Nourishing Habits™ Digital Wellness is excited to feature Gabi Jubran as a guest writer with Happi. Gabi is a firm believer that creating a world where parents feel deeply connected to themselves, to their communities, to the natural world, and to their children will naturally create more HAPPIness everywhere!
Deciphering comfort zones: Embracing discomfort in a world designed for comfort
Let’s dive into the concept and experience of comfort. Life is inherently uncomfortable. Discomfort is a natural part of the process of growth - I guess that might be why they call it growing pains. You likely don’t remember, but your parent or caregiver certainly remembers how uncomfortable the process of teething was for you and them. That’s physical discomfort, but many of us these days are more burdened by mental discomfort. If you work in an office, from home or in front of any screen, there’s always something to do. Sometimes you really don’t want to, but you do it anyway because of some extrinsic motivation i.e. wealth, status, access, survival.
A more intense word for discomfort is stress. Stress is a critical part of our growth, but in order to understand its value you NEED rest. In fact, we can break this down into a simple equation - STRESS + REST = GROWTH. In today’s society, it is common that we get plenty of mental stress with no mental rest while our bodies get plenty of physical rest with almost no physical stress. If we truly want to lead healthy lives, we need to embrace the initial discomfort of giving our minds a rest and a natural way to do that is taking on the initial discomfort of physical stress.
How did the mind and body get so out of balance?
There are a number of reasons for the imbalance, but chief among them are food, work, community and technology.
If you go back to 1800, 83% of the American labor force was in agriculture. That means that your food system, work, community and technology was all integrated for the purpose of survival. You cultivated organic (non-GMO, fair trade) food by physical labor with the help of different technologies. You also likely bartered your crop with other farmers in your community to have a well-balanced diet. There wasn’t even a food pyramid to tell you what kind of food to eat! By the nature of your existence, you had physical and mental stress along with physical and mental rest.
If we fast forward to current day, the percentage of American labor force in agriculture is under 2%. Our concept of acquiring food, doing work, connecting with community, using technology can all be accomplished in front of a screen. (Just like the one you’re skimming this blog post on). Am I saying let’s go back to farming all day? Goodness no, I’ll gladly have AI do that for me. I’m saying that we need more mental rest and physical stress. It is, however, hard to have the motivation when we have a world designed for comfort.
Why did we design for comfort?
Comfort is something that can be quantified and measured. Once we know how comfortable an existing tool or process is, we can create a product or service to make it easier to use or consume. This will be optimized continually until you get to the point where you know longer have to move more than your thumbs. Now you can hail a car, order food delivery, connect with your friends and do work on your phone. There is a comfort zone on your person nearly all of your waking hours and there is this perception that you never have to leave your comfort zone to progress in life.
Your individual happiness is much more difficult to quantify and really doesn’t scale well. Yet your happiness requires discomfort so you can more fully grow into the person that you want to be. As a result, your well-being can be fundamentally misaligned with the comfort we’ve grown so accustomed to.
The internet has brought us boundless amounts of information, which could either be beneficial or detrimental to your well-being. In order to help you find information that you want, think you want, or society dictates you want, we created machine learning algorithms. These tools have made life so comfortable that you don’t ever have to hear something that might make you feel uncomfortable. If someone says something you don’t like, you can even verbally attack them from the comfort of your own home.
Information itself is also comfortable, you can consume endless amounts of information and never have to fail at anything. You can be the most well-informed person on the planet and never do anything with it. Transformation, on the other hand, is uncomfortable. It’s about taking that information, deciphering if it serves you and then integrating into your life.
What do YOU want?
Ultimately, comfort is still really valuable. Comfort can save you time and energy which can be spent doing something uncomfortable that intrinsically motivates you. The question is what are you doing with the extra time and energy the comfort provides you? Start to think of ways that you can incorporate more mental rest and physical stress into your life. You don’t have to go way outside of your comfort zone to take on a new habit that addresses those needs.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the BJ Fogg Tiny Habits Model. It gives you a scientifically proven, simple formula for incorporating intentional habits into your life. Improving your flexibility, building a gratitude practice, and learning how to meditate all starts with a tiny habit. The last suggestion I offer is to surround yourself with positive people who have diverse perspectives. The intention is to get comfortable with them to the point where you can have conversations that may be uncomfortable, but help you grow in the process.
Remember that reading this post is comfortable, but actually integrating the information to serve your happiness may be a little uncomfortable. You know what else is sometimes uncomfortable? The truth. My truth is that I do not write often and this is my first ever blog post. It was a VERY uncomfortable process for me but the process of writing was ultimately positive. To all those reading this, I hope my discomfort can serve you in some way!
Read one of Gabi's favorite books!
Gabi is the Founder/Executive Director of a non-profit called HAPPI (Helping Awesome Parents Parent Intentionally). Born and raised in the Bay Area, he has always been saturated by technology and is now on a mission to align tech's incentives with people's well-being. His inspiration came from watching his 2 year old niece play with an iPad and consume sponsored content through Youtube. Ultimately he realized this was a symptom of the Attention Economy and the biggest impact would come from educating parents. He is a firm believer that creating a world where parents feel deeply connected to themselves, to their communities, to the natural world, and to their children will naturally create more HAPPIness everywhere!
Learn more at happi.org