Updated: Mar 1, 2020
by: Logan Cohen - Professional Therapist & Online Life Coach
Human Beings have it hard these days. With all of the luxury and efficiency at our fingertips, it might seem silly to hear me say that. The rapid growth of technological advancement over the last few centuries has expanded the Human capacity for productivity beyond our wildest dreams and has undoubtedly bled into Western Medicine for the better.
Life expectancy has grown longer (especially for Women) as improvements are made in physical healthcare, while the rates of mental health disorders, especially those relating to Anxiety and Depression, climb every year. Scarily enough, this INCREASE IN RATES OF ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION ARE MOST PRONOUNCED FOR OUR MEN & YOUTH.
It looks like this sudden rise in the prevalence of mental health concerns is not going to slow down anytime soon and there are a few main culprits here, but an overindulgence in technological utilization at the cost of authentic human interaction and cooperation sure is towards the top of what is making and keeping us sick.
Over the years of growing up as a child inside the City of Atlanta, then coming of age as a Counselor in a Wilderness Therapy setting, then finally putting it all together in my private practice in Charlotte, NC, I have gotten to participate in and witness Humans undergoing transformation and growth thousands of times over again, as well as some who have remained stuck in painful imbalance that has prevented desired growth from occurring.
While technology is an AWESOME tool, it is not all it has been cracked up to be for our general Well-Being. Like the snack corporations who created marketing agendas to draw attention away from the toxicity of refined sugars as the culprit of health issues by selling their snacks as “fat free” (look how that turned out with the American obesity and our cardiovascular health epidemic), the powers that be have systematically encouraged consumers to believe that all of the increased productivity from technological advancement brings nothing but improvement. The truth is that in the last few years, more studies are being published all the time that clearly identify problematic use of technology characteristic in mental health disorders, such as “gaming addiction” or “internet use disorder”, and this is just the beginning.
During my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Anthropology at the University of Georgia, I fell in love with the study of People, their culture, and how these dynamics between Tribe Members develop and function between each other over time both interpersonally (between people) and intrapersonally (inside us personally - our subjective viewpoint).
After undergraduate school, I had the pleasure of going off the grid for about three years while I worked in a wilderness therapeutic facility in the Appalachian Mountains. I cannot state enough about how important this phase of my own Life was to discovering Balance, however you can certainly read more about that specifically a lot more here. There, along with the young Men I counseled, mentored, and cared for In The Woods, I rediscovered a more natural and Balanced lifestyle.
We lived in the Appalachian Mountains without electricity, slept in semi-permanent structures that we built ourselves with hand-tools (yes, like the Amish), and kept warm through the cold Appalachian Winters with wood burning stoves which we worked all year as a group to collect/chop/stack wood from fallen trees as fuel.
I know this very spartan, even stripped down existence sounds weird to most People in Modern Society, but for how long in recent history do you think this description has sounded..well...weird? You might be surprised if I told you that the weirdness IS in fact VERY different from normal for us Humans from a basic biological viewpoint, and is a big part of what gets us Humans out of Balance and eventually sick in Modern Society.
The modern industrialized world is a BRAND new development in our species’ evolutionary history. In fact, industrialization (process by which nations enter into what is known as “first world” status) only started sweeping through Europe from Great Britain in the 1760s. With this movement came a transition of production from mostly hand-made means, to factories that focused on production with machine-made means and mechanization. This allowed standardization, efficiency, and productivity to develop beyond what was previously possible. With this increase in the ability for production and efficiency came an ability to increase population density, and INCREASE WE DID.
This time period saw a more significant population density increase in than has ever occurred in the the history of the Human species. It was UNPRECEDENTED in humankind and with these huge population growth trajectories (in what would become known as “urban” spaces, or cities), there also was steady increase in wealth for those who had the highest degrees of social capital due to an increase in access to resources. This created a surge in economic growth for industrialized nations.
