Society has changed so much since my childhood. I remember being introduced to the microwave, the VCR, the very large and impersonal computer. I remember my brother’s first video game, the one in which you aimed the gun at the television to shoot the ducks. I remember stretching the kitchen phone cord around the corner of my room just so I could shut the door to have a little privacy.
I remember on Friday nights, the only day of the week we ever ate out, Mom would either treat us to McDonalds or she would buy a frozen pizza for us to share. The first time I ate a taco one of the other moms had suggested a taco party. We had never had anything like it, ever.
I remember when kids preferred to play outside. The neighborhood kids, my sisters and I would play in the street, literally. We would sit for hours with chalk and draw on the blacktop. We would ride our bikes up and down our street and even bounced on pogo sticks, right there in the middle of the road. We would sit on the steps at the neighbor’s house and play church. We played school in the playhouse my dad built for us out back. It even had a window in it. When we were finished, we would open the window and play drive-thru restaurant.
One year, my parents remodeled the house complete with basement. Well, when the workmen dug the basement out, it left a huge dirt hill in the yard until they finished and leveled it off with the rest of the yard. My sisters and I, along with the other kids, would drag a plastic wading pool to the top of the hill. We would all pile in and slide down. It was the most fun any of us had had. Of course, the other mothers hated my mom that spring because she allowed her children to play in this red clay dirt and the other kids just followed suit. It was priceless!
On rainy days, we would play in the rain or we would gather old homework papers, wad it up, go to the back hall, shut all the doors, and turn out the lights. Then, we would throw paper wads at each other until we were so hot from having played so hard and in a closed off area. To cool off, we would open the doors back up until we divided the paper wads again and we had cooled down.
We visited my grandmother who lived near the Kentucky state line every weekend. It was a two-hour drive from our house. There, we spent time with cousins, experienced “coal heat”, and used a “night jar” and “outhouse”. This was definitely the life, for me anyway. My own children sit in awe when I tell them things like this. Maybe it is disbelief, but I think my sisters and I were a lot happier than the kids today, even my own.
Happiness is a major factor in mental health. Being happy is less stressful. I remember being told in school that it takes less facial muscles to smile than to frown; that right there says it all. Being anything but happy is too much work, and work is stressful. Stress can lead to depression and anxiety, among other things.
I know genetics and the environment play a huge role, but it will be interesting to see how society, as it constantly changes, will affect mental health in the future. Technology and social media rule society today. Cell phones, laptops, and video games consume us. Changes in technology happen at such a rapid speed, it makes our children as well as ourselves want, want, want it all the more. It has to be faster, it has to do this, it has to do that. Let’s stop and rewind. Let’s go back to writing letters and sitting down at the table together for dinner. Let’s get outside and “be happy.” Let’s be healthier.