If you will be hard on yourself, life will be easy on you. But if you insist upon being easy on yourself, life is going to be very hard on you. – Zig Ziglar
This May will mark the 9th anniversary of my blog, “Making You Matter.” (Thank you for your support!)
Among the many subjects I’ve explored in the hundreds of blog posts and, for the last 3 years, the multiple conversations on my monthly radio program with Christal Frost, the one topic that’s generated the most engagement is my year-long experiment with taking cold showers.
Since my original post when I started last winter, I’ve been approached by random people throughout my community who share a comment, question, or feedback on cold showers.
Many who engaged with the cold shower challenge have reported to me that, a year later, they’ve continued the practice, believing it has made a positive difference in their health and vitality.
At first, it seemed surprising to me that standing under a freezing cold stream of water every morning would resonate so positively with so many people. But I’ve come to realize that cold showers are symptomatic of something deeper: a cultural pathology that has eroded our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
We Are Addicted to Comfort
We are living increasingly sheltered, sterile, temperature-controlled, overfed, under-challenged, safety-netted lives. And it’s depleting our health, making us increasingly anxious and depressed, and limiting our ability to experience the life we were created to live.
Unlike prior generations, we can pretty much avoid being too hot or too cold, (nearly all the vehicles our company sells, for example, come with heated and/or cooling seats, heated steering wheel, and remote starters, plus many more comfort features), use our phones to bring us virtually anything we want to eat when we want it, enjoy unlimited entertainment options from the comfort of our couch, and, as research shows, spend most of our daily lives absorbed in our electronic devices.
And it’s slowly killing us.
The Consequences of Comfort
As author and elite fitness coach Ben Bergeron explains, to make personal comfort your driving motive is, essentially to organize your life around your feelings.
“The point of life is to feel good all the time; to avoid feeling bad at all costs; to live in fear of suffering,” he writes. “Every problem feels like a crisis–life feels incredibly hard.”
The consequential anxiety, anger, stress, and depression severely limits your ability to live, learn and grow as a fully functioning adult
Conversely, to be hard on yourself is to organize your life around your values versus your feelings.
“You accept that this requires you to feel bad sometimes,” Bergeron explains. “You’re not afraid to suffer because you have something worth suffering for.”
Leaning into discomfort regularly teaches you how to suffer productively, and you become physically, mentally, and emotionally resilient.
The result, as Bergeron puts it: “Every problem feels manageable–life feels easy.”
It’s an immutable fact of life that pain and afflictions are unavoidable. We cannot control that. But what we can control is how we experience it.
A growing body of evidence shows that we are at our best—physically harder, mentally tougher, and spiritually sounder—when we consistently and intentionally embrace discomfort. It helps protect us from physical and psychological problems like obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, and even more fundamental issues like feeling a lack of meaning and purpose.
Am I implying that taking a warm shower means that you’re a comfort addict? Absolutely not.
There are many options to live by your values versus your feelings. Cold showers are one tool–a simple, practical way to break your pattern, push back against the constant pull towards comfort and ease, and take more ground towards becoming a better version of yourself.
What about you? On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your addiction to comfort?
What would it mean to the quality of your life to embrace some form of “productive suffering,” in small doses?