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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 September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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