- The evolutionary perspective can shed light on the stresses of modern everyday life.
- This approach helps us understand why it is so often the case that natural is better.
- Creative pursuits, time in nature, and expressions of love can all help boost one's mood over the course of a day.
Modern life is full of everyday hassles. Consider:
- Failed to wake up to my alarm.
- Pet went to the bathroom in the house.
- Kid spilled milk all over the kitchen.
- Got a text from Mom saying "why didn't you call me last week? Your brother did!..."
- Can't find a parking spot and end up late to a meeting.
Sure, modern living is not always a cakewalk. And that's true even when things are going relatively well.
The evolutionary perspective on the human experience (see Positive Evolutionary Psychology: Darwin's Guide to Living a Richer Life) can help us put a positive frame around the content of our daily lives.
From this perspective, humans are part of the entirety of the living world, evolved as we are via such foundational biological processes as natural selection. Further, from an evolutionary perspective, human emotional and social psychological systems evolved for simpler conditions. During the bulk of human evolutionary history, humans lived in small groups, exercised regularly, ate all-natural foods, and were surrounded by friends and relatives. And there were no cell phones nor social media to distract us 24/7 (see Giphart & Van Vugt, 2018).
While packing up your essentials, handing in your resignation at work, and moving into a nomadic tribe somewhere in the South Pacific might not exactly be feasible at this point in your life, below are five life tips that you can choose to follow today that can, harnessing the power of the evolutionary perspective, help you simply have a good day.
- Get out into nature. Even if it's raining. Even if your schedule makes it hard to do so. Even if you live in a large city. You can do it. And it can be simple. You can walk the long way to your office from your car and pay attention to the blossoming trees along your path. You can walk for a half-hour on a local nature path and truly notice and feel the bird songs that permeate the forest. You can go outside for a ten-minute walk and just notice the beauty of the cloud formations like you did when you were five years old. Human beings evolved to be fully surrounded by nature and life (see Wilson, 1984). I rarely hear anyone say that they regret having gotten out into nature.
- Call, email, or text a family member. Based on the concept of kin-selected altruism (see Hamilton, 1964), humans evolved not only to be surrounded by family members, but we also evolved to look out for the evolutionary interests of family members—and vice versa. Take a break from your crazy-busy 2021-style day and call a family member whom you haven't spoken with in a while. You're probably not going to regret this either.
- Take a one-hour break from your phone. As I've written about extensively, cell phones include a broad array of evolutionarily mismatched features, and dependence on them is, simply, problematic for various reasons. How about taking a one-hour break from your phone once a day? I can almost guarantee that you'll find an at-ease feeling that you may not have expected.
- Show someone in your life that you love them. Love goes deeply into the human evolutionary experience (see Fisher, 1993). Expressing and receiving love has the capacity to fill people with confidence, warmth, and a reason for being. And expressing love to loved ones is both easy and free! Think about the multiple people whom you love in your life. This could be a romantic partner, a child, a parent, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a close friend, or even a pet. And love can be expressed in so many ways. A quick text, a phone call, hand-picked flowers, a small gift, a poem, a loving photo, a kiss, an unexpected caress, and more. You don't have to wait for Valentine's Day to share your love with your loved ones!
- Do something creative and share the product with someone you care about. Humans evolved to be extremely creative. Further, we evolved to value and appreciate creativity in others. Sharing creative products with those we care about is one of the most profound ways that we stay connected with others (see Miller, 2000). Make an effort to create something today and share it with someone you truly care about. This could be a poem, a thoughtful photo, a song, a short story, a funny meme, etc. The list of possible creative products goes on endlessly. Producing creative products takes our mind away from the rat race and brings us toward our best selves, living in the moment. And sharing our creative products with loved ones has the capacity to remind us, at a deep, emotional level, of our profound connections with others in our lives.
Modern living can be full of stressful hassles. An evolutionary perspective on the human experience can help us understand why this is. Today, how about making a choice to be mindful of this issue and take some time to engage in activities that bring you back to your evolved human roots? Get into nature; connect with family; take a break from your cellphone; show someone that you truly love them; and/or do something creative and share your creative product with others in your life. Our minds evolved to do all these things on a regular basis. And these are all things that you can easily do today. I say give it a go. Life is simply too short to spend it stuck in the rat race.
Want meaning in life? I say you step back and use an evolutionary frame to understand everyday life.
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Fisher, H. (1993). Anatomy of Love - A Natural History of Mating and Why We Stray. New York: Ballantine Books.
Giphart, R. & Van Vugt, M. (2018). Mismatch. Robinson.
Hamilton W.D. (1964). "The genetical evolution of social behaviour. I" J. Theor. Biol. 7, 1–16.
Miller G. F. (2000). The mating mind: How sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature, London, Heineman.
Wilson, Edward O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.