In Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization, Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey teams up with award-winning journalist Richard Manning, who reads at Shakespeare and Co. on June 19. Go Wild’s basic idea is that while civilization has changed our lives enormously in the last few thousand years, our physiology hasn’t adapted much since Homo sapiens emerged from Africa 40,000 years or so. It’s 3008, and our bodies are so two-thousand-late, to paraphrase the Black Eyed Peas.
Go Wild begins with some heady contemplation of how happiness and physical health are linked, in an educated tone that fluidly moves between topics. “Happiness is greatly dependent on our biological well-being,” begins the introduction, “...But more important, the way we live is a clear and long-standing set of violations of the rules of human well-being, and it’s making us sick.” A few pages later, a discussion of the benefits of endurance running and the utility of the human gluteus maximus ensues.
Manning and Ratey examine an array of studies on afflictions like ADD, anxiety, depression and heart disease. It shouldn’t be much of a spoiler alert to find that Go Wild’s main proposal is that fresh air, regular exercise, unprocessed food, sleeping well and engaging in a close-knit community can make a huge difference in one’s happiness and longevity.
Mind you, Manning and Ratey’s broad approach leaves plenty to be critiqued. I take issue with their enthusiasm for paleo and reduced-carb diets—100 percent of studies indicate that you can pry my craft beer and homemade bread out of my cold, dead hands. Nonetheless, for anyone trying to find their own balanced lifestyle, Go Wild might hold some of the answers.—Kate Whittle