Complexity Climax: Why Society is Going Back to Basics

back to basics

We are a society of overwhelmed individuals.

Our constant strive for efficiency and desire to fit more and more into our busy schedules has left many of us feeling emptier than ever before.

In an attempt to simplify normal everyday tasks we have subsequently increased the number of tasks that can be achieved in any one day.

This could be perceived as a great thing – particularly in business. But the problem is that in dividing ourselves between dozens more activities, our focus is redirected and our attention is split multiple times each day.

Arguably not so great for productivity… or mental health, for that matter.

We’re stuck on a conveyor belt of ‘we need to’s’ – furiously swiping at tasks like a trolley dasher on Supermarket Sweep grabbing as many items as possible off the shelves without any consideration of the meal they’ll be making – or of the bigger picture.

And of course, what we then end up with is multiple ‘mini wins’ in so many different areas. This often leaves us feeling exhausted and brain-fried rather than satisfied with having accomplished something that contributes to a greater goal.

We’ve moved away from focusing on fewer activities for longer, toward juggling multiple quick wins with a close eye trained on… ‘what’s next’.

And it’s overwhelming us.

Our minds have become overloaded and overstimulated.

It’s only when we mix up the day to day and do something different that takes us longer and forces our focus in a different direction that we experience an epiphany.

We realise how enjoyable it is to spend time and focus our attention on just one thing, and for longer than we’d usually allow ourselves.

I’m talking about basic, everyday life tasks as well as creative nurturing here.

Here are just some of the popular practices and activities that prove we are a society that is in desperate need of a return to basics; of unplugging and going back to ‘the good old days’ when we allowed ourselves the time to undertake mundane tasks and sometimes ‘do nothing’ – or at least, do less – without considering it an inefficient use of time.

A return to simplicity; what society craves

  1. Food Preparation

Nutritional education has spurred a move away from convenience foods toward the ‘trend’ for creating meals from scratch.

More and more of us seem to be happy to spend more time in the kitchen these days using simple ingredients and basic recipes, much like previous generations would have done.

Lots of us are now consciously choosing to buy and cook with foods that are in season rather than expecting all things to be available (and great tasting) at all times.

This of course supports environmental and sustainability initiatives, too; something we’re all more conscious of.

02. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness

A focus on stopping and taking time to move our bodies and embrace ‘the now’ is one of the clearest indicators that we are overwhelmed and in need of a return to basics and a focus on the right here, right now.

Constructing a daily ritual that forces our minds to quieten has become a lifeline for some, who rely on regular yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices to manage anxiety as well as a multitude of other ailments triggered by the pace of modern life.

03. Forest bathing

The emergence of forest bathing and a need to ‘get back to nature’ is indicative of a society that is keen to escape ‘progression’ as we know it; instead opting to spend time in an environment that doesn’t demand as much of us.

Spending mindful time in the woods and connecting with the natural environment clears the mind, helps us regain balance and escape the pressures of everyday life that can cause mental and physical illnesses.

“Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savouring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.”

Dr Qing Li – president of the Society for Forest Medicine in Japan, and the author of Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing

04. Backpacking

Backpacking is synonymous with the ‘gap yah’ student but there has also been a surge in 30 and 40-something individuals choosing to leave luxury behind in favour of ‘no-frills’ exploration.

Lot’s of us are foregoing the week-long sun-lounger holiday in favour of visiting multiple cities in single trips and living on less.

Could this be an antidote for the ‘more is more’ culture we leave behind on these great escapes?

05. Up-cycling in the home

Up-cycling is becoming increasingly popular over buying new and being a part of the ‘throwaway culture’ of our recent years.

Again, this is partly to do with sustainability. But it’s also because we’re craving crafts. We want to spend time on ‘projects’ that bring us satisfaction and get stuck in to tasks that take time but reward us so greatly.

06. Cars for Bikes

Of course, concerns over climate change are a key driver here (excuse the pun) however this fits the pattern of a move from ‘complexity and convenience’ in transport, to a preference for the simplicity of a bicycle to get from A to B.

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