A few weeks ago, my husband and son and I went to stay at the Cedar Ridge resort in beautiful Brian Head, Utah. We brought our side-by-side and were so excited to experience the crisp air and see the fall leaves. However, when we woke up the next morning, instead of the colorful leaves, we saw snow–lots of snow! If anyone knows me, I love to be comfortable AND being outside in the snow is definitely not my idea of comfort. However, because I also have learned to love the challenge of being uncomfortable, I made it a point to spend some time outside in the snow.
Let me tell you why:
First of all, human beings are wired to seek comfort, which is also known as equilibrium or homeostasis. Let me repeat that we are wired that way. When we enter this life as babies, we have zero understanding of life. Our frontal lobe hasn’t been developed yet, (which is our thinking center) and we are basically run by our emotions. When we feel uncomfortable– we are hungry, need to be changed, hurt, scared, whatever–we cry. We allow our emotions to tell us that the discomfort isn’t safe. We cry so that we can resolve that discomfort and we learn to trust that somebody will come take care of us.
Seeking comfort is normal and necessary to our survival when we’re babies. The thing is, as we get older, if we really want to expand and enjoy life; if we really want to develop into who we are meant to be, it’s important that we learn to NOT resolve our thoughts and our feelings so quickly, but rather to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable. Through discomfort, we learn more about what is possible in life and about what we are capable of. Enduring that temporary anxiousness of discomfort expands our ability to see beyond the limited beliefs that we naturally develop throughout our lifespan.
So if wanting to feel comfort is a part of human wiring, how do we move past the comfort zone? and how do we know if whether or not resolving my discomfort is a good thing or whether it’s holding me back?
Dr. Denim L. Slade shared the Cognitive Cycle with me. Simply put, the “Cognitive Cycle” is a cycle of thoughts and feelings that happen inside of myself when I experience an event. That event then triggers a feeling or emotion. If the feeling is negative or uncomfortable, I do something in order to resolve that emotion or to escape the uncomfortable feeling. The behavior causes new thoughts and feelings, and it goes around and around and around.
- I set an intention to become very aware of the thoughts and feelings I have throughout the day, as well as of what I do to resolve them.
- I notice my cycle of thinking, feeling, and behaving, followed by numbing to escape the feeling that comes from that behavior.
- Once I have noticed the cycle, I can choose to change the pattern by pausing and then asking myself, “How is that going to make me feel?”
- If the answer is something negative that will cause me to stay in this cycle, then I choose to stay in the feeling a little longer and ask “What can I do instead?”
- I consider the options: I could go for a walk. I could turn on music and dance. I could go have a conversation with a friend. I could write all the positive things about myself.
- I remember that a new behavior might be uncomfortable for a time. For me, dancing was horribly uncomfortable! It also totally got me out of a thought cycle that was pulling me down and changed the way I feel.
And that’s how it works. It’s really beneficial. It takes time and effort, AND it’s worth it. I promise!