Updated: Oct 14
Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote in his private diary over 2,000 years ago, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” It’s a somewhat unique perspective in a culture that focuses on avoiding discomfort any way we can. We’ll use food, alcohol, shopping, social media, entertainment, and pretty much anything we can find to keep ourselves going on that hedonic treadmill.
While we may think we’re doing ourselves a favor by avoiding what makes us uncomfortable, in reality we’re keeping ourselves trapped in a cycle we may not even realize we’re in. The obstacles that create the discomfort we feel also hold the keys to our growth and, ultimately, a better life.
Being Uncomfortable Is Part of Being Human
Let’s be honest, no one likes to feel uncomfortable. Still, it’s an inevitable part of life. It's as normal and natural to encounter situations where you’ll feel discomfort as it is to want to steer clear of those very same situations. Avoiding them and the feelings that accompany them, though, can prevent you from seeing and challenging your preconceived beliefs and developing healthier patterns, leading to worsening mental health. If you’re going to make lasting changes and move in the direction toward a better, more fulfilling life, you need to get uncomfortable. While that can feel scary, the good news is it’s something you can learn and get better at with practice.
Your Brain on Being Uncomfortable
I’m happy to say that the old cliché “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is false. For one thing, you’re not a dog, and while I do hold them in high regard, dogs do not possess the same self-awareness humans do. This self-awareness gives you the capacity to change how you think about yourself, and other people, events and relationships.
Under the right circumstances, your brain is capable of creating new ways of thinking, and has the ability to rewire itself to function in a different way than before. This characteristic is called neuroplasticity. That means our brains are not static, but rather dynamic organs which can create new neural pathways through new experiences, behaviors, and thoughts. By facing uncomfortable emotions and thoughts, you can create lasting changes through these new neural pathways.
Tips for Getting Uncomfortable (As Comfortably As Possible)
1. Name It: Identifying what’s making you uncomfortable is the first step in addressing it. If you’re feeling stress, anxiety, or depression, for example, and you can recognize the patterns or behaviors that are holding you back, you can begin to take steps to address them.
2. Embrace discomfort: Once you accept that being uncomfortable is a normal part of growth, you can embrace it, rather than fear it. Trying new things, meeting new people, and challenging yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable are how you begin to create those new neural pathways we talked about above.
3. One Step At A Time. Change is not easy, and it can be overwhelming. Start by setting small goals that are achievable. For example, if you want to improve your social skills, start by attending a small gathering with friends or colleagues. Then let each step build on the previous one, increasing your confidence and branching out a little more each time.
4. Mindfully uncomfortable: Being mindful means being present in the moment. By practicing mindfulness, you learn to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, and how to manage them more effectively. This allows you to be aware of being uncomfortable without being incapacitated by it. Mindfulness can also help you stay focused on your goals and stay motivated to make lasting changes.
5. Seek support: Because feeling uncomfortable and trying something new is challenging, it's important to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. Talking to someone you trust about your goals and seeking guidance on how to achieve them can help you stay motivated and on track.
How Gooding Wellness Can Help
The Clinicians at the Gooding Wellness Group understand that getting uncomfortable and making changes to improve mental health can be difficult. We also know that, with the right support, it’s possible to transform the way you see and relate to yourself and the challenges you face, which is why we offer a variety of tools to help you on your journey. You can find information and blogs on numerous topics that will give you and your family techniques you can use to manage and promote mental wellness.
So while getting uncomfortable is not easy, it's necessary if you want to make lasting changes in your life. When you embrace discomfort, take small steps, and seek support, you will create new neural pathways in your brain and make lasting changes in your behavior. Remember, change takes time, but with patience and persistence, it's possible to achieve your goals and live a happier, healthier life. The resources and tools offered by Gooding Wellness can be a helpful addition to anyone seeking to improve their mental health and wellness. To find out more, you can book a 15-minute consultation with one of our clinicians here.
Founder & Director of Gooding Wellness LCSW PC