Before we kick this off a special thanks for my friends…. no wait…. straight ballers! At (in)SPYR media. Doing mighty fine work on the new site for me…. PRESSURES ON! I accept.
June Challenge-comfortable with uncomfortable
The concept of hormesis
I recently had the pleasure of touching base with one of my favorite writers Julien Smith. I’ve mentioned it a few times on this blog but if you have not checked out his free ebook “Flinch” I would go and pick it up immediately. It has influenced my life in such a major way and no better way to say thanks then by paying-it-forward.
A few weeks ago he introduced me to a concept known as Hormesis. The philosophy has been developed further by scientific research detailed by Todd Becker, as well as many others and embraces the concept that bouts of brief, intermittent, and progressive stress can actually help us to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Research has been conducted in the fields of endocrinology, neural plasticity, exercise physiology, immunology, and even economics.
Hormetism is not an academic armchair philosophy, but rather a “philosophy for life” that can help us thrive in coping with our everyday challenges. Some of the more interesting applications of Hormetism include:
I have been spending a fair amount of my time reading on the subject lately and plan to devote the next few months tackling monthly challenges that emphasize and embrace the theory of Hormesis. My interest in the topic stems from its emphasis to help with the following:
1. Physical limitations
2. Psychological challenges
3. Weight management and fat loss
4. Muscular strength
5. Improving the immune system
6. Overcoming addictions
7. Controlling emotions
There are many other benefits to the practice of hormesis but I am hoping to work particularly with those above as I feel they embrace the concepts on this site of nutrition, fitness, health, well-being, and “doing more of what we love, and less of what we don’t.”
The typical path taken when dealing with stress as described by Todd Becker is that of the following:
1. Avoidance: To essentially try and reduce or avoid all together. Which most often is impossible since we all many of us have jobs, families, kids, friends, environmental, physical, and many other daily stressors. This makes it near impossible to avoid all stress.
2. Numbing: Dealing with stress results in dependance or comfort in food, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sex, watching TV, or other activities that could become addictive. There are also positive side means to dealing with stress as well. Meditation, social activities, sports, yoga, are all examples given by Becker. However, these methods have more often than not be proven to be short-term fixes and have no benefits to long-term health.
3. The crutch: When we have our wisdom teeth pulled we are given pain killers, have a headache and it’s advil, a foot injury requires crutches, you want to pursue another path in life but your current job holds you back – it acts as a crutch by keeping you form fully investing in your side hustle. Again, addressing the problems in the short-term while holding no long-term standing of correcting any weaknesses.
In most cases we find ourselves needing increasing doses of any or all of these measures in order to find release amongst the stressors we are dealing with. We now have become dependent and the longer we continue on this path the worse it will get.
So the concept of hormesis sets to purposefully seek out stress in order to find a stronger you.
So wadda ya do about it?
According to Getting Stronger it is a 5 step process:
1. Simulation-The stressor that you are using should mimic that of the real world stressor as closely as possible. The more realistic the better.
2. Constraint-The stress needs to be applied with no “cheats” or crutches. Extreme self discipline will be needed. Nothing should be able to reduce the stimulus presented.
3. Intensity– The stress needs to be intense and just outside of “the comfort zone.” Longer times periods under the stress will dictate lesser intensity while short-term will require higher intensity stressors. Varying intensities is important.
4. Recovery-After each stressor is applied and completed a period of rest or recovery is needed. The longer the stressor was applied the longer the rest.
5. Gradualism– Until the goal of the program is completed the stressor should be increased in strength upon each experiment. However, it should stay within the context of what the individual can tolerate. Keen awareness will be applied to avoid under as well as overtraining.
The goal of these challenges is to experience short-term discomfort, set backs, or challenges in order to achieve long lasting effects.
