The Benefits of Discomfort
When asked about feelings of discomfort and contributing factors, our natural instinct is to avoid it; whether through avoiding a sense of pain, rejection, or failure. Chances are that in the midst of our daily functioning we have come across experiences that can be disconcerting/discombobulating/disappointing, (insert additional dis- word), to our psyche and leave us feeling an overall sense of discomfort.
The theory of discomfort is an interesting concept, and contrary to popular belief, discomfort is not necessarily a bad thing.
1) Discomfort allows us to determine our threshold and capacity, which then further reinforces our level of resilience. Being in a state of discomfort creates an environment that pushes us to the very edges our comfort zone limits. Challenging our preconceived notions can create a reframing of our mental schemas and allow us to adapt to the present situation, thus enhancing our level of adaptability to our environment and ultimately our level of resilience.
2) Being uncomfortable can expose you to things you may actually enjoy but have been unable to explore before. Oftentimes I ask my clients, what would be something you would love to try if consequence and fear were taken out of the equation? The response to this would usually allow you to explore feelings purely, without the lens of limitation and truly allow you to explore and experience things without reservation. Who knows? Maybe trekking through the Amazonian rainforest is something you would enjoy had you given yourself the opportunity to try it.
3) It enhances exposure. This idea holds true for many experiences in which we previously thought we could not handle, we find that we in fact CAN. Additionally the element of exposure can help desensitize from fearful ideas. It also allows for growth potential.
4) Continuous discomfort increases distress tolerance and allows us to build momentum. Momentum in itself is the idea of creating a snowball effect for positive action. Once we get into the practice of doing, the reinforcement promotes more action. By using this to help push through our cognitive or physical distress, our emotional capacity for tolerance increases, allowing our snowball to take shape and thrive.
5) It fosters autonomy and independence. Discomfort grants the ability to learn to self-soothe and use skills to bring you from a high level of emotion down to a place where you feel is more tolerable. The goal is not to go from a level 10 to a level 1 feeling, however, simply reducing your emotional level from a 10 to an 8 or 7 is progress! Like all skill development, this process is similar to muscle growth, the more it is utilized, the more that muscle builds and works efficiently to serve you.
6) It hones in on our present feelings, here and now. Feeling discomfort allows us to gage our present feelings in a mindful manner. By acknowledging this, we are able to accept these feelings of discomfort but also to acknowledge two things, 1) these feelings will pass and 2) once these feelings pass, you are then open to other feelings as well. Discomfort is not the only thing you are limited to feel, because once you accept the discomfort, you also allow for other feelings to be present as well; such as joy and peace.
Looking at challenges as opportunities can be irrevocably effective in shifting a somewhat negatively skewed perception to one of acceptance. This can then allow you to gain control of present situations and address them more effectively.