Altitude Sickness… and Health

If you’ve ever climbed a mountain, you know the feeling. Open skies. Wide vistas. Clean air, and a clear mind. You feel like you’re on top of the world, and rightfully so. But then it’s time to leave. You descend the mountain, you get back in your car, and you drive home. Pretty soon your mind returns to the concerns of day, and before you know it, you’re back in the weeds.

Altitude has some interesting effects on the mind. It allows you to distance yourself from the world and think more abstractly. You see the big picture. You make decisions more easily. You feel free. But most importantly, altitude has the amazing ability to give us mental clarity.

The human craving for this clarity is universal. It’s one of the reasons we build skyscrapers. If you’ve never lived or worked in a skyscraper, try it sometime. Wherever you live, find the highest space that you have access to. Spend a day there, working, reading, sleeping, journaling, whatever suits you. Do something that you do often, so that have a baseline from which to compare the experience. I’ve worked on the top floor of a city building for the past two years, and I can definitely notice the difference.

But there’s a danger to this phenomenon. We risk isolating ourselves from society, and falling out of touch. We risk associating our experience with our self worth, mistaking elevation for superiority. Getting high can lead to addiction.