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Embracing Discomfort to Live a Healthy Life

Embracing discomfort can make or break your health. For healthy aging explore your comfort zone and lean in to expand it daily.

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“He or she who has the greatest capacity for discomfort rises the fastest.” -Brene Brown

I’m currently about 6 months pregnant, which is the phase of pregnancy where almost every movement starts to become uncomfortable and more challenging by the day. There are moments where it’s tempting to allow myself to seek comfort where I can. But I know making the choice to continue to move even when it isn’t an easy choice will lead to a more comfortable final few months of pregnancy and recovery post-partum.

So what does this look like?

Choosing to sit on the floor instead of curling up on the couch. Squatting to pick something up instead of bending over. Walking and taking the stairs as much as possible. Instead of looking at my ever-changing body as an inconvenience, I can see it as an opportunity for strengthening and being creative in adapting my movement.

While it sounds silly to make these small choices, they make a huge difference over time. And the only way I can consistently make these choices to embrace the fact that none of it’s comfortable.

Discomfort is Missing in the Discussion of Population Health

Intentionally living with discomfort is the elephant in the room when it comes to a discussion of better health. No one wants to visit their doctor only to be told they need to embrace discomfort to actually make their condition better.

Seeking out a comfortable life will lead you down the road that most of our population is heading. An analysis of the health of the country doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Life expectancy is declining. Chronic health conditions continue to increase. But this isn’t beyond our control. Mounting evidence continues to show that most of these chronic conditions are preventable with lifestyle choices.

These scary health statistics continue to rise with an increase in the availability of convenience in our lives. And that’s not a coincidence.

So how do you start to prevent this from happening to you? The answer lies in embracing discomfort. Accepting discomfort in your life puts you in a better position to manage your health, both mentally and physically.

At this point, we’ve outsourced most of the work of our bodies to technology. And for what purpose? So we can distract ourselves with more technology? It certainly hasn’t been to spend more time focused on living a well-rounded, healthy life.

For example, cars were one of the first major conveniences we’ve had access to. Have they changed the world? Certainly yes. Travel is possible in a way that wasn’t before. But do they sometimes act to our detriment? Also yes. I’m looking at you, people who drive to the end of the driveway to check the mail. Or drive places that are within a mile of your home. By doing so, you’ve taken away the opportunity for your body to walk, improving your circulation and strength by using your body to perform basic daily chores.

Making the choice to do things the hard way is more likely to keep you healthy. Walk instead of drive, even when it’s cold outside. Cook at home instead of eating out. Going to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep instead of binge-watching the latest show.

Find a healthy relationship with convenience items in your life by asking yourself questions such as: why do I use this? What purpose does it serve? Is it actually saving time or is it just a distraction from living my best life?

The Caveat

There is, however, another major point that needs to be made when it comes to the discussion on convenience items and technology. It’s easy for me as an able-bodied privileged person to say that advanced technology comes at a detrimental cost to our health.

But as a therapist, I work with individuals who aren’t as able-bodied and have seen this widely available technology implemented in some amazing ways. Amazon’s Alexa can be life-changing for individuals who depend on the help of caregivers. Implemented in the right situation, voice technology has made their homes and lives safer, also reducing caregiver burnout.

Even just a decade ago, communication devices for non-verbal individuals were astronomically expensive. Since then, more accessible Ipads with communication apps and new voice technology for those with speaking difficulty has made a better life for these individuals more widely available. This technology used to be very limited and expensive, reserved for the wealthy.

My point here is that there is a flip side to every conversation. And while I’m promoting the health benefits of a less convenient lifestyle, I’m very aware there are times when this isn’t an option. I’m not here to demonize the technology that has improved the lives of millions of individuals living with chronic conditions.

I am here though to encourage you to seek discomfort where and when you can. You can start small and slowly build your tolerance. Just start where you are with what you can. The more you make the choice to explore the limits of your comfort zone and push a little bit past them every day the decision becomes your default option. How can you start to be more uncomfortable today?

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