In many ways, we’re more comfortable than ever before.
But could our sheltered, temperature-controlled, overfed, under-challenged lives actually be the leading cause of many of our most urgent physical and mental health issues?
In the book The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Healthy, Happy Self, award-winning journalist Michael Easter, my guest on this podcast, seeks out off-the-grid visionaries, disruptive genius researchers, and mind-body conditioning trailblazers who are unlocking the life-enhancing secrets of a counterintuitive solution: discomfort.
Michael Easter’s journey to understand our evolutionary need to be challenged takes him to meet the NBA’s top exercise scientist, who uses an ancient Japanese practice to build championship athletes; to the mystical country of Bhutan, where an Oxford economist and Buddhist leader are showing the world what death can teach us about happiness; to the outdoor lab of a young neuroscientist who has found that nature tests our physical and mental endurance in ways that expand creativity while taming burnout and anxiety; to the remote Alaskan backcountry on a demanding 33-day hunting expedition to experience the rewilding secrets of one of the last rugged places on Earth; and more.
Along the way, Michael Easter uncovers a blueprint for leveraging the power of discomfort that will dramatically improve our health and happiness, and perhaps even help us understand what it means to be human. The Comfort Crisis is a bold call to break out of your comfort zone and explore the wild within yourself. Since publication, The Comfort Crisis has become a bestseller and has been adopted by Major League Baseball teams, top-ranked NCAA D1 football programs, top-tier universities and law programs, major corporations, tier-one military units, and more.
In this podcast, we take a deep dive into Michael’s book, and you’ll discover the mind and body benefits of living at the edges of your comfort zone and reconnecting with the wild. Michael is a leading voice on how humans can integrate modern science and evolutionary wisdom for improved health, meaning, and performance in life and at work. He travels the globe to embed himself with brilliant thinkers and people living at the extremes. He then shares his findings and experiences in books, articles, and other media. Michael’s investigations have taken him to meet with monks in ancient monasteries in Bhutan, lost tribes in the jungles of Bolivia, US Special Forces soldiers in undisclosed locations, gene scientists in Iceland, CEOs in Fortune 500 boardrooms, and more.
His work shows that science has many answers. But it also shows that many aspects of the human experience and living well cannot be measured. To that end, he merges the statistical and mystical. Michael covers topics ranging from medicine and anthropology to theology and philosophy, along with case studies of everyday people doing extraordinary things.
Michael has a presence in over 60 countries, with his work being endorsed by directors of the CIA and Navy SEALs, gold medal-winning Olympians, leading physicians, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, Buddhist and environmental leaders, and more. It’s appeared in Men’s Health, where he’s a Contributing Editor, and Outside, Men’s Journal, Cosmopolitan, Vice, Esquire, Scientific American, Women’s Health, and others.
Michael has appeared on the world’s largest, most influential podcasts including The Joe Rogan Experience, Art of Manliness, Impact Theory, EconTalk, and more. When he’s not on the ground reporting, Michael is a professor in the journalism department at UNLV. He co-founded and co-directs the Public Communications Institute, a think tank at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). He’s spoken to or consulted for various top-tier universities, medical schools, Fortune-500 companies, government agencies, and some of the country’s largest nonprofits.
Michael lives in Las Vegas on the edge of the desert with his wife and their two dogs, Stockton and Conway.
During this discussion, you’ll discover:
-The impetus for Michael writing the book…06:50
-How perspectives change when exposed to raw nature and discomfort…18:15
-The ancient Japanese practice to build championship athletes…25:44
-A nutrition expert who challenges conventional thinking about food…37:38
- Trevor Kashey Nutrition
- Received Ph.D. at age 23
- Not what you eat, but why you eat
- Processed food may not be as bad as we make it out to be
- Any diet will have discomfort in the form of hunger; loss of calorie intake
-How a trip to Bhutan changed Michael’s view of death…44:45
- Western civilization fears death; something to be avoided at all costs
- You lose the honorable nature of death with this mindset
- 20%-30% of healthcare spending is on people on their deathbed, simply keeping them alive a bit longer
- Lifespan without healthspan
- Bhutan is underdeveloped, but among the happiest nations on earth
- Death is part of life in Bhutan
- Ashes placed all over the country in small urns
- If you know about the cliff (death) at the end of the trail, it will change how you experience the trail
- Studies reveal thinking about death can enhance one’s happiness
- Being humble is realizing that you’re not that important in the grand scheme of things; not taking oneself so seriously
-The relationship between boredom and discomfort…56:57
- Boredom is an evolutionary discomfort
- Boredom tells us to “do something else”
- We turn to digital media when bored in the modern-day
- Studies show that boredom stimulates productivity in some ways
- Nowadays, it is truly hard to be bored
-Ways Michael has changed his life since writing the book…1:02:47
- A lot more grateful for the modern world
- Spending a month in the Arctic
- Make a point of being bored (i.e. a walk without a phone) throughout the day
- Aware of the benefits of being full, having ideal temps in the house, etc.
- Identify a discomfort in your life, one thing that’s mentally difficult, train the spirit each day
-Why we’ve tipped too far into the realm of comfort…1:12:07
- The balance has tipped too far into the comfortable
- The reason we developed a capacity for discomfort is that it gave us a survival advantage
- It does not make sense to move more than you need to; exercise sucks; we have a propensity for laziness
- Someone who is okay with hunger now and then is not going to be obese
- Someone who is okay with discomfort is probably not going to have many mental health problems
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
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