When something’s hard, our culture tends to want to make it easier: tired of walking up stairs? Here’s an escalator. Don’t want to cook food? Here’s a takeaway or microwave-meal option.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with convenience and comfort – that escalator is a godsend when you’ve got too much to carry – but if it removes challenge from our lives it can be disastrous for our mental and physical health.
Former Royal Navy Aircrew Officer Paul Taylor is an exercise physiologist, nutritionist and neuroscientist who directs The Mind-Body-Brain Performance Institute where he focuses on how to lead and perform well with our body’s best interests in mind.
Observing the high rates of depression, obesity and addiction experienced by Australian adults Paul thinks “something is wrong with modern life” and a lot of it has to do with the sedentary, comfortable lifestyles we’ve embraced.
“When you think about the things you’re most proud of [achieving] in life, for most people it involves stress and being outside of your comfort zone,” Paul told Hope 103.2’s UNDISTRACTED podcast.
“That is where we grow both physically and psychologically.”
While many of us would be familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder, there’s also emerging study into post-traumatic growth that considers how people’s wellbeing can be enhanced on the other side of a negative experience.
“How you psychologically frame stuff is hugely important,” Paul said.
We need to give appropriate attention to trauma, but “big challenges that are really hard to overcome are an opportunity to sharpen our character or to practice a virtue”.
“We develop character by going through stress and using that to actually help us grow.”
Paul’s book ‘Death by Comfort’ is out now.
Listen to UNDISTRACTED with guest Paul Taylor in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.