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What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World

Is it strange that many of us these days feel hyperconnected and yet disconnected?

This is what Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple explores in his new book, The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness. It’s a fascinating look at what we need as humans, what we lack in this age of distractions and speed.

Mark published The Primal Blueprint a couple years ago, and this new book looks like it builds on top of that. In this interview, Mark answers some key questions about what we lack in a hyperconnected world.

Q: How is The Primal Connection different from The Primal Blueprint?

Mark: The Primal Blueprint focused almost entirely on the evolutionary underpinnings of proper human nutrition and exercise. In short, as animals, we function best eating the diet and doing the exercises that humans evolved eating and doing, so an evolutionarily concordant diet and exercise plan is a good place to start a healthy lifestyle.

The Primal Connection is about all the other environmental and social factors that shaped who we are today as a species. It’s about how sun exposure and proper sleeping patterns are absolutely critical for optimal health. It’s about the importance of real social contact with other humans, face to face – not through words on a screen. It’s about adopting and adapting all the other behaviors of our ancestors that made them healthy, because it all shaped our evolution – just as the ancestral diet and exercise habits did. In short, if The Primal Blueprint was primarily concerned with the body as a meat vessel requiring certain dietary inputs, The Primal Connection explores the body as a mind and emotion meat vessel requiring certain social, environmental, sensual, and sensory inputs for optimal functioning.

Q: What’s the most glaring deficit in the modern human psyche?

Mark: A lack of mindfulness. It’s ironic, because we’re inundated with information, data, and knowledge that purports to fill our brains. Everything you could ever want to know about anything is right there at our fingertips.

But what’s really going on? What are you missing with your face buried in that smartphone?

We’re so focused on devouring the latest gadget or article or Tweet and moving on to the next one that we’re never really “here.” We’re like the NFL receiver who starts his fake-out move before he catches the ball and ends up dropping it. Before we’ve even perceived, noted, appreciated, and fully experienced the sensory and emotional input that make up everyday experiences, we’re moving on to the next thing.

The present is, by definition, extremely fleeting – here in an instant, gone in a second. But it’s also all we truly have. The future is “out there” and the past is “back there”; the present is right here. If we want to experience the present in any meaningful way, we have to be mindful of it. We have to consciously and diligently (at least at first, until it becomes second nature) stop, smell the roses, and then ruminate on what we’re smelling.

Q: What’s the most glaring deficit in the modern human body?

Mark: A lack of physical touch. Humans are social animals, as people often like to say. Social contact between humans should not be sterile and stand-offish. Most social animals spend much of their days touching other members of their group. They sleep together, groom each other, wrestle with each other, and sniff each other. They need constant physical touch, and, because they’re not beholden to social norms, they get to satisfy that need.

Humans are also social animals who need physical touch, but social contact between humans tends to be sterile and stand-offish. It’s too bad, because physical touch has immense physical and mental benefits. Quite literally, the welcome touch of another person – a hug, a kiss, a massage – enacts beneficial changes in gene expression at the molecular level, changes that reduce stress, release oxytocin, and lower inflammation. Babies who experience “touch deficit” have disrupted growth hormone, stress hormone, and bonding hormone secretion.

When you see your friends, hug them. Dads, hug your children. Pet owners, pet your dog and scratch your cat behind the ears. After all, you’re their family, and they may not have another outlet for touch.

Oh, and people: have sex. Often, and with someone you care about. Sex feels good, strengthens bonds, improves our immune system, and may even boost growth in the neurocampus.

Q: What is one quick tip that anyone can do to better align the expectations of their genes with the realities of modern life?

Mark: Make the effort to really disconnect from electronic stimulation at least twice a day. No phones, no computers, no Facebook, no email, no television. This sounds scary and hard, but there are a few simple ways to go about doing this.

Go for a walk on your lunch break and leave the smartphone at the desk. Just walk, preferably through a place with some greenspace.

Set a tech cut-off time before bed. Shoot for at least an hour before you go to sleep, but strive to extend that period to two hours.

Turn your phone off when you’re with people. It used to be that only old couples who’d been together for fifty years would be out to breakfast with their noses buried in their respective newspapers, but now everyone’s doing it. The oldsters earned the right, because they’ve lived life, but the 22 year old out with his buddies? I think it’s a shame that he can’t find anything more interesting than his phone.

Q: What don’t we get enough of, and why is it such a problem?

Mark: Play. People don’t play enough.

It’s funny, because when I talk to people, I find that playing is the hardest hurdle to overcome. How’s that? Play is, by definition, fun. Why wouldn’t you love to do more of it?

Play isn’t fun when you feel guilty or self-conscious about it. It’s not play if you’re holding back and looking around to see who’s pointing and laughing at you. Play must be carefree. For it to really “count,” play must be free. You have to commit to it. You can’t go out and begrudgingly toss the Frisbee around. Your body knows the difference; it can’t be tricked that easily. You have to really play. You have to give yourself over to the moment (remember, be here now).

The people you’re with also know the difference. If you’re outdoors tossing a ball with your kid (or even your dog) and you can’t help but gaze into the soulful eyes of your iPhone every minute, whomever you’re with will know that you’re not really playing with them. That you’re not really engaged in the activity. And that’s not playing. That’s acting.

Be a kid again. A kid who pays the bills, takes care of responsibilities and duties, and knows when to buckle down and do the things that matter, but a kid nonetheless.

Mark Sisson’s new book The Primal Connection was released today. Visit MarksDailyApple.com to see how you can get a bunch of free gifts for ordering a copy today.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
Confidence in Your Business
10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
You’ll Be OK
The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
You’re Not Worse Than Other People
Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
The Universe of a Single Task
Simplifying Is Painful
Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
What the Exercise Habit Did For Me
Fear is the Root of Your Problems
This Moment
36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits
The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
How I Conduct My Business
Constant Task Switching
The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project?
I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
Zen Productivity
When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
Things Every Man Should Own
Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground
Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled
A Method to Find Balance
16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
Finding Focus
When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
How Creativity Works, & How to Do It
Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences
Make It Your Job
Developing Selfless Compassion
Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong
A Month Without Sugar
Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations)
12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools
Burn Down the Farm
My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
Overcoming the Social Costs of Being Different
Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food
My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
Liking Healthy Foods is a Choice
Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
Creating Your Habit Environment
Travel Lessons with My Family
Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments
Simplify: Let Go of Your Crutches
The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
The Flexible Mind
Declutter Your Life
A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
6 Steps To Being More Creative
How I Finally Faced My Weight & Debt Problems
Working with the Obstacles in Your Path
9 Rules for a Simpler Day
The Little Book of Contentment
The Obstacle is the Path
5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
Smile in Each Moment
A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years
Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
Simplify the Internet
12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life
The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
The Work You Love is Waiting For You
The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing
The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide
Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
How to Learn Anything
Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken
Untrack: Letting Go of the Stress of Measuring
15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
Create a Superhealth Community
A Vegan Tour of NYC