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One Big Problem with our Future
We are quantum leaping into the future fast. In a few short years we’ll be getting around in self-driving vehicles, flying across the globe in under an hour, 3D bio-printing body parts and many of our mundane household jobs will be done automatically.
In less than a decade, Elon Musk is even planning on getting us to Mars.
This in itself is very exciting to me – I’m a sci-fi geek, and I’m an explorer at heart. I love movies like The Fifth Element, and the only series I’ll give up my time to watch is Star Trek. I much prefer imagining what the future holds, rather than looking backwards into the past.
Yet as exciting as the future of technology is shaping up to be, there’s another aspect of the same future we’re heading into, and this aspect contains a serious problem. This future is not exciting at all, it’s bleak and it’s terrifying and we are right on track to see it eventuate.
In less than two years – in 2020 – the World Health Organisation predicts that our global suicide rates will have almost doubled from 800,000 in 2017 to 1.53 million in 2020. It predicts depression will have grown to become the second biggest health issue on our planet, and many of us can already see the addiction epidemic unfolding in our own communities. The US is experiencing an opioid epidemic and Australia is experiencing an ice epidemic – the very drug that I also had an addiction to for several years.
We’re also creating some new mental health issues that never used to exist. Gaming addiction has this year been classified as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organisation, and social media has created a new addiction in the form of likes and faceless validation from people we don’t even know.
It’d be a positive thing if we were even advancing at a snail’s pace in regards to the social aspects of mental health, human happiness, addiction and suicide. But we’re not. We’re going backwards. There is a really dark cloud looming over the future of humanity.
The writing is on the wall, loud and clear. Whatever way you look at it – the message is indisputably the same: Something is really broken on planet earth.
We’ll be speeding into the future on maglev trains with broken minds, clinging to our various modern-day addictions to block out the real issues in a state of total disharmony. I’m not just talking about addiction to drugs and alcohol here, but social media, shopping, food, gaming, gambling, pornography, working or even exercising.
Addiction can apply to any activity or substance that you have become dependent on, and that you experience withdrawal symptoms such as boredom, agitation, or physical symptoms when you refrain from getting your ‘fix’.
The subjects of mental health issues, addiction and suicide are of big interest to me because all of them have directly affected me. I’ve experienced long term mental health issues, I've had serious addictions to drugs, alcohol and gambling and my dad committed suicide in November 2014.
It appears it’s a little hard to stay ‘sane’ in an insane world. It’s not all that surprising that we’re reflecting the health of the society we live in. Maybe the declining state of mental health is just a normal reaction to what’s happening on the planet and in our lives.
I’m sure in a few years we will have the technological capabilities to travel to and colonise Mars – but do we really want to take us – the current example of humanity to a new planet to do it all again? We’re like the kids who wreck everything – should we really be let loose just to run riot in a new house to break stuff all over again?
As a collective species, we still don’t know how to behave in a healthy, environmentally and socially conscious way. Pockets of us are starting to, but as a group, I think it’s a pretty bad idea to travel through the solar system, wrecking and consuming every planet along the way with little regard for life, trying to kill the competition while behaving in an unsustainable manner that hurts others, and also damages ourselves.
Until we fix some of our own problems as a species, it might be better to limit our damage to the one poor planet we’re on.
Although this sound pretty bleak, there is some good news – science could very well come to the rescue.
Growing numbers of highly reputable scientific studies are now showing us that there is a solution. There is a way we can change the future that we’re predicted to head towards.
The solution that science is telling us has the answer, is the practice of mindfulness.
After only eight weeks of regular practice, Harvard studies show that mindfulness physically alters the structure of the brain, expanding grey matter in areas related to sense of self, memory and empathy and shrinking areas related to stress.
Mindfulness is proven to halve the incidence of serious depression. It also helps to manage addiction through strengthening impulse control and better management of emotions. Mindfulness also helped me to overcome my own serious addictions.
Mindfulness is even more powerful than this. Scientific studies are showing us that it significantly reduces recidivism within the prison system, it helps manage chronic pain, it’s a successful coping tool for bullying and trauma, it helps regulate emotions including anger, loneliness and grief and it improves empathy.
It also helps us to be more conscious of making healthier choices, from what food we eat, exercising a little more, helping to resist drugs and alcohol all the way down to the small things like putting your seat belt on or turning off the dripping tap. It helps to raise your awareness.
When the statistics tell us where we’re headed, and when highly reputable scientific studies are presenting us with a solution to PREVENT us from heading there, I think it’s the definition of socially-irresponsible madness not to do it.
Science is telling us the solution is to teach the practice of mindfulness within ALL of our schools, workplaces, prison systems, health care systems and among the unemployed. Another solution is for Wellness Centres to be rolled out globally, where mindfulness and other scientifically-proven mental health care techniques are taught as both a treatment, and a prevention for FREE.
We don’t have a lot of time left before the year 2020 is here – if we don’t make some social changes fast, we’ll be living in that bleak picture that The World Health Organisation is predicting.
Wouldn’t it be better to head into the future of humanity with the best of what technological innovation can offer us, while being in the best state of mind to exist within this future in a happy, socially responsible way?
Now is the time to alter our actions, and therefore alter this predicted timeline from a place of foreboding bleakness, to a bright and thriving future.
Rachael Styles writes about her experience with addiction and mental heath issues over at www.lightinmyshadow.com - she spends her time making art and seeking solutions on how to make earth a better place to live.
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