Why We Can’t Be Better

Some say it is a survival mode extinct that makes us crave sugary and salty foods. Sugar has carbohydrates that give us a ton of calories, salt has sodium which helps regulate blood pressure and keeps the body functioning. But we know that both of these should be consumed in moderation. So why doesn’t our help us out instead of work against us? Our brains and our bodies seem always at odds and the reasons why are what keeps us from being healthier, smarter, better people.

Sex. Almost everyone does is, or will do it. Many people enjoy it, some people LOVE it, others are even addicted to it. When we look at what chemicals are released in the body during sex it is easy to see why. We’re flooded with testosterone, adrenaline, and the delicious oxytocin and we can actually come to be a dependent on these chemical surges. They are produced naturally in the body so we don’t even have to be come drug users to be abusers of these drugs. There is however, a bunch of social consequences to sex that make heighten the cost of these chemicals.

Our bodies naturally move towards pleasure, they truly are simple in many ways and can be fooled in to desiring things that are unhealthy but provide the feeling of pleasure. Most of these things are modern stimuli that cause primal reactions and that can cause a problem. We have become ver adapt at providing ourselves the essentials for what we need to live and all that extra time is the ‘pursuit of  happiness’.

The oldest part of our brains are very much based on binary things, pleaser or pain, fight or flight. So when presented with pleasure our ancient brain says “good” even if this is to the nicotine in a cigarette. Praises the action with positive feelings and this is doubled if there is a positive memory or experience associated with the action. We subtly train our ancient brains like dogs, by giving them a ton of cozy calories  in response to succeeding at getting through the day with dessert after dinner.

Problem here is that our ancient brains are wired for a world of scarcity and danger. These inclinations to value a little comfort or revel in a rush of savory goodness are because these opportunities were few and far between. Now we can bring pleasure into our brains whenever we want and sometimes this ease of access leads to excess.

Modern world problems are those of obesity, heart disease, lung and liver failure, which are all very much related to diet. But we also have other ways to work against ourselves like over spending. Indulgence itself is as old as society.  A wild animal may make a big kill and it will eat as much as it can and leave the rest to others in the food chain. The next time they get hungry they don’t have the luxury of pulling leftovers out of the refrigerator so they have to go hunt again.

We have been removed from the burden of hunting down all we eat or in other words, have an indirect relationship to creating our satisfaction. It is as much to say that society itself, with its communities, agriculture, and protection from the elements has made us more susceptible to the influence of pleasure.

This doesn’t exist only in the body either. The same goes for how we feed our minds, we all know we could have learned all those languages by now but instead, when we got home from work we watched television instead of practicing. If we truly are taking the path of least resistance we are also taking the path of least pain, most pleasure. But unfortunately growth does not come without some form of pain. In order to become smarter we have to tear down our deeply held ideas and face the pain of being wrong or what the implications of the new information.Once again we are faced with pain and it causes us to avoid making healthy decisions that will lead us to elevated versions of ourselves.

It is interesting too that we say to be wiser and healthier are better when they require us to go through pain to achieve. What makes it “better” if it is a more painful experience? Perhaps the answer is that the betterment is not from absence of pain or the avoidance of it but being fortified enough to endure momentary discomfort to achieve a higher goal?

Enduring the pain of a double major ends in the reward of having two degrees. Living through the struggle of learning a new language results in being able to communicate and connect with more people. The question is not so much which is better or not. We should really be asking what we want more, do we want the fatty, sugary, or salty snack today. Or do we want our health. Is the gravity of wanting to drink going to out weigh the desire to see our child’s soccer game the next morning?

This is a question we are asked every moment but everything around us is influencing our answer. Ease, access and temptation, things that are thousands of years old in our civilization still plague us. It is why we can’t be better.

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