I think that the current issue we face in society today is the fact that our baseline of comfort is far too high. I am not introducing a new concept but I am introducing what I believe is a unique solution. We do not have to travel far without seeing some comfort of life offered in abundance. One we are able to devour almost immediately. For many of the us the walk to our car in the morning from our house, or into work can be the hardest part of our day. This horror is quickly pacified by the latte from our favorite coffee place, a sugary snack, or an endorphin rush from a scroll through social media.
What’s more is that the more this social media, sugary snack, or favorite coffee place exist in abundance the more we take them for granted. Yet when we are deprived of these same things we begin to appreciate their existence even more. Consider the taste of an average meal when you have been hungry for the entire day. Consider the cloak of warmth your heart feels from a hot shower after a day in the cold. Consider the way your bed swallows you into its arms after you have been sleep deprived for days or weeks. If it has been too long for you to remember any of these feelings than perhaps your baseline of comfort has risen to an extremely high level.
So, how do we drop down the baseline of comfort in order to gain a greater appreciation for those wonderful things that have become so common in everyday life? We do things that make us extremely uncomfortable. We do things that demonstrate our vulnerability to others and most importantly to ourselves. I say this at the risk of sounding like some cheesy inspirational quote on a poster or every self help guru on the internet. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is a necessary part of gaining an appreciation for every day life. It goes hand in hand with practicing gratitude for all of the wonderful things that you do have.
For me, experiencing nature and the elements has always been a way for me to be reminded of the many wonderful things I am afforded in life. Whether it is hiking through the Appalachian Trail, up the side of a mountain, or sleeping in the tree line for a week nature has always done a great job of making me realize two things. The first is how little I actually need to survive. I generally try to go out and survive on only the things I can carry, and I generally want to carry very little. When I return home and see all of the material possessions I have accumulated I am reminded of how many of them are actually a waste. Yet, I appreciate the fact that I am able to have many of these things and I am more likely to get rid of those that I am no longer thankful for.
The second reminder is the fact that I have so many wonderful parts of my life that I generally take for granted. The flavor of food, the hugs I get from my wife (babygurl), the comfort of my couch, and even the job I have are all so much more exciting. The bad parts of life are almost nonexistent at that point because I have experienced far worse from my challenging trip in nature. This was illustrated to me when after an extremely cold (-30 degrees F temperature) trip to Mount Washington I ran past a neighbor of mine in Virginia.
Virginia had recently received a foot of snow and it was about 27 degrees F outside. My neighbor was wearing the same neoprene face-mask my guide forced me to wear on Mount Washington in order to save me from getting frostbite. We walked by each other and I asked him how he was doing. He response was, “horrible … cold” and he kept walking. I couldn’t help myself but laugh in his face after such a response. I felt bad for doing so afterwards, but I realized that his baseline for cold and mine were now extremely different. His perception of 27 degrees F was one of extreme cold and discomfort. I saw that same temperature as a 57 degree F improvement on the temperatures I had just experienced and therefore, tolerable and even welcomed conditions.
This difference in perception of our surrounding environment was due to the fact that I had recently built up my level of comfort with discomfort. I had set a lower baseline that my neighbor. I argue that we all need to endeavor to lower our baseline and grow a greater appreciation for the flavor of life. Only through constant and consistent discomfort can we appreciate our every day comforts. For me it is experiencing the harsh environment our world has to offer. For you it may be taking up a new martial art practice and getting punched in the face. It could be something less harsh like a new workout regiment. Or perhaps it is something as simple as a 30 day no coffee challenge. Whatever it is, play with those comforts you are used to every day and grow comfortable with being uncomfortable.