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Case for discomfort

Us humans love out creature comforts. That is one reason we like dogs so much. Do you want to find the best place to sleep? See where the dog is. He can find the most comfortable spot on the bed or chair. We as humans love our comfort.

Don’t care to get up to change the channel that is alright we have a remote for that. Want to turn the lights off? Clap your hands twice and the lights go off. There is a multi-billion dollar industry centered around mattresses and pillows. We like our comforts, I don’t think I can say that enough.

Yet there is a phrase, You know how I love phrases, that comes to mind,

Too smart for your own good

I wonder if we are not too smart for our own good. We have found so many ways for us to not have to deal with discomfort. That is any discomfort that we may face. From the awkward feeling of coming face to face with an unknown person to the memory of your friend dying in your arms in a battlefield to the feeling your body being riddled with cancer. We hate going through discomfort but admire people who do go through their discomforts.

I look around and see that maybe our problems like the anxiety of meeting people you don’t agree with, to addictions, to emotional disorders could be from us having too little discomforts. So here is my argument for discomfort

Why do we like comfort?

I talked about the Amygdala in an earlier post. In that post, I talked about fear. Yet the amygdala is what is responsible for your comfort. This part of the brain is called the lizard brain by some. It is what keeps a lookout for danger. It sees a dark forest and thinks there are a lot of places that tigers and bears can hide.

That same brain is there for a good reason if someone whips a gun out and points it in your direction. You know you need to run. So the Lizard brain isn’t all bad but many times when we are in autopilot mode. It will take control and lead you down the path of comfort instead of growing.

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Unsplash

Comfort means we are safe. So comfort isn’t bad but we relish in it way too much. Because we don’t have as much discomfort we have lost the gratitude for comfort. Which, I believe, is one of the causes for so much discontent in our lives. We allow the reptile brain to run uncontrolled in our day to day lives.

Yet look at how many people who live very nice and comfortable lives are actually miserable. They should be the happiest people on earth yet they often are not. These folks suffer from depression and substance abuse as much as the people in the poorest neighborhood.

Why have we avoided discomfort?

Well Duh! Why do you think we avoid discomfort? That is because it is not comfortable. True but what makes successful people successful? Well, there are many different reasons. There are blogs upon blogs dedicated to that very topic. Why isn’t everybody successful then? One of the keys to their success is they do what others won’t. Maybe it is working 12 hours a day. It could be they sacrifice time with pleasures to achieve a goal they are after. They get out of their comfort zone. They do the work that is needed.

Living in discomfort is going against what your Amygdala is wanting you to do. It seems you are being safe if you are sitting on the couch watching Netflix. While if you are out in the woods without light you might find a prairie rattler while going to the bathroom. You even want to hear your Amygdala scream at you sleep in the woods with no light. Wow does that part of your brain know how to make up stories?

We need discomfort

That is because to do the extraordinary you have to get out of the ordinary. That takes the discomfort to grow. Teddy Roosevelt makes a great argument as to why a strenuous life is good.

Roosevelt on the Stump Case for discomfort
By Unknown – Bettman/Corbis through The New York Times photo archive, via the Times online store, here, Public Domain, Link

When I graduated high school my Grandmother told me that I need to find a good church. She then proceeded to tell me to judge a church by its pews. You wanted to avoid a church with comfortable pews.

I laugh at that because that is an old Baptist way of thinking. Yet try it sometimes. You don’t fall asleep in a hard church pew. Which means you pay attention to what the preacher is saying.

That example has a few other meanings I have found out about. Good things come to you when you are in a state of discomfort. People admire those who face discomfort on a regular day to day occurrence. That discomfort does you good.

Why is discomfort good?

If we avoid discomfort so much why is it a good thing for people to experience? You would think that if being uncomfortable was good for you then your doctor would be prescribing take two days and live in the elements. Yet you don’t hear that do you?

Well yeah, actually you do. How many times has the doctor told you to get some exercise? That is a discomfort. You are stretching your ligaments tendons and stressing your muscle fibers till they break. You are stressing your joints.

