Being alive entails some degree of suffering in one form or another. I'm sure you know that already. If your suffering is pointless, it is just suffering. But if your suffering has some meaning, you'll be able to tolerate it much better, and if it has enough meaning, you can even find happiness while suffering.
Viktor Frankl (author of Man's Search for Meaning) discovered this powerful insight into the human condition while he was in one of Hitler's concentration camps:
You will feel strong and happy to the degree you feel your actions have some meaning.
How would this work in your life? What can you do with this insight? I have an experiment I'd like you to try. First, choose something you're unhappy about. Just one thing.
Now ask yourself, "Can my suffering serve some meaningful purpose?"
It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or what they might think about it. What matters is that your life and your struggles have meaning to you. Does your suffering serve some greater end? Is it the price you must pay for some important purpose?
Don't come up with an answer right away. Ponder it, like a Zen koan, for days or even weeks. But then come back and leave your answer here on the comments. If you find a good answer, it will shift the way you feel about your own suffering.
I'll give you a personal example. Sometimes progress on my goals seems way too slow. It has been frustrating, and sometimes I've felt discouraged and defeated by the obstacles. But I've found meaning and purpose in those struggles. I have learned much more about determination — how to restore it, how to strengthen it — than I ever would have otherwise, and since I'm a writer, many people have benefited from what I've learned.
I really love to learn, and I want to make a difference, so this means a lot to me. It is meaningful. As soon as I looked at my setbacks and frustrations with this new understanding, they stopped making me so miserable. The very thing making me suffer turned out to be a gift.
That's a powerful shift in perception. That's how to feel strong and happy, no matter what's happening. This principle worked for men suffering horribly in concentration camps, it worked for my comparatively minor sufferings about my goals, and it will work for your sufferings too if you'll give it a chance.
Take your time and ponder the question. Is there some meaning or purpose to your suffering?
What does life expect from me?
How can I look at this as a good thing?
Master the art of making meaning.
Meanings and feelings.
Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.