The Physical Me – The Fountain of Youth
For as long as there has been culture and belief, there have been stories of the mystical Fountain of Youth; a source of water which will preserve the youth of those who drink from it forever more.
The fountain is mentioned in the work of Ancient Greeks like Herodotus, Medieval authors such as John Mandeville, and in countless other texts across history. But accounts of the fountain are not to be trusted. Instead, the magical properties of the water can be attributed to humankind's lust for the strange and the wonderful, and our cultural obsession with youth, ageing, and escaping death.
So, if this fountain doesn't exist, why am I discussing it here? Well, of course there is no magic water source which can provide us with eternal youth, but we certainly can roll the clock back on our physical age. And, in doing so, we can unlock a range of other benefits which tie into the sense we have talked about before: the sense of 'the whole me'.
Australia's Physical Problem
Modern Australia is facing a significant physical problem. In the 33 years between 1984 and 2017, obesity figures in Australia rose by an astonishing 80%. By 2017, 11.2 million Australians were classed as overweight or obese, representing 63.4% of adults. This figure rose to between 75% and 80% for middle-aged men.
Unfortunately, our young people are also not faring so well. A quarter of all young people living in the country are now classified as overweight, and severe obesity levels in under-18s are on the increase. This is leading to increased strain on Australia's health system (it was estimated that obesity cost the health system $48bn in 2008), and also on our bodies. In 2017, an estimated 11.3% of the population – or 2.6 million people, were suffering from hypertension.
We must be careful with the words we choose here. People come in all shapes and sizes, and body positivity is something to be championed. No one amongst us would deny someone the chance to feel happy and secure in their own body, just as no one amongst us would deny someone the chance to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
We must give ourselves the tools and the resources to manage our weight and our physical condition. This is a responsible approach to the physical self.
There is also a profound connection between the physical self and other aspects of 'the whole me'. A study conducted by toiletries manufacturer Dove in 2016 found that body confidence issues are a serious problem for more than 80% of Australian women. This problem is not unique to women, also, which means there are countless numbers of sufferers in the country.
This underlines the close ties between physicality and mentality, which in turn feeds into a greater understanding of our own position within society. This is critical to maintaining a functioning community in Australia and is something we try to foster at Learning Ground.
The Three Needs of the Physical Me
In this week's session at Learning Ground we discuss the three needs of the physical me. These are very simple. We need;
- Good and regular exercise
- The right amount of sleep
- Quality foods
Exercise is critical to our health as human beings. By engaging in regular exercise, we are managing our weight, helping our physical condition in a myriad of other ways, developing psychological strength and resilience, and increasing positivity.
Sleep is a powerful thing too, so much so that sleep deprivation is considered an illegal torture technique in the global community. For young people who are still growing, around eight to ten hours of sleep is necessary to support mental and physical health.
Food is fuel after all, and we need fuel to live. So, we should make sure that this fuel is the best it can possibly be. Eliminating junk food and other harmful substances from our diet will help us to achieve this.
The Fountain of Youth may be a fantasy, but we can still roll back the years in a positive manner.
Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.
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