Actively Seeking Discomfort

Mental Health

Dr. Happy

In the midst of winter, I went camping for a few days with a few friends. It was cold, as in below zero cold, not to mention wet and very windy. In short, we were pretty uncomfortable for much of the time.  

But I loved it! And a few months later I still look back on it with an immense amount of happiness and satisfaction. I’m going to share why, and off the back of this “why”, I’m going to also share why I think you should make a habit of actively seeking out discomfort. 

By definition, discomfort is unpleasant.  

And by default, most of us are predisposed to avoiding that which is uncomfortable and unpleasant. So, we avoid discomfort as often as we can, trying instead, as best we can, to maximise feelings of ease and contentment, as well as stability and security.  

All of which is totally understandable, and OK. Before going on I want to emphasise that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with comfort and contentment.  

But at the same time, I’m going to ask you to consider this:  

  • Do you think it’s possible to totally avoid discomfort?  

  • If not, do you think it might be helpful to find ways to embrace discomfort, in a healthy way?  

  • And finally, what if there were real advantages to discomfort? Would it then be something we actively pursued? 

Now, at the risk of making assumptions about your answers to these questions, I’m going to answer them based on my own personal and professional experience:  

  • There is absolutely NO WAY discomfort can be avoided all the time (many great philosophers and religious leaders, most obviously the Buddha, have recognised this for millennia)  

  • Even if it were possible to totally avoid discomfort it’s likely the resulting life would be painfully boring (which would make for a different type of discomfort)  

  • There absolutely ARE ways in which we can embrace discomfort and doing so would absolutely be healthy 

  • And finally, there absolutely ARE benefits, very real and significant benefits to embracing discomfort and so, I’m going to encourage you to actively seek it out!  

If seeking out discomfort sounds absurd to you then consider this:  

  • Have you ever tried and subsequently enjoyed a new type of food?  

  • Have you ever applied for, successfully secured, and subsequently worked in a new job?  

  • Have you ever been on a first date, tried skydiving or bungee jumping, or even just visited a new town, city, or country?  

This list could go on, but I think you get the idea and following on from these questions:  

  • When doing any of these things, did you experience any anxiety in the lead up and then did you experience any joy or happiness or satisfaction after the fact?  

Once again, at the risk of making assumptions I’m going to answer this questions based on personal and professional experience. And I’m pretty sure the answer will be, at least in some circumstances, a “yes”.  

Trying new things is unavoidable if one wants to learn and grow and improve and trying new things is unavoidable if one wants to avoid an unpleasantly mundane or stagnant existence. And trying new things can be anxiety provoking and therefore, uncomfortable. But trying new things can also be exciting and exhilarating and satisfying and joyful!  

None of us would, today, be using computers or driving cars or living many aspects of our lives if we didn’t at some point try something new. So, seek out discomfort and find a new you and a new, better and ultimately happier life!  

Dr Happy

Please note: Dr Happy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

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