Your ability to thrive under pain and discomfort often reflects the level of athletic success that you can achieve. Growth and improvement require conditioning and training, which are intended to challenge you.
This leaves you with two choices: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Either way, you will experience pain. However, these aren’t really choices— they are consequences of something even deeper.
There is a fundamental difference between pleasure and happiness:
“True happiness is lived over and over again in memory, always with a renewal of the original good; a moment of unholy pleasure may leave a barbed sting…
“Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary contrition and suffering; and, if indulged to the extreme, it brings degradation and destruction…” —James Talmage
Yet, society has conditioned us to fear and flee from the slightest discomfort—popularizing pleasure at the expense of joy. The outcome is regret rather than discipline.
The following are strategies to augment our ability to tolerate and even embrace discomfort in our pursuit of discipline and happiness:
1. Resolve Internal Tension
One of the biggest challenges in our ability to tolerate pain is a fundamental misunderstanding of what pain is and where it comes from.
According to Neuroscientist Candice Pert, Ph.D., the body, not the brain, is the subconscious mind which communicates via neuropeptides.
“Pain and other chronic symptoms are physical manifestations of unresolved internal conflict. Symptoms surface as the instinctual mechanism for self-survival. They are messages from the inner self wanting to be heard, but ego takes center-stage, and hides the truth within the shadows of the unconscious mind: which is the body,” Stephen Ozanich said.
By simply coming to terms with the idea that our physical pain reflects our internal turmoil, we can often experience a release. This knowledge has power. My Aunt Jane came to this realization and was able to run without knee pain for the first time in twenty years.
Other strategies for overcoming inner tension include communication, laughing, forgiveness, meditation, keeping a journal, and letting your worries go.
2. Purposefully Making Situations More Difficult
“Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously. Left to my own devices, I am always looking for ways to become more and more psychologically impregnable. When uncomfortable, my instinct is not to avoid the discomfort but to become at peace with it. My instinct is always to seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them.”—Josh Waitzkin
Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees will grow. Do not choose the easy path. That is pleasure. Choose happiness.
3. Mental Tricks To Reframe Pain
In a recent PLOS Biology study, subjects endured thermal stimulation on their arm multiple times. During the tests, they were asked to mentally “increase” or “decrease” the pain intensity. To increase pain, they focused on how unpleasant the pain was. To decrease pain, they focused on the sensation being pleasantly warm—like a blanket on a cold day. Pain was intensified when participants mentally increased pain and was less severe when they cognitively decreased it, says study author Tor Wager, Ph.D.
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”―Ryan Holiday
4. Practice Discomfort
Tim Ferriss enhances his ability to become comfortable in uncomfortable situations by doing things that normally embarrass him. He’ll go into a coffee shop and lay in the middle of the floor. After a while, and generally with a crowd staring at him, he gets up and says he’s okay.
5. Activate And Kill Your TRPV1 Pain Receptor
You can constantly activate and eventually kill your TRPV1 pain receptor through over-dosage of foods containing capsaicin. Capsaicin is present in miniscule quantities in foods such as oregano, cinnamon and cilantro, and is predominantly found in peppers.
About Benjamin Hardy
Benjamin Hardy is the foster parent of three children and the author of Slipstream Time Hacking. He’s pursuing his Ph.D. in organizational psychology. To learn more about Mr. Hardy, visit www.benjaminhardy.com or connect with him on Twitter.