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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Ivanchenko

Сhapter from the book "A Doctor's Notebook"

Health and Play

Whether in a dungeon or in the limelight, Whether blissful or cursing your plight, You're just a mask the Almighty wears. To act in a comedy full of tears.



We all assume that business should come before pleasure; that is, one should spend most of his time and energy on work and relax only when work is done. Recent developments in biology and medicine, however, suggest a different approach.

We all assume that business should come before pleasure; that is, one should spend most of his time and energy on work and relax only when work is done. Recent developments in biology and medicine, however, suggest a different approach.


Causes of aging and disease

Premature aging and disease are now thought to be caused in part by the malfunctioning of the adrenal cortex due to, as they say, "too much work and too little play." The play turned out to be much more than fun and entertainment. It is the most effective way of restoring the nervous system and, as a consequence, the immune system and the hormone system. A lack of play overloads the human stress adaptation systems, impacts body self-control, and triggers autoimmune reactions, causing chronic inflammation in blood vessels, joints, the brain, and endocrine glands. This leads to premature physical decrepitude, which we usually call old age.


"All the world's a stage and all the men and women are merely players."

It was obviously for a reason that the Lord included observance of the Sabbath in the 10 commandments for His people received by Moses at Mount Sinai. Do business for six days and play on the seventh. Right, you should play! Playing is not easy. Even childish pranks, frolicking, and hysterical laughter are alternative ways of life that emphasize the process rather than the result. From this standpoint, some "serious" activities, quite surprisingly, also qualify as play.

For instance, go fishing or hunting. You are certainly interested in the results, though the size of your bag or catch is unlikely to affect your own or your kid's menu. You will most likely buy your food at a supermarket after hunting. Something else is much more significant: when you go primitive outdoors, you forget all your troubles; a single cell phone call, God forbid, can easily ruin the whole game. In order to refresh your adrenal glands, you need to be truly oblivious to "the damned world" (as Joseph Brodsky, the Nobel Prize winner, put it) and replace your social reflexes with primeval instincts rooted in smell, hearing, vision, and intuition.


This is when your subcortex starts recovering. All chronically overstressed neuron chains associated with projects and contracts calm down and stop "squeezing" the tired adrenal glands. The adrenalin level drops, the serotonin level increases, and you return from the country with the greatest of catches, with your nervous and hormonal systems restored.


 

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