Ask anybody who exercises do they enjoy it while they are in the process of running 10 miles? Most people say not really. You are breathing heavy and your feet hurt your thighs are burning. You may get a stitch in your side. It is a terrible experience. Yet what happens when you are finished. You have all these endorphins rushing around your body. You feel exhilarated, tired, but accomplished.

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Image by Erwin Gabler from Pixabay

It stresses you.

How does the military make such skilled soldiers? They don’t do it by putting them in feather beds. Their strategy is to break you down and rebuild you by making life as uncomfortable as possible. In doing so that soldier is better prepared for whatever the toils of war throw at them.

Our immune system is the same way. It gets stressed when a new infection finds its way into our body. OFten it becomes inflamed and hurts. Diseases do the same thing. We are exposed to a particular virus and from then on it knows how to fight that virus off.

That is also what vaccines do it purposely introduces a virus into our system. The doctor introduces either a dead virus or a weakened virus and our body goes to work. That is why sometimes like with the Flu vaccine you get slightly sick. because they use a live virus that is weaker than normal viruses. Stressing your body makes it stronger.

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What happens when you stay comfortable?

So You need to be uncomfortable. I do want to point o some aspects of what happens when you live a life of too much comfort. There are times that life dishes out discomfort. Whether you want it to or not life becomes uncomfortable.  If we let the amygdala run without oversight it can cause us to fall into some very noticeable problems. These problems can cause us more harm than the good our lizard brain is hoping for.

We buffer against discomforts in many different ways. You may be a stress eater. Perhaps you are an alcoholic who is trying to drown their problems. There are people who would rather get stoned than experience the discomfort of family events.

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

There are men who would rather hide from the problems he has in his marriage by working long days. That way he doesn’t have to deal with the questions his wife wants to ask. He doesn’t have to worry about being like his father. He can give the impression that he is a hard worker and feel good by avoiding what would make his marriage stronger and more fulfilling.

Then there are people who would rather have the opportunity to numb their emotions by taking prescription drugs. Whether it is an opioid or an anti-anxiety med, Many time people would prefer to have a sensory diminishing drug than have to experience an uncomfortable emotion.

So we should all live in mud hut now?

No, you don’t have to go live in the woods and build your own log cabin in a blizzard. Struggle day and night to just survive.

What you do want to do is realize why you are seeking comfort. Do something that scares you. If it is a struggle there is a reward at the end.

If you are buffering yourself with psychotropic drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, or even food. Try looking into your “why”. What is it that you are avoiding. The more emotions you avoid the more trouble those emotions make. Try being uncomfortable when an emotion shows up. You won’t die from it. You will not drown in sorrow. You once you let that emotion bloom and become what it is supposed to be you are a better person.

So Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Dr. Gus Vickery of Authentic health talks about how you need to stretch your limbs and with your body several times a week. Exercise breaks down your muscle fibers. That is why when you are first learning to get into shape you experience muscle soreness.

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Image by RonRatte from Pixabay

With that stressing your muscles become stronger and more powerful. Without that discomfort, your muscles would atrophy and not work anymore. If you work your body and you do what others are afraid or unwilling to do you will be that much more ahead of them.

In that same vein, we are a lot like muscles. If we do not work and stretch then you don’t become a better person.

Do Your Kids A Favor

Let your kids get hurt. Yes, let them climb trees. Let them run jump and play without adult supervision. Are they going to get hurt? Sure they will but they learn that pain is temporary. You get cool stories to tell about how you got that scar.

Kids learn about life when parents stop directing their lives. As long as it doesn’t kill them let them learn. Let them explore. Making them play sports all the time isn’t the answer. They have to learn problem-solving and the best way for them to do so is to play with other kids.

So do the uncomfortable thing and get out of your kid’s way. Let them play pirates with broom handles. Yeah, they may get a knot on the head but they will also learn to duck.

Being uncomfortable isn’t bad. Being cold Makes you more resilient. Sweating allows you to expel some toxins and waste from your body. You get bigger and stronger when you work out. Our kids are better balanced when we allow them to get outdoors and play. Don’t be afraid of the what if. The discomfort we experience these days is mostly emotional. It won’t hurt you.

So what are you going to do this week that will expand your discomfort? Let me know in the comment section below.

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