BOOK SYNOPSIS: "How The Modern World Creates Unwellness and What We Can Do About It”

In addition to running the organization, Sideout, I am writing a book that I have been researching since September 2016. With the book, my intentions are to inspire people to forge a deeper relation with the natural world, by contextualizing our psychological hardships relative to cultures who still maintain an intimate relation with nature. Below you can find a working synopsis.  

The book, tentatively titled “How The Modern World Creates Unwellness and What We Can Do About It”  explores different behaviors, psychology and well-being that arise within the “developed” and “non-developed” world. This work first started in September of 2016, through the observations of a Bonderman Travel Fellow. In Indonesia, the locals returned a smile and maintained eye contact with regularity. Whereas in New York City, smiling and looking at someone in the eyes is as a radical act of weirdness, met with fidgets and itches. Continuing travel throughout the modern and traditional societies, returning a smile and maintain eye contact were observed not as Indonesian-only-phenomenas, rather as near ubiquitous expressions in less-modernized, nature-based cultures. Why were traditional-nature based cultures seem more able to return a smile and maintain eye contact? What other psychological differences are apparent across cultures? And what do these differences reveal about mental wellness in the urban, Western world?

We all enter the world as curious, intrigued, and joyful children; when we are young we all have the ability to return a smile and maintain eye contact. In the first part of the book, “How the Modern World Creates Unwellness” differences across cultures are explored in the context of how differing ways of life shape our behavior. Divergences in thought patterns, aspirations and behavior are investigated through the lenses of how the physical environment in which we live and the narratives that dominate our cultural ethos shape our mental wellbeing. 

The second part of the book, “What We Can Do About It,” discusses how we can integrate aspects from both cultures - the opportunities, technologies, and advancements of modernity, with the perspective and communal relations from traditional nature-based cultures - to create for psychologically healthier people. The approach is broken down across the level of the individual and culture, making recommendations for how we can change both our internal world and the systems which guide our internal world, to afford for optimal wellbeing. 

Throughout the book, I take positions of both scientist and traveler, using my background as a cellular, molecular biologist and biomedical engineer to interject scientific research, in complement with anecdotes from my time traveling the world and teaching wellness on multiple continents. In bringing readers with me on my journey throughout the USA, Andean communities, Amazonian tribes, Himalayan villages, Asian and South American Metropolises, and using scientific research to validate my inferences, I display how a relationship with the-more-than-human world is imperative for mental wellbeing.