the poorest among us would be deemed rich in more than half the world.

Turning away from the television and the media is key to getting off the outrage bandwagon.  It is all-too-easy to sit in a chair and watch endless hours of TeeVee and then send out for a pizza, promising yourself to eat only a slice - or two - and saving the rest "for later".  Hours later, the pizza is gone and you feel like shit.   You try to go to bed, but have trouble sleeping - between the belly full of food and the antagonism of the telly, your brain and body are in torment.   This leads to waking up feeling like shit, and staring off another shitty day, which you can feel shitty about - and commiserate with your friends at work about "how hard you have it" - and how the bosses are overpaid and never work hard and it is all so unfair.

Exercise is the key.  Doing things is the key.  The sedentary lifestyle is slow-motion suicide.  As noted in the book, Ten Irrational Ideas, one irrational concept that has great currency in America is the idea that sitting in a huge E-Z chair and watching the largest television possible is the ideal.  As I noted in my posting on the matter:

Irrational Idea #10, you can achieve maximum human happiness by inertia and inaction or by passively and uncommittedly "enjoying yourself." "Kick Back" the rednecks say, opening yet another can of brew. But perpetual partying is not a way to happiness, as each generation of media stars prove, again and again. Life without purpose is an unhappy life.

People think that the ideal vacation is to sit by a pool in a lounge chair, consuming one alcoholic beverage after another, while soaking up the sun.   I have grown to hate lounge chairs.  When I lay in one, I do not feel comfortable, and when I try to get up, I feel like crap.  Turns out, the human body was designed for action, not inaction, and six to eight hours of sleep a night is all you need in terms of  "kicking back" - the rest of the time, you are actually more comfortable doing things.

Inaction is what leads to learned helplessness, which I have written about before - many times.   When you become a passive blob in front of the television, you come to feel worthless and useless and unable to do anything.  You watch shows about people fixing up their houses or their cars or whatever, but don't do these things yourself.  Because the less you do, the more doing things seems scary and impossible for anyone but an "expert" to do.

We have legions of people in this country who claim they "can't cook" but watch food shows all day long (few of which actually teach cooking).  They call themselves "Foodies" but eat out in restaurants for the most part - using their spectacular fancy kitchens only to reheat take-home restaurant leftovers while watching TeeVee.

I use that as an example only.  Once you become helpless, your only recourse in life is to become a complainer - leaving one-star reviews on Yelp! when things don't pan out as they should.  It also means you have no options in life, other than to hire someone to do everything for you.

I recently replaced the shocks in the pickup truck, which bounced like a ball, going down the road when towing the trailer.  I found a set of HD shocks for cheap, and installing the rear ones took only minutes - two bolts each.  But the fronts are "coil over" struts in a dual-control-arm setup (why, dear God, why?  It is like having two suspensions - dual control arms and a McPherson strut!).  I promised myself never to do suspension work again, but then again, the local mechanic wanted a staggering $400 to install the front shocks.  A few YouTube videos later, I thought, "I can do this - it isn't that hard, just time-consuming" - and I did it.  And it was a lot easier to do on a 2WD truck, too.

This is not to say you should attempt this, if your "tool box" comprises a bent pair of pliers and a broken screwdriver.  It is only to say that doing things is better than not doing things.  I feel better doing something than I would have paying $400 to watch someone else do it.

I know other folks - friends in fact - who are helpless as lambs.  They "can't cook", they can't figure out the remote control on the television, they can't figure out their phone, computer, car, whatever.  And not-so-oddly, they tend to be the kind of people who order things "special" at restaurants and then complain loud and long when it doesn't work out as planned.  There is a connection there.  And I am not taking a piss on them, just pointing out a phenomenon. If anything, I feel sorry for them.  People who aren't "handy" at all - that must be like only having one lung.

And it is not that you need be a polymath, but be able to do something in life, other than just consume.  Even going for a walk is doing something.  After a sedentary winter, we got off our ass and started walking and riding our bikes.  It felt great.  Even though I am burning up calories, I feel like I have more energy and want to do things rather than just sit around.  As a result, we are getting things done around the house and also doing more things, which is fun.  The sedentary lifestyle - "hanging out" and looking at screens while sitting in comfy chairs seems like a desirable thing, but it just leads to misery.

It is funny to watch Mr. LaLanne, as back in the day, we considered him to be muscle-bound.  And while he is in good shape for sure, compared to the gym rats of today, his physique looks pretty mild.  On the other hand, compared to the nearly half of us in the USA who are obese, Mr. LaLanne looks pretty darn buff!

This is not to say we all have to become body builders in order to be happy, only that we can be happier than we are, and this lies within our control, and not due to some external forces.  All it takes is to choose action over inaction.