The last episode I talked about how challenges are actually spiritual opportunities and that these difficulties can be reframed as just a way to polish our rough edges.As just a reminder, we talked about how these difficult things in our lives can actually be great teachers and can help us grow and become different versions of ourselves. This is just a brief overview and if you haven’t listened to it, I would highly recommend that you go back and listen. During the episode, I mentioned briefly that part of this is the discomfort that arises where we think something is wrong when we feel discomfort. In my experience, getting polished is uncomfortable. 

But what if nothing is actually wrong when you feel discomfort or being uncomfortable? This is something I’ve been looking at quite a bit in my own life. I already know that learning something new is going to be uncomfortable. 

The way the brain works is that the things that we think of as “habits” are actually neurons firing together. They fire quickly and efficiently because the more frequently we do something the stronger the connection and pathway becomes. When we are trying to do something different, the uncomfortable feeling is actually just the sign that the neuronal pathway just isn’t as strong or even created yet. 

It’s like when you are in the woods and walking on a well worn path. You don’t have to think about where to go, you simply follow the path. When we are in the woods and there is no path, it becomes a little more challenging. You have to do a bit more thinking, it’s not automatic, and there might be bushes with thorns on them. This doesn’t mean you are going the wrong way, it just means that it’s a new way. 

I see this so often with my clients. They want to change some factor in relation to their health and wellbeing. This could be changing a pattern of how they are thinking, the amount of exercise, not having that drink at night, what they are eating, or the amount of sleep they are getting at night. It can be uncomfortable to learn something new. It feels different. It’s not that well worn path in the woods. 

I think our society thinks there is something wrong with being uncomfortable. That somehow it’s a sign that they shouldn’t be doing what they are doing. They would rather be unhealthy or dealing with chronic pain, then be uncomfortable with, for instance, bringing their own food to a party. Or having to learn to cook differently or eat with different ingredients for their family. Yes, it is uncomfortable to do something new. It is different, and our brain is set up to try to avoid being different, because different takes more energy. The brain just wants to save as much energy as it can. 

As a former people pleaser, I know my brain was screaming when I went on my internships in graduate school bringing a little personal cooler worth of food because I was trying to balance my blood sugar. But I did it anyway because I knew it was more important to me to have the food that I needed. For me I had been scared enough- at the age of 26 they were testing me for brain tumors because they wanted to find out why I was so dizzy and had migraines all the time. When they finally landed on hypoglycemia as a major player, and that there was something I could do, I was ready to do what was needed. I didn’t want to pass out anymore. I didn’t want the migraines. A little social discomfort was well worth it to me to be healthy. 

This is something I tell students each year in my courses at the university. You are supposed to be uncomfortable when you are learning something new! If you don’t feel uncomfortable, then you might be staying in the safe zone. This is true whether you are learning new content for a course, trying a new way to move your body, or creating a new bedtime routine. 

Your mind will tell you that it is horribly different, and that is somehow bad. But the opposite is actually true. The discomfort is a sign that you are learning and growing. It all goes back to getting clear about what you want in your life, and taking actions from that centered place. When you come back to that still quiet, centered place in your heart and you feel it in your body, then when those critical voices scream at you like that did at me, you’ll know that the discomfort is actually a good sign. So instead of avoiding discomfort, embrace it. 

Ok dear ones. How will you embrace discomfort in your life this week? Thank you so much for listening. Take good care of yourself. 

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