How our climate controlled comfort is killing us.
Modern Technology has provided us with an inordinate amount of comfort. With the turn of a dial our homes are set at a perpetually comfortable temperature, has this made us physically and mentally weaker.? What if our bodies need discomfort to truly thrive and flourish. Those thoughts were passing through my mind today as I was shopping in the local supermarket. Wearing shorts a tee-shirt and open shoes, I went down the dairy and frozen food section. Maybe it didn’t help that someone had already driven their shopping trolley into my heel, my patience and reasoning skills were already fraught.
I kept searching for my elusive product, it seemed to take ages, but sure enough there it was. Shivering, I was glad to get into the warmer zones around the bakery section. I turned around and in my haste stubbed my toe on the shopping trolley. There was a young boy beside me wearing a pair of shorts, with no tee-shirt or shoes. Obviously, being young, he didn’t feel the cold. Next time I walk down the freezer section, I will be wearing my puffer jacket, trousers and hiking shoes.
The young boy didn’t make any impression at that moment. But later I thought, something seems to happen as we age, do we feel the cold more or is something else happening. Are we becoming weaker and sicker. In our evolutionary past we experienced wild temperature changes, in some parts of the world, the temperature swing between night and day can be over fifty degrees. Our ancestors explored the world in fur skins and sailing boats and with very basic equipment. They had to rely on human biology to resist the elements and all the variations.
Now we live in a cocoon of technological comfort. Our bodies don’t have to meet any of the conditions that our ancestors had to experience. We almost live in a perpetual summer with temperatures controlled at the flick of a switch. We live in antiseptic environments where we have killed the harmful and good bacteria. Weakening our immune systems, this leads to diseases of the 21st century, obesity, diabetes osteoporosis and many others. This period of comfort is very short on the relative time line of civilization. Our bodies have had to adapt very quickly, more so, than at any other period of our evolution.
It’s not that we need to be “hunter gatherers” and forage for our food. But we are designed to be more than “bystanders” of our lives. The comfort crutch locks out engaged participation and locks in an impediment to an extraordinary life. What our brains and bodies really want isn’t comfort, it’s engagement in novelty, challenges and learning. When was the last time you ventured beyond the familiar face of habituation.? Not on a luxury vacation where everything is taken care of except your brain and your wallet. Rather something that challenges you to plan and figure things out for yourself.
“Neglect of intense learning leads plasticity systems to waste away” says Norman Doidge in “The brain that changes itself” Michael Merzenich, a pioneer of plasticity research, adds “that going beyond the familiar is essential to brain health. “Keeping the brain new” is being willing to leave your comfort zone. Not becoming so attached to the idea of how you currently are, that you ignore a blatant truth. The world is vast, the probability that you have already found all your favorite things in life is very small. You can be one hesitant step away from meeting a new best friend. Also discovering a favorite dish, or a bigger purpose in your life.
Getting out of comfort.
I was contemplating this question, can there be a way to fast track out of my comfort zone. Without spending money or taxing myself too much physically. Or altering my brain chemistry without drugs. Still creating my own fear though and allow this to push me through my comfort zone. Also in the comfort of my own home. It came to me, listening to a pod cast on one of my morning hikes. So simple but so difficult, no mess no preparation a rapid fire way to get out of my comfort zone.
Tomorrow, I’ll go to the bathroom and set the alarm for five minutes. Before I activate it, strip off and get into the shower. Start to run the water how I usually like it, warm and comfortable. Then activate the alarm, turn the shower to completely cold and scream in discomfort for five minutes. It’s the closest I will ever get to jumping out of a plane without a parachute apparently. Repeating this for 30 days was part of the message. It seems like it could be an incredible experience. I wish I could tell you how it felt, but my logical mind wants to gather a bit more information. So I’ve decided to hang out in the freezer section of the supermarket for an extended period next week. Also I won’t be wearing my hiking gear either.