Thursday, 3 April 2014

Pain and gain

sun shining through the clouds Is the pain worth the gain? 

This is a somewhat philosophical question inspired by the British weather. As we’ve moved into spring, the weather has suddenly changed, going from cold, grey drizzle to warm sunshine. The plants are taking the opportunity to burst out in leaves, buds and flowers and today I feel the same way. As I unfold myself and bask in the sunshine, I wonder if the months of dark, cold and rain are worth it for the euphoria that this first burst of sunshine brings?

On the balance, I’d say yes.

Now, let's widen that question out. There’s a concept developed by Pavlov called negative reinforcement. This means that people are more likely to do something that results in the pleasure they feel when something unpleasant stops happening, for example muting noisy TV ads.

Does this mean we should expose ourselves to unpleasant things for the relief when they stop? Generally not, though getting back to the weather, it can be nice to go out for a stomp around the countryside in cold rainy weather then come back inside to get warm and dry. But we can certainly work on keeping that heightened sense of joy and relief.

I find after a 'flu, on that first day when I’m actually feeling better I am  bursting with joy and optimism because it’s so nice not being sick any more. I have generally been feeling perky and bubbly for the last couple of years because my previous couple of years were pretty hideous. I guess difficult times can have the positive side effect of resetting our expectations and encouraging gratitude.

So, what do you think – is the pain worth the gain? Or would you prefer a more even keel with fewer highs and lows?

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I get really excited when I shout into the void and the void says "hello" back at me. Thanks for your comments!