Herbal Household Remedies: Comfort

The Stoics knew: Being bothered is unhealthy.

Reading about Sebastian Kneipp with his cold showers and cold wading exercises probably made some of you, esteemed readers, shiver.  And rightly so:  Shivering is part of the benefit!  So today, I would like to elaborate on this a little, more precisely on (dis-)comfort, and your comfort zone.

Before you turn away bored or disgusted:  I am not talking about comfort zone in contrast to ‘where the magic/money/success/life’ is, as in, everything that’s worth achieving lies outside of your comfort zone.  Surely you have heard enough about all that.  I am talking about your tolerance for physical discomfort, particularly with regards to temperature and surfaces.

The Stoics already knew:  If you subject yourself to discomfort every once in a while, voluntarily, your tolerance for this discomfort will increase and your comfort zone will grow, in other words, you won’t be bothered by discomfort so easily.  Too much comfort makes us soft and unhealthy; a bit of discomfort makes us more resilient: a good thing.

Concerning cold water, Kneipp operated on a similar principle.  If you learn to endure and even enjoy cold temperatures for short periods of time, your personal comfort zone with regards to temperature will expand.  The result:  The cold will not bother you as much anymore.  After all, if we lived with nature and did not try to avoid the outside at all costs, we would experience a lot of different temperatures and be used to them all to a degree.  Living in an evenly ‘climatized’ environment and avoiding nature as much as possible has very little to do with how we were designed to live and is, hence, unhealthy.

Another example that points in the same direction concerns how we sit and sleep.  If your bed as well as all your furniture is soft and deep, you will quickly become much like the Princess on the Pea:  Every little discomfort will bother you.  Sitting on hard chairs, preferably the kind without back or arm rests, throwing out your couch in favor of furniture that does not encourage slouching, and sleeping on a hard bed or on the floor every once in a while, especially when you do not have to, will improve your posture, strengthen your muscles and increase your tolerance for physically uncomfortable situations.  Feeling comfortable leads to peace of mind (and good breathing!).  It pays to broaden your physical comfort zone.

The Stoics valued above all their peace of mind, their inner tranquility.  Being bothered by such trivia as uncomfortable chairs or a cold breeze was among the first things that needed to be overcome if a joyful mindset in all situations was the goal.  They knew what they were doing.

talb on stoicism

Herbal Household Remedies: Kneipp 1.01

Humans should live in accord with nature.

There is a lot to say for and about the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821 – 1897), his water therapy and his five pillars of health.  If you have not heard of him yet, have a look at his Wikipedia entry just for a general introduction.  Growing up hiking in the German hill country and mountains, coming upon a Kneipp-inspired wading-pool was so common that I knew his name and what to associate with him long before I even knew that Kneipp was a name to begin with.  Kneipp was just a synonym for very refreshing breaks on hot summer days:  To do a Kneipp exercise, all you had to do was take off your hiking boots and socks, roll up your pant legs, step into a pool of sorts and walk around in cold, knee-deep water a bit.  Wonderful!

But since it is not the kind of weather outside at the moment to fill the wash tub and wade around in it (unless you live a good bit further south than we do), I would like to share a rule I learned from Pfarrer Kneipp much later, although I have been following it unknowingly for most of my life:

Cold for the outside
Warm for the inside

Cold for the outside: The idea is that when you shower or wash, it is more beneficial to your health to shower cool rather than hot, and to finish every shower with a cold splash, so to speak: Stick your legs under the cold shower, left foot first and then up, then your arms, left hand first and then up, then your front, then your back, lastly your face, all just for a moment.  If you try it, you’ll find how much nicer it is to step out of the shower and not shiver in the cold air because the air won’t actually feel cold.  The same counts for washing your face and hands: Use cold water.  To clean your hands (so very important at this time of year), it is more efficient to wash with cold water and rub your hands real good than to use warm water.

Warm for the inside: No beverage you drink should be colder than room-temperature.  It is a shock to your system to drink very cold beverages, causing stress and supporting inflammation.

By and large, this little rule is just one expression of Kneipp’s general belief that humans should live in accord with nature.  I quite agree.  Living the way we were designed to live makes it easy to stay happy and healthy.  Give it a try.

cup of tea

The featured image shows a drawing of Pfarrer Kneipp giving a lecture in Bad Wörishofen in 1895.


Disclaimer: The author is not an medical professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal or medical advice, or medical treatment or diagnosis. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product or beginning a new health regimen. When wildcrafting or foraging for plants, do so ethically; be accompanied by an expert; and always have absolute certainty of plant identification before using or consuming any herbs. By using any or all of this information, you do so at your own risk. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

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