People With Down Syndrome Are Happier Than Normal People

My Down Syndrome cousin Cody

If you wanted to be born into an ideal situation to live a happy life, would you rather be born

A) Good looking, intelligent and to a wealthy family

or

B) With mental retardation, stunted growth and a slew of abnormal facial characteristics advertising that you have down syndrome?

I’m sure it took you all of half a second to choose option A.

My Down Syndrome Cousin Cody, relaxed and content on Lake Placid

But you would be wrong..

A slew of recent studies has shown that people with Down Syndrome report happier lives than us ‘normal’ folk. Even happier than rich, good looking and intelligent people.

Talk about counter-intuitive, huh?

Findings from a study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics surveyed 284 people with Down syndrome ..the results were as follows..

The average age was 23, and 84 percent were living with one or both parents/guardians. The findings:

  • 99 percent said they were happy with their lives
  • 97 percent liked who they are
  • 96 percent liked how they look
  • 86 percent indicated they could make friends easily
  • 4 percent expressed sadness about their life.

 

I spent 2 years studying the relationship between money and happiness in a grad school laboratory and I can guarantee you that wealthy, intelligent, good looking people don’t report anything close to those numbers. Those numbers are absolutely remarkable.

And it’s not just that a larger percentage of people with Down’s are happier than average, but people with DS experience a sense of joy and contentment with life above that of even normal happy people as this study showed.

 

The Big Question..Why are people with Down Syndrome so happy?

If I had to guess I would offer the following two hypothesis..

1) People with down syndrome are loved and cared for. Studies show that 79% of parents with those with down syndrome said their outlook on life had improved since having their child and that 94% of siblings of those with down children were proud of their DS brother or sister.

2) People with down syndrome don’t overthink. With the absence of stress caused by excessive rumination, people with down syndrome live more in the present moment and are able to enjoy life.  They aren’t bugged by the constant worries that plague the mind of the average person.

Not that DS people don’t have their troubles, they obviously do. But the degree to which their moment-to-moment consciousness is filled up with worries about traffic, bills, being late to work, getting everything done in time, imaginary conversations with people, etc etc, is likely less than of a normal person.

This would lead further evidence to my hypothesis that happiness is the default state of the human mind, it is only with the unnatural stress of modern life that our minds become overactive and we become unhappy.  People with Down Syndrome, by way of their cognitive disability, have protection from these burdens..

I have a cousin with down syndrome, and I can tell you he has few scruples about what people think of him, a sort of freedom that I envy.

Of course, things aren’t always perfect for those with down syndrome, life still has it’s challenges, like when your kayak overflows with water and begins to sink….

 

And then struggle to get back on..

 

 

A Day in the Life of the Hunter-Gatherer Typee Islanders

Today Herman Melville is best known as the author of the literary classic “Moby Dick.” During his life, however, he was known as the man who lived amongst the cannibals. Melville was filled with wanderlust and an independent streak from a young age. Wanting to be free of family support and make a life for himself that included adventure and traveling a 20 year old Melville signed up to be a crew member on the Acushnet, a whaling ship that would go on an 18th month journey through the Pacific Ocean before Melville, sick of the long trip and the unfair treatment he thought the workers received, decided to escape the ship while it was docked in the Marquesas Islands of the South Pacific.

Island of Nuku Hiva, where Melville escaped and lived amongst the cannibals.

 

He and a fellow ship mate made their daring escape from the boat and headed for the hills of the tropical Island.  They underestimated their ability to survive on their own in the wild though and after a few days found themselves hungry and without reliable shelter to protect them from the heavy rainfall.  What they needed to do was to seek refuge amongst the Island’s natives. This was potentially problematic however, of the two main tribes that inhabited that Island there was the Happar, known for being friendly and cordial and then there was the Typee, by reputation a group of cannibals who would surely feast on the Americans white flesh if they so happened to run into them.  There was no way of knowing which of the tribes they would encounter first, it was a life or death coin flip as far as they were concerned, but starving and cold they had no choice but to follow a beaten path through the forest that would inevitably take them to the village of either the Happar or Typee.