Outside of Great Britain, most other areas nation finished their transitions to industrialization by roughly 1850, which was less than 170 years ago. 170 years might seem like a long time to you, however in the grand scheme of things (biologically speaking), it is only a drop in the bucket. It’s virtually NOTHING! Archaeological evidence suggests Modern humans have been around for 200,000 years. This means that for only the last 150 years, those who live in modern Industrialized society have been operating in a world that we have not been biologically prepared for. Let’s be real here...the process of evolution and biological transformation...that takes TIME. We have literally evolved for Eons (BEFORE THE 200,000 YEARS that HUMANS WERE ON THE PLANET) to live in much different settings, with much different tools, and have MUCH different intention and arguably prioritization in our day-to-day lives. To put this into perspective, one of the most significant inventions of modern society is the internet and subsequent smart-phone that puts said internet into seemingly everyone’s access virtually all the time. This tool has only been in existence since the 2000s for the Blackberry and 2010s for the modern Apple/Android driven market.
Sometimes I am amazed when clients look at me and fervently ask, “Why is everyone so anxious and Depressed these days???” I know they are asking an honest question based on simple observation and statistics about the current state of Modern Society’s mental health, but there are immediately hundreds, if not thousands of reasons that come to mind.
While living In The Woods with those Young Men, I discovered how GREAT it FELT to access the following different ways of Living and discovered my own Balance, then later pursued the scientific knowledge to understand WHY. Further down the line after a Master's degree, licensing as a professional therapist, then starting my own successful group practice in Charlotte, NC, I further developed a curriculum of therapeutic skill-sets and am making them available in the Balanced Man Plan.
10 Ways That Modern Society Has Negatively Impacted Healthy Living:
1) Modern Society allows greater population density creates a sense of anonymity that makes social connection difficult, resulting in poor health outcomes. I knew every Kid on that Mountain and those Kids knew me. We were anything but strangers and even enjoyed some aspects of close personal connection (story-telling, mentorship, comradery developed through hard collaborative physical labor, etc).
2) Social tension in Modern Society and resulting politics have created greater disparity between the wealthy and those who do not have enough access to financial resources, specifically less access to healthcare. Kids always had their needs met and mine were always met as well. There was such stringent planning around basic needs, that this was NEVER in question. The behavioral expectations on The Mountain also created a sense of consistency, safety, and respect. If there were imbalances in power or influence, it was evident those imbalances were part of what kept the system in Balance.
3) Increasing urban landscapes in Modern Society have made Humans MUCH more likely to encounter environmental stressors (air pollution, noise, etc) that have only recently been introduced to the Human species. These stressors are at the least directly connected to decreases in your body’s physical ability to keep itself in Balance through regulatory systems such as immune responses that not only can complicate Balance and Mental Health, but even be fatal with disease like cancer. I remember almost being able to taste the air when I came back into civilization 3 years later, and not in a sweet candy kind of way.
4) Modern Society allows for easy access to social media, which fools us into thinking social needs are being met, leaving us with unmet mental health needs. We lived in groups of 10 Boys aged 11-17 years old. We were never really alone and there was always someone to talk to. Smartphones actually came out while I was In The Woods and I can tell you for certain that I DID NOT miss them. If anything, I was really hesitant about them and could see/feel that there was something amiss.
5) Modern society encourages constant access to the internet, which fools us into thinking we are satisfying the “searching circuits” of our brain essential for being Hunter/Gatherers, but now literally creating Gaming Disorder and Internet Addiction. We didn’t have Modern Technology, but we had a TON of basic tasks that had to get done day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and week-to-week for life to continue unfolding predictably in terms of doing the simplest and most important and simple things like eating, burning wood for heat, or playing a game. Since we were always engaged in practical tasks together as a prosocial unit, we were always DELIBERATELY engaged in our environments. This kept us focused on our goals and Kids (and some Adults) got better.
6) Modern Society demands that our professional work becomes more specific in task, as required by ongoing mechanization to maximize production. In doing do, this takes more and more Human contact out of the work we do. The results are that people are generally less satisfied in their professional work because they have both minimal ownership over the work product and even more important, authentic Human encounter involved in creating the work product. I still look at a stack of wood and get an immediate surge of serotonin in my brain telling me that “it is all going to be OK”.... am not even kidding. To this day, my Wife and I enjoy keeping an area of our backyard for wood splitting/stacking. These tasks bring enjoyment and have even become a part of our own emotional self-care.
