Review and Summary: The Comfort Crisis

Review and Summary: The Comfort Crisis

Have you ever stumbled upon a book so often that it feels like fate? That’s how I felt about ‘The Comfort Crisis’ by Michael Easter. Despite its title, which initially seemed like just another old-timey call to ‘get out of our comfort zones’, it kept popping up in my recommendations. So, in a bid to meet my 2023 Goodreads reading challenge, I gave in and cracked it open. And, what a delightful surprise it turned out to be! Far from being just another cliché, ‘The Comfort Crisis’ is a truly captivating read that soared well beyond my expectations.

It’s not just about the downsides of living too comfortably; it goes deep into the various aspects of discomfort in life. The book reveals a startling truth: our modern conveniences, though appealing, come with significant drawbacks. We’re seeing a rise in mental health issues like anxiety and depression, along with physical ailments such as weakened muscles and compromised immunity. It turns out, we might be too cozy for our own good.

Easter’s book isn’t just a warning against excessive comfort; it’s a guide to finding a healthy balance. Yes, comfort is pleasant, but it’s crucial to step out of our comfort zones sometimes. Voluntarily embracing discomfort can be remarkably beneficial. This book isn’t about rejecting comfort entirely; rather, it’s about understanding that moderation is key. Finding that sweet spot – a balance that both challenges and rejuvenates us – is essential.

What’s truly eye-opening is Easter’s claim that making our lives a bit less comfortable can actually lead to greater happiness and health. This book isn’t just theoretical; it covers a wide range of topics, including longevity, happiness, nature, hunting, health, and evolution. In simple terms, “The Comfort Crisis” is absoultely an engaging, insightful read that encourages us to rethink our relationship with comfort and embrace a little bit of discomfort for a healthier, happier life.

Summary

  • When a new comfort is introduced, we adapt to it and our old comfort is tomorrow’s discomfort. This leads to a new level of what’s considered comfortable.

Research About Discomfort

  • By facing some challenge but not an overwhelming amount, the people as research subject developed an internal capacity that left them more robust and resilient. They were better able to deal with new stresses they hadn’t faced before.
  • Leaving the modern, sterile world and exposing ourselves to new stressors can help us develop the toughness that Seery is so passionate about
  • When you undergo a new stressful experience like [[misogi]], you’re transferring short-term memories into long-term memories–what just happened to you and what it led to, and what you should do next time oyu face a similar situation. This is because memory is about the future. We retain experiences that may be of survival value at another time.

Embracing Solitude

  • The capacity to be alone is essentially the ability to be alone with yourself and not feel uncomfortable or like you have to distract yourself. Our general discomfort with solitude may be due to how society frames it. Consider how we discipline children: time-out. Or how we punish prisoners: solitary confinement. This tradition may have cued us to believe that normalcy is found through others and that solitude is punishment.
  • In solitude, you can find the unfiltered version of you. People often have breakthroughs where they tap into how they truly feel about a topic and come to some new understanding about themselves. Then you can take your realizations out into the social world.
  • Building the capacity to be alone probably makes your interactions with others richer. Because you’re bringing to the relationship a person who’s actually got stuff going on in the inside and isn’t just a connector circuit that only thrives off of others.
  • Solitude’s healthy properties: improve productivity, creativity, empathy, and happiness, and decrease self-consciousness.

The Hidden Cost of Smartphone Overuse

  • Smartphones are not only stealing our boredom, they are also shoving society dangerously close to “idiocracy” status.
  • Our collective lack of boredom is not only burning us out and leading to some ill mental health effects, but also muting what boredom is trying to tell us about our mind, emotion, ideas, wants, and needs.

The Power of Boredom

  • Boredom is neither good nor bad. How you respond to it is what can make it good or bad.
    • The way we dealt with boredom before we began surrounding ourselves in constant comfort delivered benefits that are essential for our brain health, productivity, personal sanity, and sense of meaning. But there’s been a cosmic shift in boredom. The way we now deal with it is “like junk food for your mind”
  • Our collective lack of boredom may be causing us to reach near crisis lebvel of mental fatigue.
  • Research:
    • On slaught of screen-based media has created Americans who are “increasingly picky, impatient, distracted, and demanding”
    • Overworked, under maintained minds are linked to depression, life dissatisfaction, the perception that life goes by quicker, and increasingly missing the beauty of life that only presents itself when we allow our mind to wander and be aware of something other than a screen.
  • There’s this evolutionary survival process we developed to help us remember where food is, so we wouldn’t starve.
    • There’s a trigger, a behavior, and a reward. But this brain process can get hijacked on the modern day. The trigger instead of food is boredom. And the behvaior is going on YouTube or checking our news feed or Instagram. And that distracts us from the boredom. We become excited and get a hit of dopamins, which is a reward. The paradox is that these mechanisms that helped keep us alobe are now hurting our health. We have less tolerance for distress. If we feel something unpleasant, like boredom, typically we would have to just be with that unpleasantness, and then we’d find a productive outlet. but we don’t have to distract ourselves.

