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January 9, 2024

Microdosing Adversity

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Do you want to be more resilient? Do you want to strengthen your self-discipline, follow through on the commitments you make in your life, cut out making excuses about things and show up powerfully in difficult moments?

There’s actually a process to getting better that Greg Anderson calls “microdosing adversity”. When you intentionally expose yourself to challenging things, you train yourself to have more control and respond more intentionally in unpredictable challenging circumstances.

It makes a lot of sense to me: The more repetitions you have in a certain environment, the more familiar it is to you. When things are familiar they are less scary, less threatening, and more manageable. 

But the interesting part is how this translates to positively impact unforeseen events that you’ve never been in. Independent of what stimulus causes the adversity, when you face moments of adversity often you learn how to regulate your nervous system. Our natural response is to fight, flight, or freeze in dangerous situations. The more often we experience stressful states, the better we get at controlling their impact on us no matter where the stress is coming from.

Learning of this philosophy and seeing how it fits into my practices, I see a few ways where I have unknowingly been microdosing adversity. 

First is with cold exposure. I start every shower as a cold shower. This has been training me in two ways. One is teaching my body that “when I say “go” we go. This helps me take more bold action despite anticipating something uncomfortable. The other is when I get in the cold shower I repeat to myself “I like the way this feels” as a way to practice reframing my perception so that when I encounter other unpleasant things I can take the sting out of them.

The second practice is starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. When someone puts their full body weight on your neck, it creates adversity. But the goal is to not allow that discomfort to dominate your thinking, and to respond thoughtfully and tactically to navigate into a new situation.

Other ways to microdose adversity are through fasting, talking to strangers, or taking on difficult workouts. To be more resilient, think through what you can do to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and get better at having control within them.

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