This week I read an article by Mayo Oshin, “The Comfort Trap.” I highly recommend the article because it uses science and a bit of philosophy to make a case for how struggle (while unpleasant) is good for us.
Turns out, what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. Like green vegetables.
My mother knows a lot about struggle. When we were young, she told my brother and I all of the time: “Go outside more…” “Don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty…” and “You watch too much TV.” She was right. Having some struggle in our lives is a little like eating vitamins – it does some important inner work so when you really need it, you just seem more resilient.
Struggle is not a magic path to happiness or success, and it’s just plain unpopular.
Struggle with the dark?
Three years ago, I faced a depression that I can only describe as indescribable. When it hit me, it was like I fell head over heels into a walk-in freezer. The cold began to seep inside of me until it felt like I was being slowly crushed from the inside out. I am grateful that the Indescribable has left me and that it has been almost three years with no more than a few days of soul-crushing.
Still, even though I have learned a great deal from my experience, I don’t welcome the dark. No one does.
No one likes it when they face the Indescribable, unexplained anxiety, a tortured and self-critical mind, or a personal, or family addiction. We don’t want cancer, diabetes, obesity or heart disease. We may ignore relationship problems and ignore issues for too long because we don’t want to admit that it’s over. We can carry a life-time of regret because of decisions we made (or avoided).
The gift of the hard, hard, hard things
In everyday life we’re faced with the decision to either embrace hardship or avoid it… And whilst the easier choices are convenient and save time in the short-term, the harder ones save more time and create more rewarding benefits over the long run… Various studies have shown that people who experience and overcome adverse events—business failures, divorce, death of a loved one, difficult work—develop the necessary mental toughness required to overcome future adverse events. They also experience improved mental health, well-being and overall life satisfaction. Mayo Oshin
The thing about hard things is they are ‘user defined.’ What is hard for you may not be as difficult for me. And what feels impossibly tough right now may begin to feel much easier a few months (or years) from now. And if we avoid something long enough, we can make a small thing feel very, very, very difficult.
Give yourself the gift
- Embrace your struggle. I get that this sounds trite, but whatever is hard for you right now, embrace it – even just a little.
- If you really can’t make it go away, allow it. Accept it.
- And take a moment, as often as you can, to be grateful… for a meal, for a sunset, for a bit of music, for a day with less pain or for a day that seems less dark.
Glamour Magazine asked 70 people about things they found hard and posted the video on Youtube. The video reminded me that I tend to forget all of the hard things I have faced, but I forget them. We all tend to forget the hard things we faced in the past because what is happening NOW feels like the hardest thing EVER!
Watch, and see how your memory can be kind to you as it reminds you of all that you have faced. So far…
For a related post, see “Can Life Be Full Even When You Do Not Get What You Wanted?” I invite you to sign up for my blog by clicking “Follow Getting High on Recovery.” When you enter your email, you will be able to access the articles in my blog at no cost. I do not send spam or share your email with anyone.
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