We have all heard the “No Pain, No Gain” cliche. Many of us, far too many times. While I don’t necessarily agree with the delivery of the message, it does highlight an inescapable truth of life: Without some sort of uncomfortable stimulus we will never undergo any meaningful positive change. At all. Ever.
We have all felt the burning of lactic acid build up in our muscles as we try to execute a few more reps before the clock beeps. We have all endured the fiery hot gasps of breath as we tried to run just a little bit faster for a few more steps. We know that these feelings, while wholly unpleasant in the moment, signal positive changes to our health and well being in the future. We endure the “pain” (really we should use the word discomfort here) because we know it will benefit us in the future.
For some reason though, we (and I mean humanity) are not great at internalizing this same message when it applies to our mental health. Instead of pushing through and enduring some mental anguish we choose to block it out with distractions. We are continually more inventive with our distraction as well: food, relationships, television, video games, phones, etc. There is no end of potential distractions that prevent us from feeling discomfort. We need that discomfort though. Without it we will never make a change that takes us away from that distraction.
We instead enter a downward spiral of distractions in increasing frequency and volume. The more we use distractions, the more need them. The more often we will try to turn to them. On and on until we look back and much of our life has been one constant distraction. Now I am not saying all distractions are bad. Used in conscious and managed (mindful) amounts they can be the spice of life. The key is to use them as the spice and not the full meal though.
All of this leads to my real point: This last year has lead all of us to feel some sort of discomfort. We don’t like it. Too much free time in one place feels maddening. We are all turning to distraction. I for one am guilty of using several, quite frequently, in the last several months.
What if we use this discomfort to enact change in our lives. Real, positive, long lasting change. What if we honed our cooking skills instead of binging on junk food. What if we sharpened our communication skills instead of burying ourselves in TV shows. What if we worked on our fitness instead of the wine bottle.
I am not saying don’t partake in these things, maybe just find some balance between distraction and discomfort. We can come out of this time better or worse (we rarely ever stay the same). The choice is ours. We just have to recognize the discomfort, recognize the urge to distract, and then maybe delay that distraction a little and think of ways this discomfort can help us grow.