LAS VEGAS–Michael Easter says Americans are too comfortable. That willingness to be comfortable, and not leave our comfort zones, is affecting our physical and mental health. It’s the premise of the University of Las Vegas journalism professor’s new book, “The Comfort Crisis,” released for sale this week.
“Today most of us live at 72 degrees, experiencing weather only during the two minutes it takes us to walk across a parking lot or from the subway station to our cars,” Easter writes. “Americans now spend about 93 percent of our time indoors in climate control, and entire cities wouldn’t exist had we not developed air conditioning. Like Phoenix and Las Vegas.”
All that time being comfortable, he says, is tied to major societal and personal problems: obesity, chronic disease, depression and a general lack of meaning.
In a pursuit not unlike the one completed by the main character in the novel and 2014 film “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” Easter set out on a trek to explore happiness and how we pursue it. His travels took him to far off destinations including Bhutan and the Alaskan Arctic, and well-traveled places such as Austin and Iceland.
But one doesn’t have to travel to far-flung locales to get out of their comfort zone and improve their life. Easter says something as simple as a three-day camping trip can have positive mental health benefits.
“By day 3, you’ve relaxed and gotten out of your daily, super-hectic life that we tend to lead in the modern world, and you see things a bit differently,” he says. “You’re going to learn something about yourself from putting yourself in positions of discomfort where you feel like you’re going to quit. But you’re going to come out on the other side, and once you come back into your normal life, I can guarantee you’re going to have much more appreciation for all of the amazing things we have in our lives.”
Easter plans to use the knowledge learned over the past decade he’s spent researching and reporting healthy ways of living to take UNLV students on a similar journey for a first-of-its-kind adventure journalism course.
Read more about Easter and his book in this Q&A. The book is available for purchase online.