The path led to the Typee village. 

Miraculously, he was received by the locals with open arms. The duo were given food to eat, a thatched roof to sleep under and even a personal assistant. A man named Kory Kory helped Herman adjust to the leisurely life of those in the valley. One of Kory Kory’s duties was to carry Melville, who had injured his leg during his escape through the jungle on his back wherever he went. In fact, Melville was treated so well that he worried that the Typee might be fattening him up for better eating!

In reality Melville would spend three weeks living amongst the Typee before leaving the valley to return on the sea life upon another whaling ship. While he may have taken a few creative liberties in turning his adventure into the semi-autobiographical “Typee,” the work that he was most known for his during lifetime there can be little doubt that his description of the Typee people and their way of life is accurate. His account is corroborated by his fellow shipmate as being truthful and the descriptions of that Natives match those given by other explorers who had visited the Marquesas Islands.

Melville described the average day in the life of the Typee, which he said “Nothing can be more uniform and undiversified than the life of the Typees; one tranquil day of ease and happiness follows another in quiet succession.” The Typee were not early risers and would wake up well after the sun had risen.  The first thing they would do is head on down to the stream and bath in the cool waters and fresh air, frolicking about for 30 minutes or so before heading back to the house for breakfast, which was a light affair consisting of fruit and coconuts. The residents of the house would sit around on the mats and engage in cheerful conversation as they ate.  After this pipes were lighted and the tobacco smoke was passed around, although each person only took a few puffs.

From there people went their own way, some would go back to sleep, others would head out into the groves to collect fruit or fibres of bark. Some of the girls would spend time adorning themselves with flowers and lathering their bodies with oils.  Men could use this time to sharpen their spears or carve some wooden design.  After the morning’s light work, the afternoon was a time for a glorious siesta in which everyone partook.  This usually last about an hour and a half before rising, and then another smoke before preparations for the largest meal of the day.  Melville would often eat his afternoon lunch with the rest of the bachelors in a place called the “Ti” which was reserved for men only, the ‘savage’ version of a boys only club where he dined on roasted pork. “The Ti was a right jovial place. It did my heart well, as well as my body, good to visit it. Secure from female intrusion, there was no restraint upon the hilarity of the warriors, who, like gentlemen of Europe after the cloth is draw and the ladies retire, freely indulged their mirth.”

As evening approached Melville would take a canoe out on the lake with a pretty young native lady that he fancied or bath again in the waters stream with the others.  When the sun went down, torches were lit  and the natives gathered to engage in chanting, stories were told and ‘all sorts of social festivities served to while away the time. The young girls very often danced by the moonlight in front of their dwellings.” Finally, everyone would retire to the house where they slept, doze for a bit, before waking to eat the final meal of the day, pass around the tobacco pipe on more time before collapsing into a deep sleep. “The Native strength of their constitution is in no way shown more emphatically than in the quantity of sleep they can endure. To many of them, indeed, life is little else and an often interrupted and luxurious nap.”

1 Mile Kettlebell Walk Challenge

I’m having a difficult time writing this blog post, my forearms are on fire.  Let me explain why..

 

My brother Dylan came up with an interesting exercise challenge. Grab your 55 pound Kettlebell and walk with it for a mile. I immediately realized how ancestral this exercise was.

Our hunter-gatherer forefathers were constantly carrying heavy stones great distances.   Whether it was to make a fire pit, add strength to a hut or build some crazy monument, our ancestors had to be strong enough to pick up a heavy stone and have the conditioning necessary to walk with it.

 

So I grabbed my kettlebell and went for a stroll.The first thing you’ll notice when you do this is….just how the heck should you carry this thing? Hold it out in front of you with two hands? Put it in the lock position? Heave it on to your shoulder?

