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The Beauty of Suffering

The Beauty of Suffering

No one likes suffering. We try to get rid of any kind of pain and suffering at every turn. An entire industry sprang up around reducing the pain associated with dental and medical procedures. We have pain-free options for delivering babies. Everyone tries to dive into something new and avoid the pain after a heartbreak.

It would stand to reason, then, that suffering is universally a bad concept.

But what if that’s not true?

Why Suffering Even Exists

To understand the beauty of suffering, you first need to understand why pain even exists. It’s a warning sign of potential danger.[1] Pain becomes a memory to avoid facing future danger.

Think of a caveman and a fire. He touched the fire previously and got hurt. Now when he encounters the fire, he won’t touch it.

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    This is how we evolved, but in modern times, the “suffering” we feel is often not physical. It’s often mental processes we want to skip but shouldn’t skip. A good example is putting in work. When we were young, studying and doing homework could be classified as “suffering.” We’d rather have fun and be outside playing. But if you skip studying, you don’t learn anything, and have bad results.

    The same applies in adulthood. Working hard can seem like “suffering” for some people. If people go with their instinct and try to get rid of this “suffering” by slacking at work, they’ll probably work slow, have bad performance and may eventually get fired.

      Suffering Is Not the Opposite of Joy

      This is what people often miss: “failure” and “success” are not necessarily opposites. If anything, they’re cousins or even siblings.

      There’s a close correlation between pain and pleasure, or failure and success. After intense physical exertion in the process of running, runners experience a sense of euphoria that has been linked to the production of opioids, a neurochemical that is also released in response to pain. This is called “Runner’s High”.[2]

      If you’re not so much a runner, think of it like this: what if you want to be a great singer? This might not be a goal for everyone, but substitute your own goal in if you would like.

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      To be a great singer, you have to put in work. Sing every day. Train your breathing. Watch other singers and analyze their style. Do gigs. Keep your voice healthy. All of that work could be seen as “suffering.”

      The opposite is much easier: hang out with friends, go to movies, take naps, essentially don’t do much. Without the suffering, then, you can’t get the joy of being a great singer.

        Can You Reduce Suffering?

        No. It’s a natural part of the human experience. You can reduce the amplification of pain within the suffering by focusing less on yourself, though.

        The Dalai Lama has a great quote,

        “As long as you are too focused on your self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will experience suffering.”

        Removing the self-importance is an important step. Realize that everyone suffers. Athletes train to get better. Singers sing and get booed at gigs. Entrepreneurs lose money and think it’s over before they really have a successful business.

        Stephen King, one of the most successful authors of all-time, had his first novel, Carrie, rejected 30 times before it was published. It was a similar number of rejections for J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, which may be the most successful book and film series of all-time.

        All these people before they experienced the joy and success, they suffered.

        Find Joy in Suffering

        Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that only 50 percent of our happiness is determined by uncontrollable factors like our genes or temperament. The other half is determined by a combination of our circumstances, our attitudes and actions which we have control over.[3]

        Celebrate every small amount of joy. You are going to fail. You’re going to suffer. Take a small amount of joy in those moments. Understand they are learning experiences. You will grow from them.

        Very few people marry their first love; many go through heartbreaks. Very few people see their first professional endeavor be a total success; many scrap and fail before they find some success.

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        Find a way to track your progress and to set and celebrate small benchmarks. You may also want to conduct a weekly review to assess where you are and celebrate all of the small wins of the week.

        Tracking your progress is also a great way to find and mitigate triggers and hindrances that impede your progress.

        The point is, you are making progress. Even if it feels like suffering, you can see that it’s leading you to joy.

        Suffering Is Beautiful

        When you start going to a gym, you may struggle to lift 50, 60 pounds. After a few months, you might be lifting 150, 175. After a year, it might be over 200.

        All of that is a struggle and suffering. You are putting your body through something. But it’s also beautiful. You are gaining strength and becoming more fit.

        Failure is hard, but it’s a necessary element of life. Find beauty in those moments because you are growing.

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        Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

        Reference

        [1] Everyday Health: Why Do We Feel Pain?
        [2] The Conversation: In pursuit of happiness: why some pain helps us feel pleasure
        [3] Dalai Lama: The Book of Joy

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        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        Last Updated on July 3, 2020

        30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

        30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

        In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

        1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

        Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

        2. Focus on your breath

        Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

        3. Get organized and purge old items

        A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

        4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

        Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

        5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

        Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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        6. Smile more

        Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

        7. Don’t worry about the future

        As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

        8. Eat real food

        The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

        9. Choose being happy over being right

        Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

        10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

        Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

        11. Make use of filtering features on social media

        You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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        12. Get comfortable with silence

        When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

        13. Listen to understand, not to respond

        So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

        14. Put your troubles in a bubble

        Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

        15. Speak more slowly

        Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

        16. Don’t procrastinate

        Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

        17. Buy a coloring book

        Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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        18. Prioritize yourself

        You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

        19. Forgive others

        Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

        20. Check your expectations

        Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

        21. Engage in active play

        Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

        22. Stop criticizing yourself

        The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

        23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

        Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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        24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

        Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

        25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

        Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

        26. Manage your money

        Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

        27. Stop trying to control everything

        Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

        28. Practice affirmations

        Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

        29. Get up before sunrise

        Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

        30. Be yourself

        Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

        Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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