Life can get complicated, especially if you get caught up with all the daily distractions, modern sources of stress, and experiences that are often out of your control (but that you try to control anyway). And while there are many perks of living in our modern world—access to information and people anywhere, any time, at the click of a button, for one—there is also a lot of unnecessary anxiety induced by modern luxuries we have grown so reliant on for our daily living. If you ever have one of those days where you wish you could live a simpler, quieter and more old-fashioned life, then you’re not alone. And in reality there is a lot we can all learn from indigenous cultures about what really matters and what can truly make you feel happy and fulfilled in your life. Back before those pesky modern innovations complicated things, people were really content.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “there are an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples living in more than 70 countries worldwide. They represent a rich diversity of cultures, religions, traditions, languages and histories; yet continue to be among the world’s most marginalized population groups.” It can be hard to define how to classify these cultures, because the UN doesn’t exactly want to pin a very specific definition to such a diverse group of cultures. But generally speaking, these ancient cultures feel strong ties to nature and their natural surroundings, they have their own unique social and political systems, they descended from the pre-colonial/pre-invasion inhabitants of their region, and they act in ways consistent with their culture’s historical practices. Here are 5 important life lessons we can learn from these cultures all over the world.
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Embrace Diversity and Diverse Ways of Thinking
These ancient cultures stay true to their roots and the practices and lifestyles of their ancestors. They didn’t just adapt to the new cultures that were forced upon them and they didn’t abandon their beliefs when new, more modern ideas were introduced to their culture. While it can also be important to embrace fresh, innovative ways of thinking, it’s also crucial that you challenge the norm, and embrace different ideas and beliefs. We can all learn from others as long as we celebrate diversity and learn to appreciate the wide variety of people, places, ideas, cultures and beliefs around us.
In the 21st century modern world we all want more. Bigger is better, and progress means earning more money, gaining more power and moving on to bigger and better things. Not so much with these cultures, which is obvious when you consider that they still practice the same traditions that have been observed for centuries. They live sustainable lives that have transcended the tests of time and cultural invasion. How many of us can say the same? As HuffPost reports, according to Nina Wegner, Co-founder of the Vanishing Cultures Project, “we’re married to progress at all costs, and yet we find ourselves with strange new problems. Energy use, land use, agricultural practices, the population explosion, climate change, cultural erosion, pollution, even international relations seem to be standing on shaky legs. How sustainably are we living in our hyper-connected, mechanized, digital lives? Most indigenous cultures around the world were able to live sustainably for centuries, even millennia.”
They honor the traditions of their ancestors and they still practice the same kinds of behaviors, routines and lifestyles, despite the modern, industrialized world that is developing around them. Learning to not only appreciate, but also practice these traditional actions (including language, culture and attitudes) can often enhance your life.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Do you ever have a panic attack when you enter a zone with no Wi-Fi signal or bad cell reception? Or perhaps you lose your cool because your toddler spilled apple juice all over your new white pants…it happens to all of us, because life is messy and our reactions can be even messier. But remember that when those arguably stressful situations occur you need to take deep breaths and train yourself to not sweat the small stuff. These ancient cultures keep life simple and instead of focusing on material needs they focus on the traditions, relationships and practices that fuel their lives, and that have fueled their culture for several generations.
Respect the Environment
It’s hard to deny that climate change is a real, imminent threat to our world and the future of our culture. Many people have forgotten how important it is to respect and give back to the natural world around them, and if we don’t start appreciating our planet then it might not be around for much longer. These cultures all have unique beliefs and traditions, but for the most part, as per UNESCO, they all believe that “the land is the source of life–a gift from the creator that nourishes, supports and teaches. Although these peoples vary widely in their customs, culture, and impact on the land, all consider the Earth like a parent and revere it accordingly. ‘Mother Earth’ is the center of the universe, the core of their culture, the origin of their identity as a people. She connects them with their past (as the home of ancestors), with the present (as provider of their material needs), and with the future (as the legacy they hold in trust for their children and grandchildren).” If we could all operate in our daily lives with a little more respect for the environment we’d be in a much better place.