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Sometime in my early thirties, during a visit to my parent’s home in western New York I made a life-changing observation. My mother wanted to go to a shopping mall 20 miles from my childhood home. My Dad and I were invited for some odd reason. When we arrived, Dad circled the parking lot a few times in an attempt to locate a parking space near the front door of JC Penny. It was a favor to my mother who hate long walks from the car to stores. This was in the days before the indoor mall!
Despite Dad’s best efforts, he couldn’t find a suitable parking spot. Mom became agitated as he search, , as usual, and when he did finally park the car, a little farther than she cared to walk, she blew up at him.
Sitting in the back seat, reliving my childhood nightmare, I was intensely uncomfortable. But what struck me the most was a feeling of having been duped.
Throughout most of my childhood, my mother had bad mouthed my father. She complained bitterly to us about his insensitivity, his less than stellar eating habits, and just about everything else he did or said. I heard so many complaints about him while I was growing up that I ended up intensely disliking my father.
At that moment in the parking lot, however, I glimpsed a new reality.
While Dad was not perfect, to be sure, I realized that he was not that bad. Mom had grossly exaggerated his faults to gain our sympathy, so we would side with her. It became clear to me that Mom was more of the problem. She was extremely difficult to please, hyperirritable, and verbally abusive.
Mom was so unhappy with her life — so through with Dad — that he couldn’t do right. No matter what he did, it wasn’t good enough.
I slumped in the back seat, stunned by this revelation.
How had I been so deceived? Why had I had been blind to the truth of their relationship for so long?
During my research on environmental and health issues and discussions with others over these and a wide range of other topics, I have realized that our minds packed with misinformation. Teeming with half-truths and outright falsehoods.
Quite surprisingly, a lot of what we think is true is wrong,
You will be amazed at the number of things you firmly believe are true, just aren’t. Views you would defend fiercely, if challenged, are so far from the truth your head would pop off.
Consider some commonly held misconceptions, for example, the assertion that modern medicine has increased our lifespan.
The truth is modern medicine has done little to increase lifespan. We are living longer, to be sure, but the increase in average life expectancy is not helping us live longer.
You say what?
Here’s the scoop: Modern medicine has mostly helped more of us live past the first dangerous year. If we make it past that year, we have a chance of living a relatively long life. In other words, by helping us survive year 1, modern medicine has increased average life span.
We’re not living that much longer.
It is just that, over the years, more and more of us are surviving that perilous first year of life.
That’s just one fallacy we accept with blinders on.
Does stress lead to ulcers? Not often. Research has shown that stomach ulcers are primarily caused by a bacterium that infects the lining of the stomach, creating an open wound called an ulcer.
Does exposure to cold cause colds? No, again. Colds are caused by one of two hundred viruses that we contact. These viruses enter our bodies when we inhale infected air. They become airborne when someone with a cold sneezes or coughs. We also contract them by touching objects that an infected person has touched previously. The viruses are then transferred to our mouths or noses.
Does positive thinking cure diseases like cancer? Not likely. Low stress is important to health of the immune system. In fact, stress reduction causes wounds to heal faster and reduces pain, but positive thoughts won’t cause a cancer to disappear.
Does candy make children hyperactive? No. Scientific studies have shown that it doesn’t, yet many people persist in believing in this falsehood.
Does chocolate cause acne, as I grew up believing? No way! There’s no link between chocolate consumption and acne outbreaks. Stress can cause outbreaks, but not chocolate.
Do vaccines cause autism? No, again. Although some parents still cling to this belief, nearly all the major health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, assert that there is no relationship between autism and vaccines.
The list goes on…Do we really only use 10 to 20 percent of our brains. No. Studies have shown that those presumed slackers -- the remainder of our brain cells -- are not loafers. They’re working, too.
Does eating turkey make people drowsy? You guessed it, the answer’s no, once again. Fact is, turkey isn't loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which is linked to sleepiness, as we’ve been led to believe. What makes you sleepy after a huge turkey dinner is the massive, decadent calorie-rich meal. Even without several helpings of turkey, a calorie-rich Thanksgiving dinner will create drowsiness.
What these and other revelations have taught me is that we are swimming in a sea of misinformation. At times, we are drowning in the sea. Moreover, most people’s lives are misguided by common myths. Nowhere is this more evident than in political campaigns.
To live an intelligent, thoughtful life, which I believe most of us desire, requires research, reflection, and questioning. This path of deeper understanding creates peace in us, a sense of knowing that is secure and rewarding. How?
As you discover the myths of modern society, we become more secure in our knowledge and content with our lives, knowing we are not one who is clumsily trekking through life with only a glimpse of reality. You become one of the clear-headed, wise men or women needed to guide society along a productive and meaningful path.
Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on Google+.