Thursday, June 18, 2009

Living The Victorian Life - A Healthier Life

I love it when I find information to back my personal beliefs that people of the past generally lived healthier (in many ways) than we do here in the 21st century. For instance is the food we eat today - a teacher in the school district where I work tells his students that they just might be the first generation in centuries to not live as long as their parents' generation. The youth of today eat more junk food than any before - think of all the processed food, the fast food, the horrible cafeteria (processed again) food, the snacks, the breakfast cereals...
Oh, yes, I, too, am guilty of eating my fair share of junk food. It's just so doggone good! But, in recent years I have made an effort to cut down dramatically the garbage food compared to what I used to eat and have come to eat the more natural and healthy foods instead. Maybe one day I will cut it all out completely.
Continuing with the children: after sitting all day in class, the children then go home and play their video games, watch TV, sit at the computer, play games and text on their phones, are driven in a car three blocks to their friend's house - - - need I go on? All the natural energy they have with no thought of how to get it all out. Instead, they are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD because of their "nervous energy" and given pills to calm them down UNNATURALLY instead of riding their bikes, playing sports, running, etc.
The youth of the Victorian times, when not working, played. PLAYED! They also walked everywhere. Or rode a horse. And, as I said, worked. Or, should I say, worked HARD!
And didn't complain.
Well, maybe they complained a little.
But, they found ways to relieve themselves of all that natural energy.

Something else where there is a difference between 21st century folk and our Victorian ancestors is how we wear our clothing. No, I'm not necessarily speaking of styles of clothing. I mean protection from the sun. For example, while the Victorians completely covered themselves from head to toe, we in the 21st century can't seem to show enough skin. As a youth while at the beach, I was told constantly to "take your shirt off!" I hated taking my shirt off - even when I was swimming. I hated the feel of the sun on my skin. I knew I would get sunburned - I never tanned.
"Oh, you'll burn once then you'll get a tan from then on," friends and family would say.
Nope - not me. I'm too fair skinned. I continued to burn. I guess the English and German side of the family reigned prominent in my genes over the Sicilian side.
Well, now we hear constantly of how skin cancer is at an all-time high due mainly to cooking one's self by laying out in the summer sun, not wearing a head covering, wearing tank tops and short shorts, and, worse, yet, roasting themselves in a tanning salon.
How sick is that?
I have noticed something else lately: I get headaches from lights, especially bright fluorescent lights. But, any lights that are way too bright hurt my eyes and my head. At work we have a rule now to save energy - turning on only half of the lights in the school, whether it be in the hallways or the classrooms. The kids can still see fine (if they can't then maybe they need glasses) and work can still get done. The one bank of electric lighting and the natural daylight coming in through the windows gives off plenty of lighting.
In his book, 'Diary of an Early American Boy,' author Eric Sloane writes, "Many present-day scientists insist that the early countryman had extraordinary eyesight, keener than the average eyesight of today. Farmers frequently did their haying at night, using the moon or the stars for illumination, and taking advantage of the coolness of the summer night."
I grew up with my mother burning candles nightly, and I can still hear her sigh of disgust when someone would turn on the electric light, ruining the ambiance she had set.
I carry on her tradition by also burning candles frequently, although more in the fall through spring time of the year. She lives with me and my wife & kids and enjoys it immensely when we eat supper by candlelight.
Well, just like junk food and "tanning," the electric light is proving to be a health hazard as well. I am going to quote here an article from the May 2009 Reader's Digest:
"Night falls, so you flick on your lights. But a shocking theory has been gaining support in the past few years that artificial light at night may contribute to breast and prostate cancers, perhaps because it turns down production of the hormone melatonin. Now two studies add weight to that idea.
One analyzed satellite measurements of nighttime light and cancer rates in 164 countries. The most brightly lit had the highest rates of prostate cancer, more than double those in the dimmest nations."
In the same article, Harvard researchers report that more than 18,000 postmenopausal women were tracked and it was found that those with the lowest nighttime levels of melatonin were about 60% more likely to develop breast cancer.
What is suggested is to sleep in as dark a room as possible so to not let in the light from outside streetlamps, keep a night light in the bathroom for midnight visits instead of the overhead lamp. Even brief exposure to bright lights can suppress melatonin.
Well, whattaya know - the Victorians weren't so dumb. Instead, this tells me that even without realizing it, our Victorian ancestors, by living a more natural life, were in all actuality, healthier than we are today.
And, I believe, much happier.
Yup, I plan to burn even more candles, oil lamps, and set the dimmer switch on low a lot more often.
And I envy you readers who live a very traditional lifestyle. I hope to join you eventually.


1 comment:

Mrs. G said...

Another good post with some things I didn't know! Our children go to bed at 8:30 every night, no one *makes* them but after working most of the day, well, they're tired! No time to plot rebellion, feel sorry for themselves or engage in teen angst. And certainly no boredom. ;-)

I get worried about all the store bought food we eat too, I wish we could grow way more than what we do, the GMO stuff really scares me.

I didn't know the stats on lights at night. No street lights here but we do turn on a lamp at night. I guess we'll be rethinking that. Thanks for sharing it!