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How to Practice Being Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

How to Practice Being Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

People such as self-help guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, financial minimalist Mr. Money Mustache, and author William B. Irvine have all touched upon the idea of Stoicism, a philosophy that I believe is the ultimate self-improvement philosophy.

First of all, allow me to debunk some common misconceptions about the Stoics. Contrary to the definition of a stoic as being emotionless, Stoicism actually raises the ultimate optimists!

Examples include how to remove all negative emotions such as fear, sadness, and disappointment. Another lesson to be learned from the Stoics is their belief that you should intentionally place yourself in situations of discomfort, in an effort to increase your comfort range as well as to make you value your moments of safety, making it easy for you to always consider yourself comfortable after enough practice.

Basically, Stoicism is a set of techniques to get the most fulfillment out of life and lower periods of sadness or discomfort.
Ever since I started applying Stoic principles in my life, I’ve felt an overwhelming amount of happiness and feelings of contentment with everything. I no longer take for granted the times when I am truly comfortable, such as when I am in the warm and safety of my own home. I also endure quite easily most things others would fine to be uncomfortable, for example, wearing t-shirts and shorts in less than 40 degrees (which is a huge deal to Arizonians for some reason).

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Don’t you want to expand your boundaries of what you deem to be comfortable? Don’t you want to always be comfortable even when others are complaining about how bad they’ve got it? Well, here’s how, through the teachings of Stoicism.

Voluntary Discomfort

A famous Stoic was Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who was the tutor and advisor of emperor Nero. Seneca was a huge believer in intentionally putting yourself out in less than comfortable conditions several times a month. It wasn’t enough to just envision discomfort but you had to literally live through it.

He wanted to go with less food, wear less than ideal clothing, sleep somewhere other than his comfortable and warm bed. You had to become a part of a lesser lifestyle to truly learn how amazing it is when you were comfortable and it is something that I’ll do quite often.

While everyone around me is complaining about how cold it is or about how hungry they are I am content and comfortable with fewer layers of clothing and less food. I am just happy to be alive, as I have voluntarily endured much harsher situations.

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This practice of voluntary discomfort that Stoicism does more than just make you appreciate comfort, it teaches you to have a high tolerance of that which is uncomfortable and you will always be content; it is something that you should practice at least a few times a month because you grow confident that if you can survive these minor periods of discomfort, you can also survive major discomforts as well.

Examples of Voluntary Discomfort

Maybe one day you forgot to eat breakfast and you would normally feel miserable, unable to go through the day as you slowly progress into an unbearable person for those around you. However, thanks to your periodic trials of self-inflicted poverty, you are well aware of the fact that even without an ideal amount of food, you are doing quite well and mild hunger does not bother you. You take comfort in your own well-being and you can let go of the discomfort.

Perhaps you can go out for a walk at night while it’s colder than you prefer. Did I mention you could do it without a jacket or sweater? Perhaps even wear shorts. If you are really feeling like testing your Stoic game then do it barefoot. You may get as creative as you want.

Are you used to long and hot showers that steam up your all your mirrors? How about taking an ice bath or setting the shower water to unbearably cold for one day out of every week? You’ll truly begin to appreciate the days where you use hotter water and you’ll gradually grow immune to the cold. Now all of a sudden, “cold” and rainy days are nothing to you as you find yourself comfortably walking in it without a rush.

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Fast. No not speed, I mean voluntarily limiting the amount of food you eat. Don’t starve yourself to the point of unbearable but don’t overindulge yourself. Try practicing being content with less.

I’ve already mentioned this to you earlier but sleep on a harder bed or even sleep on the floor. If you genuinely dislike hammocks then try sleeping in one! Can you imagine how amazing your bed will feel after you’ve derived yourself of its warmth for an entire night? Without a doubt, over time you’ll become so good at this “game”, you’ll even be comfortable sleeping in a car during road trips without the slightest complaint.

Benefits of Practicing Voluntary Discomfort

Now that you know a bit more about Stoicism, you have to try out at least voluntary discomfort and begin to broaden your range of comfort while simultaneously learning to have greater appreciation for the things you take for granted. It’s an interesting philosophy that you can learn a lot from—more than just the subject of comfort. Go out there and voluntarily seek out discomfort, because one day, you will emerge as an individual who is content with any situation.

 

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More by this author

Vincent Nguyen

Founder of Growth Ninja

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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