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How to Suffer Productively

Suffering is when you feel bad. And if it's really intense, it really sucks.

There's a big difference between temporary suffering and clinical depression. Suffering is a negative feeling and is actually very healthy. Suffering helps you learn, and helps develop discipline and build a stronger character. You will never become a resilient person unless you learn how to suffer through the pain of life.

Clinical depression, on the other hand, is when parts of your brain shut off, and you get locked into a negative state of mind for weeks, where you don't feel like doing anything anymore. Some people describe feeling hopeless. If you are in good physical health, your brain can usually repair itself to meet any situation. If things aren't getting better, it might be time to find a doctor.

If you've played a lot of video games for a while, in order to distract yourself from real-life pain, there's a good chance that once you quit playing video games, you will suffer a lot. Suffering can feel pretty bad and is a precarious state if you haven't felt that way in a while and aren't familiar with how to manage it.

Everyone is different. Some people rarely feel bad in their lives - usually these people don't actually change the world much, and don't have strong opinions about things. Happy people usually don't get addicted to things.

Whereas some people - whether they realize it or not - tend to feel more pain, and usually these people are more critical and have strong opinions about the way things should be. These people sometimes are more vulnerable to addiction.

If you're tough enough, you can navigate your own way through a hard time, and afterwards, find life much more meaningful.

The goal of this article is to help you feel more comfortable if you are having a hard time and help you get started making the best of your current state of mind.

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If you feel like life is pretty tough right now, there are a few things you should do right away:

  1. Acknowledge how you feel.

Don't judge this feeling - sometimes judging your feelings can amplify them. Just accept/acknowledge/observe that in your current mood, you feel pretty bad. Don't tell yourself that suffering is a bad thing, just an emotion that you are experiencing.

Sometimes if I feel like crap, I like to just lay down for 20-30 minutes. After I get back up, I'm usually surprised at how much better I feel.

  1. Ask yourself what's wrong.

A lot of times, I realized that if I just slowed down my brain and focused on precisely what I wasn't happy with, I would feel a lot better. Sometimes it's really effective to actually get a pen and paper and make a list of everything that's wrong. After all, if you're feeling pain, you might as well use your pain to your advantage and use it to figure out what you want to fix.

  1. Look at your list of core values.

This is really what changed things for me. Because I realized that I had a lot of strong connections towards my values, and that once I had prioritized them, I could stop feeling bad about things that didn't matter, and start focusing on the things that were more important.

  1. Figure out your next course of action.

When you feel ready - or sometimes even if you don't feel ready - get to work to make things better again! The more you push yourself, the faster your brain will heal!

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Suffering can actually be a very good state of mind to help you figure out your life.

People who are suffering are much more likely to ask "Why?" and seek a higher meaning in their life. This is because when you can focus your attention on a higher meaning, the suffering doesn't feel nearly as bad.

Once you accept how you're feeling and you get used to it, it's possible you will feel more motivated and have more character than ever before. You might also feel more disciplined and be less likely to choose to do something "just for fun" and be more likely to do something "for a deeper meaning".

Sometimes after you feel really bad, you might get "rebound motivation". This is because your brain suddenly realizes that it doesn't want to feel bad again, and so your body automatically gives you the energy to prevent that bad feeling from happening again.

The default thing you should always do, no matter how you feel, is to focus on moving your core values forward.

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It is important to avoid "negative traps" and stay focused on real-world problems.

Remember that you're a human, your brain is built for a specific function: to solve problems, manage your body and your life, and create value in a changing world.

The most difficult thing to do is to guide your attention toward real-world problems. Never agonize over topics that are counterproductive, because some things can't be changed and instead must be accepted as facts of life. If you feel really bad over something that can't fixed in any way, you are causing yourself agony for no reason.

We must accept that we're human and we're all going to die someday. But this doesn't mean we can't focus on our core values in life and find meaning and satisfaction in working towards our goals.

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." - Martin Luther

In this quote, Martin Luther focuses solely on what he cares about, planting his apple tree, and ignores the imminent pain of the world ending, because he realizes it is pointless to torture himself over things that can't be changed.

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When you decide you want to start feeling better:

It's important to rebalance your positive/negative thought ratio, by taking note of positive observations in your life.

Remember to spend some time each day on something you do, just for fun. This could be some creative work, playing a musical instrument, or spending time with friends.

It's really important to get sunlight and exercise several days each week.

Sometimes eating different foods can have a big impact. Try eating one salad per day for a week. Try eating eggs or chicken if you don't eat meat often (not from a restaurant - cook it at home in olive oil!). If you want to feel good really fast, you could always munch on some dark chocolate - just avoid too much sugar.

Once in a while, my brain just needs time to reboot. Find somewhere quiet out in nature to sit in silence and listen to each of your five senses.

Sometimes all you really need is a few moments of peace to reflect on how things have been going.

And as always - don't forget to get some sleep!