You’ll end up doing all of the above. For any position begins to burn too much before you move it around, and then switch to the other shoulder, and then back to a new position and start the cycle all over again.

Whatever works for you..do it. Just carry the damn thing.

After the first 1/4 mile I was fine. I could feel the workout in my back and legs. This isn’t so bad, I’ll make it. At the halfway point my hands and forearms were starting to burn, a small seed of doubt began to creep in.

At 3/4 of the mile I thought about quitting. ” I don’t know if I’m going to make it, my hands are sweaty, my fingers can barely hold this grip. Just rest for a while”.

But then another part of my brain said “Shut up you ******, you are going to make it or fall down trying.”

So I went the whole mile.

It really is a total body work out.  Your arms are worked from holding and gripping the kettlebell in various positions, your back and core are constantly under strain to keep your torso erect and your legs are obviously doing all the walking.

Overall, a great exercise. So grab your Kettlebell and get walking!

 

 

How to Eat Paleo at Chipotle

 

Does starting the Paleo Diet mean you have to give up eating at Chipotle? Certainly not.  Here’s how to do it.

 

 

 

1. Order the salad

2. Tell them you don’t want any rice or beans, but please give me lots of fajitas!

3. Pick out your choice of meat

4. Go for the tomato salsa

5. No cheese thanks

6. Add some Guacamole

7. And you are done. A relatively inexpensive quick Paleo meal at Chipotle.

Top Ten Tribal Principles

 

 

Here are the Top Ten principles of the Tribal Way in order to live a life endowed with a sense of vitality and well-being.

 

 

 

1.  Foster Close Social Bonds.

Our ancestors grew up in small bands of people who counted on each other for their survival. Contemporary studies on well-being show that what separates very happy people from the rest of us is the strength of their social and romantic relationships.

2.  Be Physically Active.

The daily grind on the African Savanna involved walking great distances in search of food, carrying heavy buckets of water back and forth from the stream to the campsite, fetching firewood, and the occasional fight or flight with a dangerous animal.

3. Eat Healthy

Hunter-Gatherer’s ate a diet consisting of fresh, whole natural foods such as game meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts. There was no processed food to go around back then and consequently they enjoyed a robust health unimaginable by today’s average person.

4. Sleep

Sleep comes in a variety of different ways around the world, especially outside of western culture.  Whether you have to get your sleep all in one go, like taking an afternoon siesta, enjoy polyphasic or even sporadic sleep like some hunter-gather cultures, the important thing is to get plenty of it. While those of us in the West are often sleep deprived, hunter-gatherer’s chief complaint was sleeping too much!

5. Get Out In Nature

A variety of studies have shown the benefits of being immersed in nature range from improved health to a calm mind and better concentration. Our ancestors lived amongst the flora and fauna like a wild animal. Flowers, trees, landscapes, camp-fires, sunsets…soak it all up.

 

 

 

6. Calm Your Mind

According the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA the average person thinks 70,000 thoughts per day. Constantly wrapped up in this tornado of worries, thoughts of the future and past is stressful and exhausting. Hunter-Gatherers in contrast lived almost entirely in the present moment and had a remarkable lack of worry or stress.  Hunter-Gather’s are said to be the first meditators, staring at the flames of a burning fire and letting their thoughts drift away. Meditation, Yoga, and relaxation techniques such as slow breathing should be used daily.

7. Less Work, More Leisure

Meaningful work, not too much. That is the key to a happy profession. Hunter-Gather’s spent 20 hours a week or less foraging for food. Most of their day was spent in abundant leisure activity, playing games, singing songs, gossiping with friends and family and taking naps. Figuring out how to accomplish this in our workaholic modern world is the big challenge. If you have any ideas please write them in comments section below!

8. LIve Adventurously!

In the Maasai tribe of Africa, a boy is not considered a man until he has killed his first lion. With a spear….

