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The Problem With Wanting Life To Be Easy

The Problem With Wanting Life To Be Easy

This isn’t intended to be a post in support of drudgery or making life difficult for yourself. I’m all for doing things in the most straightforward and simplest way, however, believing that life should be inherently easy and straightforward is often a fast pass to dissatisfaction, anger and depression.

Sometimes things will come easily to you and it’s important to enjoy the parts of your life that seem to slot into place. However, when people assume that things should come easily and believe at some level that the core aspects of life such as relationships and work should generally be plain sailing, it often leads to feeling cheated. Also, it can feel as if there’s something wrong with you if you find certain parts of life challenging whilst other people seem to sail through; finding things difficult can somehow become a fault or character defect.

Understandably this often leads to people giving up or can contribute to a perpetual sense of failure. Relationships end because they feel ‘too difficult’, careers are cut short when it gets too hard, family rifts that could be resolved go unmended and challenging opportunities aren’t taken.

So, where does this belief that life should run smoothly come from?

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One reason that we sometimes feel that life should be easy is that we compare ourselves to other people and tend to compare our insides to other people’s outsides.[1] If other people seem to find things easy we assume that we should too.

As with most beliefs in adulthood, they often stem from our childhood experiences. Having a sheltered childhood that involved a lack of exposure to difficulty and challenge often means that when we face any level of adversity in adulthood it feels unfamiliar and intolerable. On the other hand, having a childhood of emotional or practical hardship can leave us exhausted and can create a sense of wanting to make it to the metaphorical finish line; we often survive difficult childhoods using the hope that one day it’ll get easier. As we come up against roadblocks in adulthood it can be easy to slip into wondering ‘am I there yet’ as if you’re waiting to enter the hardship free zone of life. Of course, life isn’t all bad, and over time with the right combination of focus as well as hard work and luck, you will hopefully experience life as being easier than it has felt in the past. However, even if life improves it is rarely easy….unless we choose to stagnate and stop growing.

So, this offers some idea as to why it’s common to feel that life should be easy but more important is to consider the consequences of continuing to believe this. Here are some of the problems that believing that life should be easy might create for you…

It creates pressure on certain areas of your life. 

It can be common to acknowledge and accept that certain areas of our life require concentrated effort. However, all too often a double standard is applied to other areas and we expect them to be plain sailing. For instance, you might accept that in order to thrive physically you need to consistently make an effort to eat well and exercise, yet you might simultaneously feel that ‘relationships shouldn’t be hard’. You might acknowledge that effort and hard work is required for success in your career, but also feel that friendships should be automatically maintained over the years with ease and without effort.

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This in-balance often places pressure on the areas of your life that are meant to be easy… If you focus on working hard at your career but think that relationships should be easy you’re likely to have a very low tolerance when you find yourself in a relationship that looks like it requires some hard work. Relationships are likely therefore to become more and more frustrating and feel harder as time goes on because your tolerance for hard work in that area won’t have developed. Try to recognise that all areas of your life will need attention for it to thrive and be maintained and all areas have the potential to be hard work. Use and apply the skills of resilience and perseverance that you can apply to certain areas of your life across the board.

The ‘should’ becomes the problem.

Telling yourself how things ‘should’ be is one of the quickest routes to distress. Believing that relationships, outcomes, feelings, people, careers and events should be a certain way is one of the reasons why it becomes a road block when you find something challenging.

So often I work with people who are stuck; perhaps depressed or frustrated with people who have disappointed them, careers that haven’t worked out, goals that haven’t materialized. Invariably, however, the issue becomes less about the events themselves and more about their belief that things ‘shouldn’t’ be that way. That people shouldn’t disappoint them. That a successful career should come naturally. That they should have achieved their goals.

Having the mindset that things should and shouldn’t be a certain way becomes the problem. The original issue often has a minor impact in comparison to the mindset which inflames and elongates the problem.

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If you believe that things should generally be easy, the problem isn’t likely to be the difficult project at work or the relationship that is demanding your attention and effort – the problem is the layer of ‘should’ that you put on top. By changing the ‘should’ mindset you can lessen the impact when something is more challenging than you thought it should (or would) be.

When we aim for an easy life we stop growing.

When we try to eliminate challenge from our life and aim to create and live an easy life we naturally start to lose focus on areas of our life that need deliberate and specific attention in order to. Most aspects of life generally require on-going effort to grow and be maintained. Aiming for ease and therefore avoiding challenges will mean that you can’t make progress, and in fact often can’t maintain what you have. Maintenance is vital in all areas of life—from careers to financial stability, and from relationships to fitness. Aiming for an easy life is likely to end in hardship as you risk losing what you currently have.

It’s often said that ‘nothing grows inside your comfort zone,’ and of all of the motivational quotes you might come across this one certainly is true! The belief that life should be easy directly flies in the face of the barriers you will need to overcome if you want to grow – whether it’s in your emotionally, professionally, physically, financially or any other area of your life.  Being comfortable with being uncomfortable and running towards challenges instead of away is the only way to keep growing.

Overall, it’s natural to want things to go well, but ‘going well’ doesn’t have to mean that it comes easily. And remember, being prepared for challenges doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself. Problems are an inherent part of life and there’s no reason why any of it ought to come easily.

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There’s no glory in making things hard for yourself, but there’s danger in hoping for everything to be easy.

Featured photo credit: Denys Nevozhai via unsplash.com

Reference

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Sian Morgan-Crossley

Psychotherapist and Coach

The Problem With Wanting Life To Be Easy How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself) Perfectionism: the perfect route to depression

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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