How have you been feeling lately? Comfy? Cozy, coasting, on cruise control? Let's face it, we live in a pretty cushy world these days. Everything has a remote control, wifi and bluetooth, gas pumps have TV screens, remote start cars that drive themselves, heated seats and floors and toilet seats, just about anything you want can be delivered to your door in less than 24 hours— instant gratification and convenience is everywhere we look. And while there isn't necessarily anything inherently bad about comfort—in fact, it's important to feel a sense of safety and security at a foundational level—there is something to be said about the benefits of getting more comfortable in discomfort.
Maybe it will help to consider what really happens when you are experiencing discomfort. Oftentimes, when something is uncomfy it isn't actually harming us in any way. Sure, being cold sucks, waking up early is difficult, sitting quietly without your phone to distract you is boring, and breaking a sweat is hard. Preparing and delivering a speech can be nerve-wracking, studying for a big test takes sacrifice, and having a difficult conversation with a loved one can be daunting. But are any of these things actually causing real, lasting, detrimental effects to our physical, mental or emotional well-being? Quite the contrary. Anyone can agree that sometimes even heightened levels of discomfort, at least in these scenarios, has a net-positive effect on our well-being (except for maybe the whole being cold part, but more on that later). We experience a little bit of discomfort and sometimes a lot of resistance in the short-term, but we know that the pay-off will be well worth the effort day in and day out, and sometimes this is enough to keep us going.
I'm also willing to bet that most of us have even bigger goals, hopes and dreams than meet the eye, and our current efforts that may well include some discomfort don't come close to what it takes to unlock those high ticket items on the bucket list.
And for some of us, the thought of intentionally stepping out of our comfort zone is simply absurd and unthinkable (Not pointing any fingers; you know where you fall on this scale!).
Let's start by reframing our relationship with comfort and discomfort, talk about building resiliency, and reconnect with our inherent ability to survive and do hard things.
What happens when we spend too much of our time in comfort? For starters, we stop growing. We learn what we are made of in the moments where we are challenged, forced to step up to the plate, and tough it out. When we repeatedly show ourselves that we can do hard things—even when we fail the attempt—we build a foundation of self-trust and security just by showing up and honoring our commitments.
Too much time spent in comfort can also have a negative impact on your ability to handle stressful situations when they pop up outside of your control. You wouldn't run a marathon without training, right? (We advise not!) Think of your intentional steps into discomfort as part of your training plan to build and maintain strength so you're better prepared if/when shit hits the fan.
If you're new to choosing discomfort, it can be a bit scary at first. It may take time and discernment to differentiate between discomfort that is ultimately beneficial, vs. actual pain, or something that is truly threatening your safety. This is not a call to willingly put yourself in dangerous situations, so please listen to your gut and your body as you take small steps and expand outward. Your particular brand of stepping out of your comfort zone might look different from someone else's. If you find that the suggestions made here don't quite fit for you, get curious about what will. Try some things out and see how they feel, take what resonates and what works and leave the rest. Finally, share your story—we can't wait to hear from you!
Here are 6 ways you can challenge yourself daily and get more comfy in discomfort.
- Hot and Cold or Contrast Therapy: (told you we'd come back to this one!) we touched on just a few of the physical benefits to hot/cold therapy in our blog a little while back, but did you know there is extensive research that suggests hydrotherapy specifically can be used to improve immunity, manage pain, asthma, fatigue, anxiety, and even obesity to name a few? We think that's well worth a few minutes of discomfort each day. Start or end your day with a contrast shower today. Start with a temperature you can tolerate, and don't forget to breath!
- Speaking of Breathing... breath work is an incredible method to work with expanding outside of your comfort zone, and increasing your capacity to handle stress. As an automatic process, it can be pretty easy for us to take this one for granted, or not notice when our breathing might be irregular or inefficient.. especially in periods of high stress, if we know how to work with our breath, we can use it as a real time tool to remain calm. If you've ever heard of Wim Hof, you might know that the foundation of the Wim Hof Method includes the consistent practice of breathing in cold therapy. Check him out if you'd like to learn more, and start today by practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing and getting into cold water.
- Shake up Your Daily Routine if we're not careful, sometimes comfort can actually feel like we're stuck in a rut. Do you start each day the same way, taking the same steps, with the same attitude, at the same time? Go to work and go through the motions, come home and eat the same thing for dinner, feel exhausted and reach for creature comforts to cope? You might tell yourself you're too busy, too tired to change anything up about that routine... but even the smallest changes, like going to a different coffee shop than you normally do, or striking up a conversation with a stranger, or even doing something that might be a little embarrassing, could give you a different perspective and newly enriched experience. It just might snowball into some big shifts and revelations about yourself!
- Start Learning Something New: is there a foreign language you've always wanted to learn, perhaps a skill or challenge you want to get better at, or a workshop or seminar that aligns with your values that you haven't gotten around to signing up for? Whatever the resistance has been for you around this thing in the past, odds are a reluctance to change and ultimately, perceived discomfort, has been a part of it. Pick up the book, sign up for the workshop, or start working on that goal. Maybe the sacrifice is an hour or two of Netflix. I strongly believe that you can do it, and you'll feel better for it.
- Try a New Diet: perhaps one of the most relatable shared experiences, whether it's eating for fuel, nutrient-density, cutting out processed sugars and hydrogenated oils, or following a specific diet plan, hoo boy is it often hard to get started and harder to stick with it. Every time you make a choice to eat you are presented with an opportunity to challenge your comfort zone. Hard to do in the moment, but how good does it feel to eat well and nourish your body properly, and to know that you can trust yourself to stick with your commitments??
- Set a Fitness Goal: whether its running your first 5k or a triathlon, getting under a barbell for the first time or hitting that next PR, increasing your endurance or hitting the gym a certain number of days a week consistently, setting a clear goal for yourself will help you continue to show up for yourself, even on the days when it is really, really hard. While it can feel scary to commit to something like a race you've never done before, the discomfort of knowing you have no other option but to train consistently for it will help drive you towards that goal. Sometimes the external commitment is needed to keep you dedicated and moving along. Sign up for a competition or find some accountability, and then get to work!
If you're ready right now to take your next big step out of your comfort zone and tap into your innate super powers (yes, they're in there!), click the link below to learn about our next 6 Week Challenge!