• The fourth noble truth encourages us to follow the eight-fold path, i.e. we need to understand suffering but also take concrete action towards our intended life every day. We can use proven and effective tools to help us suffer better, and suffer less.
• Firstly, we can learn the power of reframing so that we investigate the “rules” we have for deciding what counts as pain or suffering in the first place. Much suffering disappears when we take our own assumptions and interpretations out of the picture.
• Emotions are fleeting and always changing. When we understand this, we don’t cling to one emotion or reject another. It’s useful to learn to accept, embrace and name emotions for what they are, so they can flow.
• A third tip is to understand that effort and difficulty don’t always signal pain, and rather than being something to avoid, it can be enriching. Get into the habit of asking whether you are really suffering or whether you are just experiencing the inevitable discomfort of change and growth.
• Realize that sometimes, pain and suffering may be a sign that something needs to change. Pain can be a wake-up call if we heed its message honestly. Not all pain has to be stoically endured. Be frank with yourself about the cause of pain in your life, and what its message is.
• Finally, understand that even raw, blind pain such as the pain experienced by endurance pro-athletes is not the end of the world. Those who fare best tend to have an attitude of “no option.” They distract themselves when it comes to discomfort and don’t allow themselves to indulge in thoughts of giving up.
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Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition.
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