This is a term I recently learned and am trying to incorporate more and more into my life. Voluntary discomfort is exactly as it sounds – making deliberate decisions that make you uncomfortable. So why am I choosing the hard way in life? To be happier.
2017 is a year where life hacks shorten daily tasks, Buzzfeed can tell you what you want to eat for dinner, you can buy whatever you desire and have it on your doorstep the next day, and you can accomplish anything by a touch of a smartphone. Life is relatively easy. This is where Voluntary Discomfort comes in. If you step back and say, yeah my life is pretty easy, then I challenge you to start being uncomfortable. When you step out of society’s comfort zone you discover a feeling of pride, relief, accomplishment, and happiness.
To help you figure out some ways to start using voluntary discomfort, I decided to write out some of the things I have changed in my life and the impacts they have had on me.
- Wake up early. If you’re like me, you don’t like rolling out of bed when the alarm goes off. It would be more comfortable to hit the snooze button and catch a few zzz’s for an extra ten minutes. Don’t. Use the extra time in the morning to get ready, appreciate the day, and set intentions. By doing this simple task, I am uncomfortable for less than five minutes when I’m choosing to get out of bed on time, but I have become more productive than ever before.
- Shed the negatives – research has shown that buying new things as an effort to create happiness can cause high levels of stress, and therefore unhappiness. Instead of going out and buying that new car or lamp, think really hard if it will make you happy. A perfect example of this was this summer when I bought a mountain bike. I spent $700 on a used bike that I thought would being me so much happiness – it would allow me to spend time in the mountains doing an exhilarating activity with my boyfriend and provide a great source of fun exercise. I went mountain biking once and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Now there was a $700 bike sitting in my living room that wasn’t being used. This caused enormous amounts of stress on me – I had wasted $700, I was wasting space, and now I was struggling to get rid of it. Instead of going and buying a new toy to cheer myself up, I chose to first shed the negative from my life. I advertised the bike on every possible website, and eventually sold it for $470. Although I took quite a major loss on the bike, the feeling of relief and satisfaction of having it GONE made me so happy. The same research that said buying things causes stress stated that getting rid of the things in your life that you don’t need will cause much more happiness than any new purchase will. I have chosen to deliberately go through all of our belongings and only keep what we need or what truly makes us happy. Selling and donating old belongings made me feel like I had been trapped in a tiny box and the doors finally opened.
- SWEAT- because this is a health blog, right? Working out is never easy and nor should it be. We push ourselves daily to better ourselves in the long run. If you are reading this blog I can assume fitness is a part of your life so I’m not going to dive into this too much – you know that post workout high? That intense feeling of pride? Imagine if you could make other areas of your life a little more difficult to feel those feelings more frequently.
- Alternative transportation – this one is huge, and has had the biggest impact on me over the last six months. I started riding 120kms a week on my bike to save a little money and help improve my health. Little did I know it would improve my mental health tremendously and leave me so much happier. Biking is clearly harder than driving. It takes more energy, more time, and more planning. I live less than a kilometer from a grocery store, but yesterday my boyfriend and I decided to ride our bikes 30kms with our packs to get our weekly groceries from a budget friendly grocery store. We did this as a voluntary discomfort experiment. We were tired (ok, I was tired, the mountain biker was ok) and sweaty and our packs were heavy. It took a total of 1.5 hours of cycling to get to and from the grocery store. It was probably the happiest grocery trip we have ever taken together. We got to spend 1.5 hours outside together in the fresh air and got a great workout in. We were able to get a weeks’ worth of groceries to fit on our backs, so we clearly didn’t buy “extras” we didn’t need. We saved money on our grocery bill. And it was free to do. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
The options are endless, from taking mandatory breaks from social media and spending more face-to-face time with people to switching the types of food you are eating. The little changes that are uncomfortable at first can leave you feeling so much happier. What are some ways you make yourself uncomfortable to ultimately feel happy? I’d love it if you’d share your ideas!