Finding Comfort – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Mug of tea

“Comfort” is a word that evokes many images and emotions.  It brings to mind a type of relief or respite from stress, physical or emotional pain, worry, or other types of distress.  It suggests self-nurturing.  Wikipedia defines it as “a sense of physical or psychological ease, often characterized as a lack of hardship”.

And it comes in many forms, but believe it or not, not all of them are good for you. And although it may seem ridiculous to judge types of comfort, if you think about it, you’ll realize that we sometimes choose to comfort ourselves by doing things that may initially feel good, but in the end, may be self-destructive.

The ugly

Broken heart

  • Some people “comfort” themselves when they’re in a bad relationship by “cheating” to experience the intimacy or whatever else they are missing in their current relationship.
  • Sometimes abused children try to find comfort by cutting themselves.
  • People abuse drugs to provide comfort and escape from emotional and physical pain.
  • Some people develop eating disorders as they try to find comfort in food as an escape from their psychic pain.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse are both well-known as some peoples’ attempts to find comfort by numbing their pain with these substances.

The not-so-bad

Chocolate heartThen there are some middle-of-the-road comfort behaviors that people will choose that may not always be the best choice, but in moderation, provide some temporary relief or distraction and comfort.

  • People will eat a special “comfort” food when they are feeling unhappy. In fact, studies have shown that eating chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins, “happy chemicals”.
  • Women joke about “retail therapy” as a comforting form of stress-relief.
  • After a particularly tough day, some people will have a glass (or two) of wine, a beer, or some other alcoholic beverage.

These behaviors, as a response to stress or pain, and as an attempt to find comfort, are problematic when they become an escape from discomfort, and are viewed as the only way to deal with whatever is causing that discomfort.  Taken to an out-of-control extreme, they can result in additional problems:  excessive weight gain with its accompanying physical and medical problems; overwhelming credit card debt; a dependence on alcohol (or even on “recreational drugs”).

The good

Peaceful HeartSo what is “good” comfort?  Personally, I think of good comfort as something that won’t create another problem that causes discomfort.  I think of it as something that heals or “makes whole” your body, mind and spirit.  For a lot of people, comfort is found in listening to certain types of music.  It is found is personal expression: through journaling and writing, dance, musical expression, and other arts.  It is found in connecting with others who may be experiencing similar discomforts in therapeutic settings (support groups).  It is found in reaching out to friends and family for support.  Walks in nature often provide soothing comfort for many people.  It can also be found in many healing arts, such as the various forms of massage therapy, acupuncture, or Reiki, and through meditation.

And if your discomfort is so extreme that you don’t feel that any of these strategies can work, then there are so many helping professionals dedicated to helping you find your way out of your discomfort, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.

Whatever your situation is, and wherever your discomfort comes from, remember that you deserve to live a joyful life that is as free from discomfort as possible. We all do.


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Posted in Meditation, Stress Reduction, Your Personal Journey

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