Can you even fathom the amount of courage this takes? Nietzsche famously said “Whatever does not kill you, makes you stronger”.  The Tribal Way doesn’t recommend you becoming adrenaline junkies, but occasionally pushing your boundaries, taking risks, and exploring new horizons can imbue one with a sense of competence and confidence.

9. Enjoy Art

Tribal societies regularly engaged in community dances and rituals. They sang songs, painted their bodies, wore masks, adorned themselves with jewelry and had a great sense of fashion.

 

10. Explore the Occasional Altered State of Consciousness

The happiest people to ever walk the face of this planet are the Shaman’s of hunter-gatherer societies and the enlightened monks and yogi’s from East.  While the safest way to reach these higher states is through advanced meditation techniques, this also takes the longest. Psychoactive plants such as magic mushrooms, peyote, Kava, and marijuana have a long history of use in tribal societies. The more intense psychedelic trips should be only explored under the supervision of an experienced user as they are in these tribal cultures. If done right and safely, these trips can create a life changing glimpse into the magic of reality. The high doesn’t last however, and that is why we here at the tribal way recommend hardcore meditation so as to be able to achieve these amazing states of mind safely and on command.

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Breakfast – Egg scramble with salmon and veggies

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

 

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 Onion
  • Spinach
  • Baby Tomatoes
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Sliced Mushrooms
  • Butter

 

How to Cook

  1. Cut off a slice of butter and place it in a stove top pan, turn heat to medium.
  2. Slice Onion and Mushroom into small pieces and place in pan. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Crack eggs and place in pan, quickly scramble eggs and cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring occasionally.
  4. Place smoked salmon, spinach and baby tomatoes in pan. Cook for 1 minute while stirring.

What To Buy at the Grocery Store

You’ve decided you are going to try the paleolithic diet. You’ve read this post and have a general idea of what it is you are supposed to eat, and what it is you are supposed to avoid.  You throw out everything you own that isn’t healthy and you make your way to the grocery storeonly to realize…’wait, what exactly should I buy?’.

Never fear, here is a list of staple items to get..

1st thing: throw out everything not paleo.

Staples to have:

  • Olive Oil
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Eggs
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Spices  – Will take time and some investment. Just buy as recipe’s call for them.
  • Tomatoes – Diced
  • Tomato paste
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen fruits (for smoothies).
  • sweet potatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Salad mix
  • carrots
  • Salsa
  • guacamole (or avocados)
  • garlic

Moderation staples:  Buy depending on diet needs. Trying to loss weight – buy less fruit  and nuts. Nuts can also start being addicting and too easy to snack on.

  • Fruits: bananas, apples, berries, etc..
  • Nuts – almonds, brazil, walnuts, pecans, macademia
  • Almond Butter
  • Organic Ketchup
  • BBQ Sauce – Bone Suckin’ Sauce (Only paleo ingredients)
  • Almond milk (only if you need to ween off of milk, but optimally don’t buy this).

Meats:

  • FIsh
  • Chicken
  • Steak
  • Pork
  • Game meats or anything else exotic that you feel like diving into

 

 

 

The Perfect Athletic Build

What is the perfect athletic build? In this post I will outline my thoughts on what the perfect athletic build is..and just as a hint of what’s to come..it’s probably not what you think it is.

 

What does the perfect body for all around athleticism look like?  Is it big and powerful like an Adrian Peterson? Thin and wiry like a triathlete? Or something in between?

How do you even define athleticism?

Let’s start here.

Most would say all around athleticism is the summation of individual athletic traits, such as strength, speed, endurance, agility and coordination.  To find the best athlete one could then test an individual on each of these variables and come up with some numerical output to determine their athleticism. But are we to give equal weight to each variable? How should we determine the relative importance of flexibility and strength? Should they be equal, or is strength more important than flexibility? What about endurance versus top end speed? This kind of analysis is just too messy, and it leads to too much subjectivity.

