Surviving Big City Blues
Surrounded by metal, concrete, and air pollutants, humans have built their own confinement in the urban environments we call cities. There are 100 large cities in the United States. Roughly 80% of Americans live in urban areas. Though popular, cities can be a hub for unhealthy living. Research has shown that city dwellers are at a 20% higher risk of forming anxiety disorders, and 40% higher for several mood disorders. Its also shown that people born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia . So with all of this against us, how do we survive the big city blues? Below I'll provide my top three tips to feeling healthier and keeping your mind at bay.
Survival Tip #1. Here comes the sun doot da doo da!
(c'mon you know The Beatles instantly entered your mind after reading that)
Ever hear about that giant ball of fire out in outer-space called the sun? If not, well, this conversation can't really go anywhere. Guess this is goodbye friend....
[ Author exits the scene as the curtains begin to close ]
Enough joking around, sun exposure is very crucial to becoming a happier healthier human. See I put "happier" first, since it seems to be everyone's main priority alongside with finances. The sun is awesome, it helps plants grow, it makes pale skin tan, and above all, it provides our bodies with a free nutrient called Vitamin D! This helps our bones stay healthy, immune system stay on track, and helps build the tiny little buggers in our bodies called cells. Now and days everyone and their grandma knows that they should get Vitamin D to stay healthy. Yet the first knee jerk response is to go out to the store and buy supplemental Vitamin D3. This is not necessarily terrible, but I'm going to drop some knowledge to put things in better perspective.
The daily recommend intake of Vitamin D is 1000-2000 IU's. This would be equal to about 1-3 capsules of a Vitamin D supplement depending on the brand. The kicker is that the body can absorb way more than it can ingest. For example, if one lays in the sun and gets modest sun exposure (slight pink skin tone) the body will make anywhere from 15,000-20,000 IU's of Vitamin D (journal of Investigative Medicine, 2011). So even if you are exposed to the sun for just a 10-15 mins, your body will produce more than enough Vitamin D without having to resort to spending money on supplements. The best part about getting sun exposure is getting outside, which leads to my second survival tip!
Survival Tip #2. Inhale...Exhale...Is that air fresh?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that cities tend to have more air pollutants than rural environments. The most overlooked aspect of city air is not the smell, but the chemicals that float around within it. The worst being brake dust! Every minute of every hour within cities there is constant flux of traffic. Brakes work by applying pressure to the rotor of the car decreasing acceleration. This friction wears down the break pads of the vehicle (little mechanic 101 knowledge). Since the pads are being worn down, this means that the particles that make up the pad itself become airborne. Asbestos is one of those chemicals. Though not all break pads contain asbestos, its still better to become mindful of the potential hazard.
The solution? Buy a face mask! Just kidding, but this survival tip is going to be pretty blunt. Either option A, avoid walking through high traffic areas. Or option B, evaluate the pollution within the location where you live, and choose whether to stay or move. Using sites like EPA.gov and Citydata.com are great resources to review air qualities of varying cities. This way one can find a city with clean air and one that will also suite their lifestyle needs.
Survival Tip #3. It's everywhere, RUN!
Cafes, work places, buses, restaurants, wifi signals are merely at every corner within city and urban environments. Big deal right? Well maybe not, the research is still developing on how wifi signals affect the human anatomy. Yet we do have knowledge on a little something called negative and positive ions. When exposed to wifi signals, and other electronics, they produce something called positive ions (don't let the name fool ya). Over exposure of these positive ions are known to lead to irritability, depression, and physical/mental fatigue. To balance out positive ions, we need to expose our bodies to negative ions, which can be easily accessed out in nature. A study published by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA -dirty sounding acronym, I know) found that people who walked for 90 minutes in nature shown a decrease in brain activity related to depression. Schedule times to go outside in nature, even if its just a park, into your daily life to help keep your body balanced. Please don't forget to leave the smart phone at home!
Whenever you are feeling off of your A-game, check and see if your urban lifestyle is affecting the overall health of your body. Maybe this information will help you rethink the intricacies of the human body, or rethink your everyday environment. City living is not necessarily terrible, but it's good to be aware of the negative consequences that could arrive and how to maintain a healthy balance.
"Keep on keepin' on!"
- John S.