Microwave Ovens Part II

Let’s start with a little quiz. Those people living in our society we have lovingly labeled “seniors” (for the purpose of this article I’ll use the ages of 65 and beyond when referring to “seniors”) have been through difficult and trying times. Depending on their age, they may have been through the Great Depression, World War II (both those who served and those who kept things together on the home front), and they have lived through periods where there weren’t nearly as many conveniences.

Then, let’s look at a much younger group; those 18 to 25 years of age. This group has lived (comparatively) through far fewer “bad” times as a whole.

Where would you expect to find depression to be most prevalent? Chances are good that your initial response leans towards the “seniors”; the people who have been through very trying times. Interestingly, this is not what researchers found when they conducted two studies that were designed to compare the rates of depression between tow very contrasting age groups. The results were staggering to say the least. One study showed that those born between 1933 and 1966 were more than 10 times as likely to suffer from depression than those born from 1900 to 1933. Now for the BIG question. Why?

One clue can be found in a nearby community, just 13 miles the desk from which I’m writing. Jamesport, Missouri is an Amish settlement; established in the 1950’s by those who made the trip from Ohio and Pennsylvania. This is a “hands on” group; physical activity is still a way of life. Whether it is farming, carpentry work, masonry, or some other skill, using their hands and working up a good sweat is just another day for men and women in the Amish communities. Furthermore, the Amish have a rate of depression that is far less than what we find when we look at the statistics for the rest of the United States.

Te human brain is designed to experience intense satisfaction from effort. More specifically, physical effort that creates a result we can see and touch. When we examine this from the perspective of evolution, we can clearly see the possibility of this being hardwired into our neurology. Those who did not get up, get out and make something happen, did not eat, stay warm, procreate, and in the end, they did not live. The feeling or sense of reward derived from physical effort created a very healthy loop. Produce>feel good>feel more like producing>produce>feel good.

Deep inside the human brain is a structure approximately the size of a peanut called the nucleus acumens. This is the reward center of the brain. When things are working well, this little devil drives us forward, keeping us actively involved in the very behaviors that keep us alive. It very skillfully communicates with the limbic system, maintaining a balancing act between our emotions and our behaviors. Neuroscientists tell us that every symptom of depression can be connected with this pleasure/reward center of the brain.

Have you ever heard the saying that goes “idle hands are the devils workshop”? Well, I’m not writing to validate/invalidate the devil, but I can comfortably tell you that keeping your hands busy will literally cause your brain to secrete more dopamine, serotonin, and other neurochemicals that help generate positive emotions. Something as simple as knitting a new scarf, doing leatherwork in your shop, or even detailing your car, may very well do more to prevent or alleviate depression than the most advanced antidepressants on the market.

Exercise is another important movement for easing depression. The sense of pleasure derived from walking or jogging that two mile loop will bring the nucleus acumens into play. In short, exercise is useful for more reasons than we have time to discuss. I’ve never met someone who was actively involved in daily exercised that was experiencing major depression.

Why didn’t the “senior” group I asked about earlier have higher rates of depression than those who had experienced far less trauma in their lives? Could it be that they are more likely to engage in activities that “feed” their nucleus acumens what it needs? Yep!

Find something that you “could” be interested in if you wanted to, and dedicate a portion of your day to some “hands on” activity. This winter I’ll be using some of my “spare” time to put together models of various types of military aircraft. What hobby could you use to feed your brain? Find it, do it, and significantly decrease your chances of having to “sing the blues.”

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