A more concrete way to find the best athlete would be to have athletes compete against each other in every individual sport in the Olympic Games. By competing in every single event, the athletes would be tested on all facets of athleticism, from pure power in the weight lifting competition to the ultimate endurance in cross country skiing. Now, getting athletes to do this is impossible, but can we imagine what kind of athlete would come out on top in this challenge?

Would it be a large, powerful competitor such as a football player? A smaller, more coordinated gymnast?

Another way to think about who would be the ultimate all around athlete would be the following competition. Imagine that the name of all the Olympic sports were thrown into a hat, and you had to pick out a sport at random. It could be rock climbing, it could be the half pipe in snowboarding or it could be the pole vault.  Without knowing what sport will be chosen, what size athlete would you want to compete in the mystery event?

One way to test this is to find out the average height and weight of a male Olympic Gold medalist.

The assumption here is that by taking the average height and weight, our hypothetical average athlete would be competitive in the widest variety of events, and hence win our challenge.

Thanks to the great website www.sports-reference.com I meticulously searched out the height and weight of every single gold medal winner, in every single individual event from gymnastics and weight lifting, to downhill skiing, speed skating and the luge. Absolutely every event from both the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2008 Summer games were included.*  I averaged out their height and weight and came up with the following…

The mean height and weight of a male Olympic Gold medalist from the last two Olympics was 5’11.75 inches and 176.4 pounds.

The median height and weight of a male Olympic gold medalist was 6’0, 173 pounds.

I imagine that this is a lot smaller than you were expecting when you were picturing the perfect human athletic specimen. Perhaps you were thinking of someone like Lebron James or even the hulking Brock Lesnar. But how would Lebron or Brock do on a mountain bike? Their huge physiques would be an enormous disadvantage.  To be an all around athlete, carrying around too much mass is a hindrance to endurance activity.

You can’t have it both ways, you cannot be super strong and have super endurance, there is a balancing act between the two. That is why marathon runners weigh 120 pounds and the strongest weightlifters up near 300.

My analysis of the perfect athlete comes dangerously close to the top performer in the sport marketed for producing the world’s greatest athlete. The Decathlon. This year’s gold medalist, and world record holder in the decathlon is Ashton Eaton.

Ashton Eaton, 6’1, 180.8 pounds.

Other athletes within this range include..

Andre Agassi, who is 5’11 and 176 pounds..

 

And Willie Mays, 5’11, 175 pounds.

 

Notice that Eaton, Agassi and Mays all have lean, muscular physiques. They are strong, but not overly powerful, they look like they have a solid amount of functional strength, but still have the endurance to push themselves for hours on end.  In contrast to your average gym go-er with bulging biceps and chicken legs, they are well proportioned, with strong legs, thick cores and toned upper bodies.

Does this kind of build make sense from an evolutionary perspective?

Of course it does. Our ancestors certainly had to be strong in order to carry large game, firewood, buckets of water, and perhaps fight off any rivals.  But endurance mattered as well, sometimes hunts would last for days. That is dozens of hours of non-stop walking and tracking game. Hunter-gatheres had to be strong, but they had to be lean and fit as well.

Is it just a coincidence that the lean muscled body of a hunter-gatherer resembles that of our perfect athlete?

 

 

——————–

*I eliminated team sports (One can’t compete 1 on 1 in soccer). For Sports with built in weight classes, I took the Super-Heavyweights, seeing as they are likely the strongest competitors and more often than not win an absolute division title (although this isn’t always the case…it’s certainly conceivable that a heavyweight or even light heavyweight could beat a superheavyweight), but let’s err on the side of caution here.

 

 

This is the Tribal Way..

You are a wild animal.

 

You are the product of 3.5 billion years of evolution. You have billions of direct ancestors. All of whom were able to successfully navigate the world, kill their own food and find a partner to bear offspring. In the last few million years your human ancestors were able to hunt wild prey with either their bare hands, or at most, rudimentary tools.  They lived care free and healthy lives.

