Useful harm

We benefit from acute harm in moderation.

Exercise involves harming the body just a little bit, in an acute burst. Everytime we perform a yoga routine, we destroy a tiny part of our body, which grows back stronger and more flexible.

A tricky mental problem stretches our brain muscles and makes our head hurt. This eventually leads to the brain forging new neural connections and making us smarter.

It’s fun to perform tasks just out beyond our current capabilities. Too easy, and the task is boring. Too hard, and it is stressful.

We have always benefited immensely from periods of acute harm interspersed with rest and recovery. Most ancient traditions have periods of ritual fasting and periodic hardship. This property of the human body to become stronger in the presense of stressors is called hormesis.

Yet, in modern times we seem to have forgotten about this. We equate the easy, the safe, the comfortable and the convenient to better. In the process, we live longer, but age faster. Further, we have traded away acute and irregular periods of stress for chronic and continous stress – like the stress of having a 9 to 5 in a toxic work environment. Since we don’t have periods of recovery, this barrage of stress continually weakens us.

We are antifragile beings – that which stresses us turns us stronger. Yet, the opposite is also true, for in the absence of these stressors, we grow weaker everyday.

Inspiration: Antifragile

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