Can a little pain make your life happier?

What do chocolate cake, a funny movie, and life coaching have in common?

In almost every area of life, we devote considerable energy towards the pursuit of happiness. Whether this takes the form of good food, a satisfying job, stylish clothing, or social fulfillment, the idea that we can maximize happiness by increasing pleasure and reducing pain is intuitive. Entire industries are founded with the goal of improving comfort and happiness.

But should our lives really be pain-free? Does unpleasantness really compromise our overall satisfaction with life?

It turns out that pleasure alone cannot make us happy.

Consider wealthy celebrities, who have the money to indulge in whatever tickles their fancy and enough fans so they never have to dine alone. We have all heard stories of famous actors and musicians, who, despite their wealth and popularity, struggle with severe depression and anxiety.

If money cannot buy happiness, then what can?

The answer is pain.

Pain enhances pleasure

In his research, Brock Bastian, Ph.D., demonstrates how pain provides a contrast to pleasure. Without pain, our lives would be dull and boring. Just like hunger makes us enjoy our favorite foods, we need discomfort to remind us why we desired the pleasurable experience in the first place.

One example of the pleasurable effects of pain is the runners high. After athletes physically exert themselves, they experience a euphoria similar to someone on opioids. This endorphin rush is not possible without the physical exertion.

Pain puts us in touch with the physical world and connects us with the experience at hand. This is the ultimate form of mindfulness. If you have ever stubbed your toe, you know that the few moments of pain that follow are so intense that it is difficult to think of anything else.

This is why feel more pleasure sipping a cold soda after mowing the lawn under the sun or a hot coffee after being out in the snow. Pain puts us in touch with our sensory experiences and allows us to enjoy the intensity of the moment.

This does not only refer to physical pain, but to emotional pain and life disappointments as well.

Raising a "pain-free" generation

In our society today, parents exert themselves to protect their children from stressful situations and blows to their self-esteem. Today's well-intentioned parents try to prevent their children from experiencing pain and failure. This trend is reflected in our education system. Whereas in the 1980's, B's and C's were the most common grades among university students, by 2008, A's had become the most prevalent. You may think that this protection from failure and disappointment would result in greater happiness and success. In fact, over the course of this same period, rates of depression and anxiety have increased. By shielding children from challenging experiences, parents have made their children less resilient and more emotionally vulnerable.

Pain builds relationships and community

If you have ever felt closer to a friend after confiding a painful experience, you have seen how pain bonds us with others. After a natural disaster or tragedy, it is common for communities to mobilize and come together to help. Without the existence of suffering, humans would live meaningless, isolated lives.

Changing the value of pain

We have come to believe that our lives are supposed to be free of pain. From this perspective, pain is a threat that must be eradicated. Many people who have suffered adversity tell us that it is possible to be happy, despite having experienced pain. But Brock Bastian demonstrates a far more revolutionary idea. We need pain in order to be happy.

We need to recognize the value of pain in our lives. Framing pain as a positive instead of a negative enables us to better cope and feel happier with our lot when life inevitably veers from our plans.

Reach out for help today

If you need help achieving a happier, more fulfilling life, contact our therapists or coaches today. Contact one of our therapists today to learn more about how they can help or to learn more about online therapy.

Be the first to review this item!

Bookmark this

24 Jul 2018

Popular Articles - Recommended for You

How to increase psychological flexibility

How to increase psychological flexibility

Changing the way you think using these techniques to increase psychological flexibility can have a significant impact on anxiety, depression, work performance, & overall quality of life. You can learn to stop unhelpful thoughts from holding you back.

November 13, 2017 By Francisca Oredeko

How to stop passive-aggressive behavior

How to stop passive-aggressive behavior

Because passive-aggressive behavior is not overt, it can be hard to recognize and even harder to stop. Below are some tips to stop passive-aggressive behavior.

September 4, 2017

7 signs your boss is a psychopath

7 signs your boss is a psychopath

You've been suffering emotional abuse at work for quite a while. Your boss regularly manipulates, lies, and bullies you. After researching the signs, you've found that your boss exhibits several psychopathic characteristics. What do you do now?

March 6, 2018

Featured Listings more listings

Eastside Center for Family – Laura Halford

Eastside Center for Family – Laura Halford

in Children and Teenagers, Marriage/Relationship Counseling/Therapy, Substance Abuse

We provide Alcohol & Drug Treatment, Family Based Intervention & Therapy for Individuals, Couples, Families, Children & Adolescents in Bellevue, Washington.

Dr. Michael Ascher – Board Certified Psychiatrist in Philadelphia

Dr. Michael Ascher – Board Certified Psychiatrist in Philadelphia

in Anxiety, Addiction, Depression

Dr. Ascher will provide a careful diagnostic evaluation tailored to your individual needs and goals and make detailed treatment recommendations so that medications and psychotherapy are prescribed only if necessary.

U Can Achieve

U Can Achieve

in Residential Treatment

If your son has not succeeded in traditional academic environments, we may be the best answer for changing his direction and putting him on the path to a better life. We are here to facilitate your teenager or young adult's successful transition.

Center for Therapeutic Services & Psychodiagnostics – Dr. Amanda Karlen, Psy. D, LCPC

Center for Therapeutic Services & Psychodiagnostics – Dr. Amanda Karlen, Psy. D, LCPC

in Marriage/Relationship Counseling/Therapy, Anxiety, Depression

Are you ready to make a change for the better in your life? We are committed to helping you with the most comprehensive, holistic services in McHenry that are established in evidence-based treatment. You are unique and we provide unique treatment.