How does your life compare to your tribal ancestors?

Can you chase down a wild boar with nothing but a spear? Are you lean and fit? Can you walk all day long on your bare feet while carrying a small deer on your back?

This is the tribal way.

Do you sleep well every night? Do you wake up refreshed and joyful as you step outside into the warm morning sun?

Are you having soul melting sex with a healthy, beautiful partner several times a week?

This is the tribal way.

Do you eat a breakfast of ripe, delicious fruits? Does your diet subsist of wild, fresh plants and animals?

Are you perfectly healthy? Are your teeth white straight and shining? Do you have clear skin? Perfect eye sight, and a body that feels energetic?

Do you spend most of the day laughing and playing games with your closest family and friends?

Are you free of stress and worry? Are you present, here and now, with a clear mind? Do you walk around with the lightness of a feather? Do you dance?

This is the tribal way.

As the sun sets, and the full moon lights up the sky. Do you stare up at those beautiful distant stars as you succumb to the vast awesomeness of the universe?

 

Press Play. Dance.

The Morality of Eating Meat, or Why Vegetarianism is a Disease of Civilization

 

 

This is my 600 word essay I submitted to the New York Times Essay Contest on why eating meat is moral. 

 

ld argue that getting eaten by humans is the greatest thing that has ever happened to the species we consume. There are 19 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows, and over a billion pigs and goats in the world. The fact that we farm and eat these animals has made their species and ours the five most successful vertebrate species ever to walk on land.

But to do so would miss the point of why eating meat is ethical, or better put-it is not unethical.  Any decision about ethics needs to be wrapped in a framework of an ethical theory that makes rational sense.  Unfortunately, none do.  As philosopher Richard Joyce has effectively argued, morality is a myth. Evolutionary psychology reigns.

If a great white shark has a twin, he will eat his brother in the womb. Is this shark unethical for doing so? In a gene-centered view of evolution, this kind of cannibalism is in the shark’s genetic interests.  Not as self-sufficient as our gill-bearing distant cousins, our biology dictates that we are better served to survive and pass on our genes with help of others. Our innate moral preferences are really just the encoded set of behaviors and emotions that helped our ancestors survive and replicate in the millions of years humanoids roamed the earth in a hunter-gatherer existence. We do not eat our brothers when we are young because we need them to help hunt woolly mammoths when we grow up.

This is not to say that humans can’t have subjective wishes for their own life. Like to be happy and healthy. Or make rational choices to increase our well being with other’s we share society with. But it does mean that there is no objective binding force that requires us to live our lives in such a way. And subsequently, there is no binding force that would require humans to devote their efforts to the emotions of non-human animals who can’t reciprocate in the social contract.

Visit any extant hunter-gatherer society in Africa or the Amazon and you will find the happiest, healthiest, and psychologically well-adjusted people on earth. You will also see they have absolutely no qualms about killing animals.  They innately know that humans in their group are to be loved and respected and other animals are food.  Pygmy children will start hunting small game around the camp as early as age three.

The vast majority of people living in modern society today have never killed a creature larger than an insect.  This discord between modern society and the environment of our evolutionary adaptation has led to a situation where we have become overly sensitized to the cycle of life.  While our ancestors shot wildlife with arrows, the majority of our interactions with animals today comes in form of having pets. In vegetarians, the mechanisms in the human brain designed to feel empathy for fellow tribesman has become misplaced and spilled over to mammals once relegated to things we eat.

From the perspective of raising our own subjective well-being, it is hard to see how this misplaced empathy is anything but a psychological defect.  The meat eater feels plenty of joy while eating a nice cut of steak. The vegetarian, ostensibly feels disgust at this same action. Perhaps one day vegetarianism will be placed alongside heart disease, cancer and the other diseases of civilization.  As Nietzsche famously put it over a century ago, the moralists say little about objective ethics, but revealed much of their own psychology.