The Nature Cure, Finding Wellness in the Wild

  • Nature can be uncomfortable and unpredictable.
    • Biophilia hypothesis by E.O. Wilson: We evolved in nature, and therefore have programmed within our genes a need to be in and connect with nature and living things. If we don’t, we go a little haywire, as of we’re missing a necessary nutrient for our body, mind, and sense of self.
  • The outdoors is one potent antidote to the modern human conditions of chronic disease and being overstressed, overstimulated, and overworked. They’re also discovering how real people with jobs, kids, and commitments can easily work nature into their busy lives.
  • There’s a little magic in 20 minutes.
    • 20 minutes outside, 3 times a week, is the dose of nature that most efficiently dropped people’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
    • In nature: brain enters a mode called soft fascination.
      • You’re lightly focusing outwardly on the nature around you. You’re taking in all these things in the outside world that are nice to look at. but they’re not overwhelming. Your attention network is turned down, but you;re aware of the outside world.
      • Brain scans show that [[soft fascination]] is a lot like [[meditation]].
      • A mindfulness-like state that restores and builds the resources we need to think, create, process information, and execute tasks. It’s mindfulness without the meditation.
  • Just passing through a park or by some trees on a walk to a coffee shop has benefits. Almost immediately when people are in nature or even see nature they report feeling better and their behavior changes
  • People who listened to nature sounds like water and wind reduced their stress levels significantly more than those who listened to artificial noises.
  • Having plants in office → increase productivity.
  • Having a view of nature out of a hospital window helps people recover quicker. Even taking a route to work whgere you see more green is beneficial
  • People who live near green spaces are less at risk of all kinds of disease

The rewilding of our body and brain usually goes something like this:

  • On the 1st day: stress and health markers improve, but we are still adjusting to the discomfort of nature.
  • Day-2: our mind is settling and awareness is heightening. We’re caring les about what we left behind and are beginning to notive the sughts, smells, and sounds around us
  • Day 3: hits. now our senses completely dialed in and we can reach a fully meditative mode of feeling connected to nature. The discomfort isn’t so bad. It has shifted to a welcome sensation that signals a calmness and feeling of life satisfaction.

Silence is worth seeking, even if it’s uncomfortable at first.

  • Extreme quiet is a promising treatment for people who’ve gone through trauma
  • Seeking the everyday silence that comes from shutting off devices can benefit our brain and body. Two hours of the type of quiet we can find at home (perhaps with earplugs in or noise-canceling headphones on, if you live in a city) was shown to lead to the production of more cells in an area of the brain that fights depression.
  • At-home silence was more calming than listening to Mozart.
  • Two minuets of silence led to the bigger drops in measures of relaxation like [[blood pressure]] and heart and breathing rate compared to a handful of other relaxation techniques.

Facing Discomfort for Diet Success

All diets work until they don’t. Survey in the UK: an average of 5 weeks, 2 days, and 43 minutes in. That’s when we give up and slowly slide back into our previous state. Why?

  • This is when the discomfort sets in. People usually fail after a handful of weeks because their bodies fight to bring them back to their starting point. When your body fat drops enough, your brain responds by making you hungrier while at the same time decreasing how satisfying your meals are.
  • NIH team: for every twp pounds a person loses, for example, their brain unconsciously ramps up their hunger and causes them to eat about 100 more calories. Had our bodies not developed these defense mechanisms, we likely wouldn’t have survived the crucible of evolution. This is why fad diets aren’t solving the nation’s weight problem. It’s not information and advice we lack. It’s our inability to persist against the discomfort of hunger—a necessary state for weight loss.

Rewilding our eating habits, step back and become aware of how much and why we’re eating require us to favor the foods humans have eaten for thousands of years but not be afraid of or feel guilty for the occasional comfort food.

  • We embrace the discomfort of hunger. We must recognize that occasionally going without food up to 24 hours is a normal and even beneficial human state.
  • We also must understand that occasionally going without food up to 24 hours is a normal an even beneficial human state. We must also understand and adapt to the fact that much of our hunger isn’t real psychological hunger.

Author: Michael Easter

Publication date: 11 May 2021

Number of pages: 304 pages


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