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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 January 2, 2019

Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

Stop focusing on the material objects

Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

Plan gifts in advance

We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

Suggest a better way

If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

Here’s what you can do:

Set a healthier pattern

For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

Get a fitness watch

Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Find a physical activity that you enjoy

Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

Try intermittent fasting

This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

Leave bigger intervals between meetings

If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

Plan time to relax

As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

Try to be a little pessimistic

We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

Try waking up earlier

Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

Plan your day the day before

Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

Binge-watching TV series

Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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Running on coffee

Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

Procrastination

Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

5. Stop over-consuming

We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
  • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
  • Can I rent it?
  • Can I make it myself?
  • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

Set your phone on flight mode

When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

The Bottom Line

As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

But this year, promise yourself this:

Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

Reference

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