7) Modern Society has ensured easy access to high risk, even outright harmful content and substances for our health - pornography, instructions to binge/purge calories or physically mutilate self, and even buy drugs on the Black Market. Neither the Kids nor Counselors had access to remote internet technology and we all turned out JUST FINE. What actually happens over time without being able to “ask Google”? Well, I’ll tell you what! The Tribe creates their own stories/jokes/narratives to account for the unknowns that can be further personally integrated by the Tribe/Group/Family Culture. I want to be very careful to say here that I don’t believe phones are bad, but they ARE a POWERFUL tool. Just because we need this tool in many ways in Modern Society doesn’t mean we can’t also have a Balanced relationship with these tools.
8) Pervasiveness of "consumer culture" in Modern Society, combined with the ever expanding presence of technology creates more pressure to compulsively consume goods in order to chase "Happy" (otherwise called a dopamine surge). For those 3 years, all of my belongings could fit in one suitcase. It was awesome! Not only was it great for ME (after getting over the initial SHOCK of letting go of a lot of STUFF), but Kids also enjoyed it too. One of the HARDEST aspects of Living In The Woods was when the Kids would go Home for a visit (every few months) and come back with a ton of STUFF from Home. It was inevitable that once we helped a Kiddo pare down to the basics again and they sunk back into the routine, their anxiety and over-identification with their STUFF resolved.
9) The hyper-focus on technology in Modern Society also creates less physical engagement in our real surroundings and environment AS WE EVOLVED TO DO SO. We are NOT designed to go much more than a full 24 hours without some good and extended physical exertion. If there is anything we were out there In the Woods (besides stinky and tired), it was ACTIVE. If we weren’t building a cabin, then we were chopping down trees to make a cabin or to chop into firewood. If we weren’t doing that we were playing a group game, or taking a hike, or on a month long River Trip, or...you get the drift. Those kids were TIRED, so was I, and dang we all slept well and had no issues with “surplus/anxious energy”.
10) The ongoing rise of industrialization within Modern Society is bringing with it the unBalancing of The Earth, which creates anxiety...and for good reason. We operated with a relatively humble position in regards to how we operated with our physical environment In The Woods called “leave no trace”. We literally lived out there, so if those spaces were getting impacted by us as physical inhabitants, then we would actively consider how to minimize and even eliminate those factors. I got to see gang-involved Youth who had NEVER been out of an Urban concrete jungle be SCARED OUT OF THEIR MINDS BY SEEING A DEER in person, then over time learn how to trust the idea of the Deer, then slowly but surely, express interest and a desire to learn more about the Deer. What does it eat? What might eat it? Why am I more scared of IT if I am so much higher on the food chain??? When the scary unknowns of The Earth can begin reaching some resolution after REAL and AUTHENTIC contact, a whole new door into the World, as well as our position of Balance within it, can now make sense.
My name is Logan Cohen and I am a Professional Therapist & Life Coach with over 10 years in the field of Counseling Psychology. I am a Clinical Supervisor for the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy, as well as the founder of New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC in Charlotte, NC. After spending tens of thousands of clinical hours with my own clients, starting a successful group practice, as well as a beautiful Family, I “picked my head up from the grindstone” to check in on childhood Friends & Loved Ones.
I painfully discovered that more than a few of my childhood Friends passed away at a young age from preventable health conditions and decided that as a Man, Husband, Father, and Friend, I could no longer stand by as People suffered in silence and self-destructed rather than ask for help. It doesn’t have to be like that and the holistic healing methods offered by the Balanced Man Plan is designed to help People “get unstuck” and break free from old patterns that are the barriers between Self & quality of Life.
The Balanced Man Plan is a therapeutic digital experience delivered through Self-Guided Coaching Plans created by a Male Therapist with the common barriers & strengths of Men in mind. The Balanced Man Plan has the goal of introducing a natural Balance back to Life so it is sustainable for the optimal Health & Well-Being of Self and Loved Ones - and ALL from the privacy and comfort of Home. If you have enjoyed what you see so far, check out our Self Guided Coaching Plans!