I know I used to fall into the trap of believing I should always seek out comfort and avoid discomfort at all costs…
I came to realise that staying in my comfort zone was limiting my personal growth and opportunities. So as crazy as it might sound this is why I am currently going through a period of embracing discomfort and even seeking it out most days.
Below, I’ll share with you why discomfort is a valuable teacher, how it is building resilience, pride and confidence for me and it can for you too. Let me also suggest 4 small practical ways to introduce healthy discomfort into your life. So, together let’s step out of our comfort zone and see what unfolds!
What is discomfort?
It can be any situation that makes us feel uneasy, nervous, or vulnerable. However it’s not severe enough to be overwhelming or painful. It could be anything from venturing into uncharted territory with trying a new hobby, to having that difficult conversation with family.
It’s also worth differentiating what I call “healthy discomfort” from unhealthy discomfort. Healthy discomfort is something we choose for ourselves no-one else and we know that this discomfort is good for us and it improves our lives in some way. Unhealthy discomfort is when we tolerate something we haven’t actively chosen or we choose it because we feel we “should” or we “have to” but it doesn’t really enhance our lives.
Why our comfort zone can limit growth
There’s a fantastic book by Steve Peters called “The Chimp Paradox” which explains why part of our brains like to choose the familiar or comfortable option. However it’s unrealistic to have an expectation that it is even possible to live our lives where everything is easy, predictable, and comfortable!
Resilience, pride, and confidence
I propose that when we stay in our comfort zone, we limit our growth and opportunities. Here we feel stuck. Stepping out of our comfort zone and inviting some healthy discomfort into our lives can help us become more resilient, confident and accepting of the things we can’t control. By exposing ourselves to uncomfortable situations, we prove to ourselves that we are capable of handling difficult situations and that fear doesn’t have to define us. As Susan David, a famous psychologist says “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”.
Let me prove it to you…
- Tell me one time you ever felt proud of yourself when you stayed in your comfort zone? (It’s hard right?)
- Now tell me one time you felt regretful? (I bet that regret was because you chose to stay with the easy, more comfortable decision instead of challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone.)
4 Practical ways to introduce healthy discomfort
Now you are a bit more convinced now, so let me tell you some ways you can introduce a small amount of healthy discomfort into your life:
1. Get cold:
Whether that’s a 30 second cold shower or dipping into the cold sea. This is uncomfortable but can improve our life in many ways. The health benefits include increasing circulation and reducing inflammation. Releases endorphins that improves your mood and reduces stress. It can boost your Immune system. Whilst also making you mindful as it’s pretty hard to be anything other than fully present. Lastly the cold water can stimulate norepinephrine, which can improve focus.
2. Let others see and hear you:
It could be something small like starting to smile at people on your daily walk, maybe going to social events you normally wouldn’t attend or challenging yourself to do some public speaking. For me recently it was to have a conversation with someone that I was dreading whilst also knowing to my core that I needed to have it.
3. Try new things:
Maybe try a new hobby or a new type of exercise. I spoke to someone recently who tried camping for the first time. I recommend that if you are the type of person who always does things with others to try doing something on your own like going to the cinema, lunch or even travelling.
Of course it can be uncomfortable to sit with your thoughts and feelings when meditating. However mindfulness meditation as you know has a lot of benefits such as stress relief, better quality sleep, improved focus, self- awareness and emotional regulation.
When to be careful…
So here’s my disclaimer, you have heard me preach many times when making any change to go slow, start small and progress. It can be super overwhelming to jump too far out of our comfort zone so work your way up to a goal continuously pushing the edges of your comfort zone. I found when I first started my business posting a video of me talking on social media was uncomfortable but then at a certain point it became comfortable. I continued to work my way up to public speaking and radio interviews. My next challenge is a TV interview!
Now you know why inviting in some regular healthy discomfort can encourage your personal growth. It builds your resilience, pride, confidence, acceptance of the things you can’t control and helps you overcome fear.
So what small bit of healthy discomfort can you invite in starting today? You might be surprised by what you discover about yourself!