Our ancestors’ keys to health and happiness are in our DNA.

Health advice abounds in today’s modern world. Countless studies are being done to determine the effects of exercise, lifestyle and diet on health. I continue to tune in and learn from these. But for me, it seems obvious. As much as possible, live like our ancestors did. Living like a native as a key to health and happiness is based on this idea. The DNA of our ancestors are in us. The question becomes — what did our ancestors need in order to stay healthy and happy? To a large extent, that’s exactly what we need also.

Our modern world has taken us far away from getting those needs fulfilled. Here is how to get back to our true needs and bring about health and happiness.

Ecstatic Dance

Our ancestors danced their asses off on a regular basis. No, I’m not talking about nodding their heads while driving to 7 Eleven to buy a Slurpee. I’m talking about getting on your feet with a bunch of other people and moving your body to the rhythm for hours on end. I’m talking about sweating, fun and ecstasy. Dancing has so many health benefits, both physical and psychological as well as others. Dancing is not a hobby or a treat. It’s something our souls and bodies NEED.

While we’re at it, might as well throw in singing. The effects of singing on mental health are real. That’s exactly what is in our DNA through our ancestors. You don’t have to be a member of a choir. Crank that music in your car and sing as loud as you can.


I wonder if our obsession with social media is really a need for community. Our ancestors were part of a close community. They knew each other’s business and they had each other’s backs. They didn’t Netflix and chill every night while drinking a beer and eating food from a box. A sense of belonging is an absolute necessity in mental health. Our ancestors had that on lock. More and more our modern society is moving away from that. We work alone, entertain ourselves alone and even have sex alone. Do you see how we’ve gone off the rails? What we need is to get back to the kinds of community that our ancestors had.


In our modern times we have a lot of politicians, teachers, pundits, and experts. But much of this advice is given out through lectures, articles, studies and two minute sound bytes on CNN. What we have lost is the art of a mentor who takes a personal interest in us. Google makes for a good fact checker but a poor mentor.  If you want to thrive and grow, find a mentor who cares about you personally. Someone who will take the time to talk to you and help you learn.

The Hunt/Chase

Our ancestors had it in their DNA to hunt. They did that to survive. They spent a whole lot of time chasing after things. Today we no longer need to hunt for food. But is that drive still in our DNA? I don’t see where it would have suddenly gone to after thousands of years. We need to hunt because it is in our DNA. I’m not talking about stalking down a deer or an elk. I’m talking about your dreams. Your purpose, and your passion. If you’re not hunting something, you’re the one being hunted. Life is hunting you down. So get off the couch and turn off the TV because hunting for the remote doesn’t count.

Beautiful Projects

While the dudes were off hunting buffalo, the gals were gathering berries and grinding seeds and preparing beautiful and delicious meals. They were engaging in creative projects that sustained their bodies and minds. Nowadays we can swing by Domino’s and pick up a pizza and a two liter. That will keep us alive. But what sustains us is engaging in projects that require knowledge, skill and artistic creativity. If we learn how to bake and cook wonderful delicious and healthful food, we will be fed on a deeper level.

Plant Medicine

Continuing in the same vein, we all know how to pop a couple of Tylenol or throw down a couple of beers to soothe what ails us. What we don’t know is the art and science of using herbs and plants to bring about physical and psychological wellness. This planet we live on literally provides everything we need for life. The life-giving properties of plants and herbs is the most obvious manifestation of that. Our ancestors were no dummies. They utilized thousands of different substances to heal, energize and enter into mystical states. Both psychoactive and non-psychoactive plants have literally sustained us for thousands of generations. So put away the Pop-Tarts and Top-Ramen because you’re going to need some actual nutrition in order to stay happy and healthy in today’s society. Steering your diet in the plant-based direction should be painfully obvious if you want optimal health.

Cold Water

Our ancestors bathed in cold water. That’s not a savory thought. However, there is a lot of evidence that cold water showers are good for your health.  If you’ve ever felt that exhilaration afterwards, you know what I’m talking about. I’m not saying switch to only cold showers. But steer in that direction and build your tolerance to cold water slowly. I usually switch it to cold for the last 30 seconds. Over time, I’ve found that I can take it all the way down to only cold and feel quite comfortable. For bonus points, try one of the most invigorating experiences in life. Swim in the ocean or in a waterfall in the mountains.

Spend Time in Nature

Like I said before. The earth provides everything we need for life. It filters the sun’s rays so they don’t scorch us. It provides water, air, soil and plants. The way I look at it, the earth is a big ball of healing energy. But if we cover it up with concrete and noise, that healing energy gets blocked. As much as possible, we need to go to areas where that energy is not blocked. We need to go hiking, swimming, running and picnicking where dirt and trees actually exist. If we do, we can reconnect ourselves with what we have lost  and start to regain a life of health and happiness.

Featured image by Melvin “Buddy” Baker — Flickr.