I gamble because I'm bored. I'm having an affair because I'm bored. I overexercise because I'm bored. I watch pornography because I'm bored. In early human societies, physical prowess was a survival tool. Our ancestors needed to be able to fend off and outrun predators and hunt and kill their own prey to stay alive and feed themselves and their families. As we progressed and started living in more-sophisticated tribes, the need for speed, strength, power, and endurance remained practical, as people had to be able to fight and ultimately defeat rival groups. Many ancient cultures also had physically demanding rites of passage that people had to undertake to confirm their transition into adulthood. Such instincts were also directed toward athletic competitions that determined who could lift and throw the most weight and run the fastest. While the ancient Greeks and Romans maintained formidable armies for fighting off their enemies, they also staged sporting contests for the sake of ego and amusement: the ancient Olympic Games, gladiator contests, and so on. The Middle Ages saw knights jousting and strongman cultures developing in countries like Scotland (whose stone-lifting-and-throwing traditions would evolve into the modern Highland Games) and the Basque region of Spain. Fast-forward a few hundred years to the late 1800s and reductions in working hours birthed a relatively new concept: leisure. With industrialization, people began to have more money to do things outside of the workplace and more time to participate in and watch sports. Soccer, baseball, football, rugby, and the modern Olympics resulted. Do this in a group and you will learn a lot more from others' experiences. This exercise helps me become aware that if I want to be more active, the key for me is to try to make it social, like getting on a team or participating in classes. When I'm overextended with work, I have to get more creative about making activity be part of what I do so it doesn't require extra time--like biking to appointments, having walking meetings with my colleagues or students, and so on. Unlike me, you may discover that your hindrances stem from your attitude toward your body. When I was a kid, if your body served as a big target in grade school dodgeball, it was like kids had license to bully you. It makes sense that experiences like this color our current attitudes.

Whatever you discover from this activity, that's where the intervention lies. Approach this from a compassionate stance and consider how to maximize your resources and work through your challenges. What challenging conditions in your life are changeable? What are the activities that can be supported by the current conditions of your life? As I got to know Al, he shared with me that his parents had had a tumultuous relationship. They'd often fought about trivial matters and would yell and scream at each other for hours on end. Sometimes their arguments would last for days. As a child, Al would escape and isolate in his bedroom, where he felt both safe and in control, reading science fiction. He especially loved reading superhero comic articles. He often fantasized that he was one of the superheroes he would read about to avoid feeling frustrated, anxious, helpless, or depressed. Furthermore, when Al was a senior in college, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. And his emotional escapes of daydreaming, fantasizing, and isolating ramped up to the point where he wouldn't come out of his room, except to eat dinner, until the next morning. Unfortunately, Al's mother didn't live to see him graduate from college and business school, get married, or have his first child. And his mother's death left a deep hole in Al's psyche, even though he'd had ambivalent feelings toward his mother. But even the most visionary Victorians could never have imagined the extent to which recreation would grow from spending a nice afternoon kicking a ball around a field or paying to watch their favorite team do so into a multibillion-dollar global sports and fitness industry. They certainly couldn't have anticipated that active leisure would eventually move indoors, that the penny-farthing bicycles that one pedaled precariously around the village square would be replaced by rows of stationary bicycles that display virtual maps, heart rate, and power output. That the humble pocket watch used to time men and horses as they ran around tracks would evolve into powerful, smart devices capable of capturing gigabytes of biometric data. Or that we'd somehow go from drinking a pint of Good for You Guinness with friends in a pub after a long walk in the countryside to ingesting a daily cocktail of chemicals designed to yield maximum results from a strictly regimented training program. Leisure was initially available only to the rich, as their diminished need for physical work (working in the fields, building houses, and so on) afforded them the extra time to expend physical energy in sport. What they didn't see coming was the next major change in society, heralded by the advent of the personal computer.

In fact, they certainly couldn't have predicted the speed at which our society would reach nearly complete automation, meaning that the physicality of most jobs has been all but eliminated. Although we're not quite there, Moore's law--which notes that the number of transistors per inch on a circuit doubles every year, with corresponding increases in computing power--suggests we're shockingly closer to that reality than most accept. Thus, we're at the dawn of a new age in which physical exertion is almost completely removed from our daily lives, a gap that we try to fill with technology-dictated exercise. The major difference between the late-Victorian-era shift away from physical activity and the current one is speed. What resources can you grab onto? Think critically, too, about your beliefs about exercise. For example, if you sometimes get on exercise kicks to lose weight, it may be helpful to know that's a myth. If I believe that, I might stop working out altogether! In fact, though, the opposite is true. This awareness is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that when people exercise only for weight loss, they often give up on exercise when it doesn't have the desired result. Research also shows that vigorous exercise is fun for some but not everyone, and that's supported by biochemistry. People vary in to what extent we secrete hormones (like endorphins) that lead to a runner's high feeling, making vigorous exercise more rewarding for some of us. Secrete a lot of endorphins and it may drive a strong desire for exercise and a feeling of dissatisfaction without it, fueling an exercise habit. Others may not get as much of a pleasure reward and likely won't be as athletic as their exercise-loving counterparts. After turning sixty, Al noticed he was feeling depressed and that he was focusing on his mortality more than usual. But he felt able to keep his depression at bay with his new hobby: scrolling through Twitter and Facearticle, playing games, reading the news, and looking at pornography. However, immediately after his grandson was born, Al's feelings of depression intensified. And once again, his emotional escapes ramped up to the point where he wasn't leaving his bedroom except to join his wife for dinner or, when his wife insisted, for an occasional walk. Al finally agreed with his wife: he needed to talk to someone, because he feared his social-media and tech habits would destroy his marriage, and then he'd lose his family. Over the course of therapy, Al became aware of the fact that he hadn't fully mourned the loss of his mother and that he hadn't been aware of the powerlessness he'd felt as a child.

