"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Saturday, 25 June 2011

City Life changes Brain for the Worse?

My father suffered chronic ill health throughout his working life in a big city, as a research scientist, and this was almost certainly induced as much by stress and where we lived as by physical disorder. In mid life he was fortunate to inherit some capital from his parents. This enabled him to take up dairy farming. As a city man until then, he knew little if anything about animal husbandry. He was also a proclaimed agnostic. But with much practical advice and help from others, plenty of hard physical labor and long relentless hours with never a day off, he succeeded in creating a compassionate farming business around a dairy herd that he adored! There was little financial reward for his efforts, but alongside a return to excellent physical fitness, without doubt he found some kind of spiritual healing and fulfillment that had been missing in his previous city life.

So now the news that City Life could Change your Brain for the Worse comes as no surprise to me. A brief article at Spirituality Practice – Resource for Spiritual Journeys  led me to this research, and linked to a website called “Wired Science – news for your neurons” where there was more detail:

“As a rule, city life seems to generate mental illness.”

“Between the crowds and the noise and the pressure, city life often seems to set one’s brain on edge. Turns out that could literally be true.
A study of German college students suggests that urbanite brains are more susceptible to stress, particularly social stress, than those of country dwellers. The findings don’t indicate which aspects of city life had changed the students’ brains, but provide a framework for future investigations.
“Whether people are exposed to noise, live near a park, have a big group of friends or not — you can do those experiments, and tease apart which parts of urban living are associated with these changes,” said Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, a psychiatrist at German’s Central Institute of Mental Health.”
“Meyer-Lindenberg’s findings, published June 23 in Nature, are a neurological investigation into the underpinnings of a disturbing social trend: As a rule, city life seems to generate mental illness.”

With increasing urbanization most of us have sadly lost contact with the land and the soil. As a result I believe that a part of our soul has died. But we do not have to own a farm to renew that connection! Many find less expensive and more readily available succor working the land within their own gardens, with healthy homegrown fruit and vegetables a valuable by-product of their endeavors. And for those without a garden, there are community gardens, such as the thriving Clinton Community Garden in New York City. This is an inspiring story of successful urban regeneration. Taking in hand an ugly lot in the heart of that city, that had been abandoned for many years and strewn with all kinds of debris including dumped cars, keen volunteer citizens have created a green garden sanctuary, a place of tranquility for all to enjoy. With more than 100 plots now actively cultivated, it has a waiting list for those who would like a share of the action.

There does seem to be a real resurgence of interest in getting back onto the land, getting back to our roots, seeking a reconnection of soil and soul, and perhaps this latest research tells us why that should be.

Comments please. Do you have any stories to tell to support the idea?

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