My challenge to you all is to accept what lies ahead in the next few months and give some of the challenges a shot. Know yourself. There is no need to try them all. Some may be out of your realm of knowledge. But every now and then when one comes up where you say, “I can give that a go.” Step up and go for it! Some will be tougher than others but regardless they will be outside of the box and out of many of our comfort zones. Most will not be original and have been tested before but I am a big believer that actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to read about something and it’s another to experience it.
The good news is that you’ve probably already messed around with some hormesis without even knowing it.
Ever taken a cold shower?
Ever strength train?
Ever skip breakfast?
All examples of accepting stressors in order to increase the resistance to other stressors. Weird, I know.
For example when we strength train it has been proven that we are able to increase the resistance to unwanted stressors such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lose of bone density, and depression.
As I see it we’re one step ahead of the game.
When the heck did we loose our mojo!
Remember when you were a kid?
Running around barefoot, jumping out of trees, jumping straight into cold pools….no tippy toe bullish*t for us. We had gusto!
So when did we get so soft? YIKES!
As we get older we’ve gotten lazier…much lazier. Not just when it comes to our activity levels but also with our nutrition, happiness, education (not school but self-learning through reading and the pursuit of new challenges and experiences). We’ve begun taking EVERYTHING as is. Never to challenge the status-quo.
If we read it in a magazine it must be true, the latest diet trends-we follow, we take the safe route, the easy way. We accept comfortablitity, mediocrity, and strive for nothing more then the ordinary and the mundane.
Well screw that! It’s not good enough for me and if you’re reading this chances are it’s not good enough for you either. Consider this my RANT!
Treat this as a call to arms in a sense. A chance to learn about yourself, get out of your box, do some epic shit that scares you, experiment. Get uncomfortable but only to be more comfortable with who you are, the path you are on, and the story you are about to tell.
Close your eyes real quick. Lets get weird!
Look at the door closest to you…. Now imagine a 50 year old you walking through. He/she sits down next to you. What would you want him to say about your life?
Healthy, happy, strong, courageous…. what exactly? Write it down.
Now go be that!
June Challenge: In over your head, homework!
Back to school!
Every week Julien posts some homework for his readers to try. Some tough, some not so much. Regardless, they are typically challenges that get you out of your comfort zone… and down right fun!
The first two weeks are as follows:
Week 1: Make purposefully make eye contact with people you do not know.
Why?: We normally avoid eye contact when in uncomfortable situations. Resorting to looking down out our cellphones… words with friends anyone??? Being able to make and hold eye contact is a sign of intimacy, confidence, power, and comfortability. Not necessarily over another person but more so within yourself. Many of us drop the eyes, shy away, or avoid eye contact all together. You may catch yourself looking at someones mouth, forehead, shoulder, really anything, so long as you do not have to make eye contact.
If you are on a date, out with the family, or at a social event TRY and put away the cellphone for a few hours. Remove that crutch! That safety net that will allow you from having to make eye contact.
I’m going to add a little bit to this and when in circumstances in which I make explicit eye contact with another and am close enough to get their first and last name I must.
Julien makes a great point that eye contact can mean many different things in different cultures so be aware of that.
Week 2: Negotiate…for something that is usually non negotiable
Why?: Starbucks, a discount on your grass-fed beef at Whole Foods, maybe a couple bucks of your haircut. Anything really. Just TRY and negotiate for it. If you buy a new cellphone see if you can get a case thrown in for free. Just try. That’s the whole concept here. You don’t have to WIN essentially you just need to try. Get out of your comfort zone… get uncomfortable.
This one will be particularly tough for me. I have never negotiated for anything and am pretty passive when it comes to stuff like this.
So that’s it! The month of June challenge. I will be finishing up the month with two more assignments from inoveryourhead.net After the I plan on embarking on a few of my own, from the resources below, or possibly continuing on with the homework. Who knows…. but should be fun.
Anybody else wanna step up 😀 Who’s got the kahunas!
PS: If you haven’t done it… pick up my free paleo ebook. It’s FREE for Pete’s sake! 😀
Want to learn more?
Whole Health Source
Hormesis defined (pubmed)
In over your head