His computer use, in the short term, numbed the emotional pain he felt when his mind drifted back to the past. Al was also aware that he wasn't able to live in the present moment or to feel optimistic about his future. In other words, Al was stuck in his grief! Just like he was stuck glued to his computer screen. The need for nonwork physical activity during the Industrial Revolution took decades to fully manifest itself, giving individuals and society as a whole time to adjust so that no major decreases in human health occurred. However, the New Industrial Revolution is happening in the blink of a species' eye. We need to adjust. The push for everyone to take ten thousand steps a day was an early fix, and while this may return us to a base level of physical activity (in other words, simulating the movement that used to be part of everyone's working day) to help stop us from dying from preventable, chronic lifestyle diseases, it won't suffice to fully eliminate the burden of a sedentary life. Technology companies got wind of our culture's sedentary lifestyle-related issues and are pouring billions of dollars into fitness trackers to help return us to a minimal level of physical activity. Some even aim to improve the peak performance of the elite. Some people view such changes as progress, and indeed, technology publications and sports scientists alike are touting the benefits of Big Data and the journey toward the quantified self. Companies are certainly happy to take the money that we're all too ready to hand over for fitness wearables, sensor-equipped shoes and clothing, and an endless array of supplements. But their profit is our loss. Individually and collectively, we've forgotten what it means to enjoy playing, experimenting, and expressing our humanity in fully engaged exertion. There is no one size fits all activity plan. As we all have different attitudes toward our bodies and movement and respond differently to activity, we need to address the meaning of activity in a person's life, and to get creative about how we can meet the need for movement. WEALTH AND EMOTIONAL RECOVERY As we've discussed, we can't separate the personal from the structural. Many people are poor because of structural forces, like a labor market offering insufficient jobs at good wages, mass incarceration as the means for addressing drug problems, or lower pay for women compared to men and for People of Color compared to white people. According to US census data, on average, in 2017 women were paid 80 cents to every man's dollar.

And in case you buy into the myth that education is the great equalizer, let me dispel that, too, as it doesn't shield Women of Color from the pay gap. The pay gap actually widens for women at higher education levels and is largest for Black women who have bachelor's and advanced degrees. Given the barriers Black women face at every step along the way--in being admitted to college, paying for college, and managing student loans--higher education is a massive undertaking without guarantees of financial payoff. Transgender Americans also earn significantly less, experiencing poverty at double the rate of the general population, with transgender People of Color experiencing even higher rates. Being on social media, playing games, interacting on Twitter, and, I'm ashamed to admit, looking at pornography was a way for me to avoid the pain and powerlessness I still felt about my mother's death. Feeling bored--like my life was lacking in life--was really my detaching from my deep feelings of grief and loss. In treatment, Al worked through his grief and mourning and displaced feelings of powerlessness. This helped him be more present and embrace his life. Eventually, Al was able to once again enjoy being a husband, father, and, now, grandfather. What's Unhealthy Social-Media Use? Although there is no such thing as an official diagnosis of computer addiction, there's lots of compelling research telling us that nonetheless the addiction is real. The term addiction refers to a complex condition that is manifested by compulsive behaviors to use substances or engage in harmful and risky behaviors like sex, pornography, shopping, and eating despite their harmful consequences. Just like those who suffer from other addictions like substance or alcohol abuse, people struggling with compulsive computer use tend to isolate themselves from friends and family and lie about their computer use and the sites they visit and are unable to stop their computer use despite attempts to lessen their frequency or quit. In a nutshell, in place of using drugs and alcohol, for example, to make them selves feel better, people who suffer from compulsive computer usage derive feelings of joy, happiness, and euphoria from their digital consumption, as one would with another type of addiction. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip that has long lampooned overdependence on technology, cautions, All of your autonomy is going away. Suppose you had a fitness band five or ten years from now and it tells you when to take a sip of water, and can tell you what kind of food you should eat and when and tells you when you should sleep. In the beginning you're going to say, Oh, good suggestion. I'll either do that or not. But eventually you're going to see that its suggestion is better than whatever you would've done on your own.