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A customer of mine, who is also a psychologist, and I were shooting the breeze the other day and he brought up an interesting thought: that people need struggle in their lives.

Now one would think just the opposite, that a life free of struggles would lead to happiness and contentment. But apparently not.

Not so long ago, say 150 years, life itself provided plenty enough struggle just via day to day living and survival. Most men and women spent their days toiling for survival via planting crops, tending crops, raising animals, running small businesses, doing physical housework, and the like. The need to struggle was largely fulfilled with physical struggle, hard work.

After an industrial and urban way of life largely replaces a subsistence one, there was still struggle as many jobs were still physical. People were largely involved in working in factories, building and manufacturing goods. It was a different kind of struggle than living on a farm, but still plenty strenuous.

In a post industrial world the need for physical struggle to survive day to day has been greatly reduced thanks to modern conveniences such as electricity and plumbing and a variety of labor saving devices that depend on them. Many jobs also replaced physical struggle with a more sedentary day.

Without the need to struggle physically, rather than feel content and happy, people started to struggle emotionally. Literally creating problems for themselves and others when not distracted by true physical struggle to survive.

It’s an interesting idea to ponder, what one might be doing in their own life to fulfill the human need for struggle. Perhaps replacing that with some form of physical struggle via exercise, sports, active hobbies, and the like would actually lead to contentment and happiness far better than trying to eliminate all struggle?

One example of this might explain why studies found people who walk 15 minutes a day (physical struggle) can gain as much relief from depression as those who take antidepressants. The physical exertion literally creates serotonin, eliminating the need for it to be supplemented.

What do you think?  Can you name examples of ways people struggle today? Either self created or not? Can you think of ways people might replace non-productive, self created struggle with productive struggle?

 

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