Thank you for asking. I’ve decided to write a book on this topic because I can answer this from many angles and it would be too long for Quora (I let it get longer here than planned). I may change the word pain to miserable.
Boiling it down to the crux of the matter, life can seem very painful when it is not cooperating with our wishes and desires. Many of your other answers focus on this angle. What desires of yours are not being met that are causing you pain?
A helpful experiment would be to look at those desires one by one. Dissect each one. Identify whether each is a need or a desire.
If it’s a desire, do you want to keep that particular desire alive? Is it something that can be satisfied? Can you satisfy it indirectly? Can you change your desire so you can satisfy it more easily? Have you been going about satisfying it in the wrong way? What ways would be more successful?
Do you need that desire or can you just let it go? ; )
Needs are different from desires. We need food, shelter, sleep, things to keep us healthy. Life can truly be painful when our needs are not being met on an hourly, let alone daily basis. People all over the world are in dire situations where their needs are not being met. If you think of them or read about them, you will have something to compare your life to.
I just read a book written by a Holocaust survivor: Four Perfect Pebbles. It is making me appreciate my life which is full of freedom, relative health, and fulfilled needs.
Any of these three things can be taken away from us at any moment, yet we take them all completely for granted. That is why we hear so often that having gratitude will help us. It’s so healing to appreciate what we have and understand how secure and well off (blessed) we are for having it.
It can open your heart to focus on this instead of focusing on the feeling that you are lacking something.
Here’s another interesting angle: we have more than a body and mind in this life. We are generally made up of body, mind, and soul. Which of those three things might you be neglecting? In order to feel whole, we need to balance each one of the three and balance all of them together. Being out of balance is very painful.
Many of us neglect our body. Probably more of us neglect our soul or spirit. And when it comes to our mind, we are often following the wrong drummer. No wonder our world seems painful. We’re completely out of balance.
Body needs proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Mind needs positive input and thought, something good to focus on, and also proper exercise—learning and growing—perhaps finding one’s purpose. Soul or spirit needs love; purity of thought, intention, and action; and a connection with its source. It needs truth.
Take a close look at each of these three portions of your life and see what you can do to create a better balance for yourself.
Sometimes a good start is to just get proper sleep. This can do a world of good. So can better nutrition. You can consciously remind yourself as you are carefully preparing your bed and your food, and as you lie down and as you eat how you are feeling more uplifted by the simple act of being so good to your body.
You can function and think better when you are well rested and properly nourished. You can focus on solving the other areas that are out of balance.
Here’s a different twist on the last angle that has more to do with mind and soul or spirit: We humans walk around every day not knowing who we are, where we came from, or where we’re going when we leave this planet.
Each society, each culture, has developed over time a series of norms and rules to organize its members.
In cultures that are more developed, where most of the members’ needs are met, we have a lot more free time to let our minds roam and to experiment with what to do with our time.
In our culture and in others, we have focused for many decades on advancing our lifestyle by acquiring more money and material possessions. We have neglected our spiritual side.
We have literally immersed ourselves in the belief that we need more and more in order to achieve happiness and fulfillment. We define our success in life by this premise.
The problem is, it is a false premise. Just look where this has gotten us. We are all clamoring for the same thing and we are sacrificing our support for each other in order to achieve prosperity and success for ourselves or our individual families. Society can’t function well this way. It begins to decline.
We are divided; many of us are angry, unfulfilled, lost; we are isolated from each other; in many cases each person is out for him or herself—families and communities are falling apart as a result; we cast our older members aside when we should be clamoring for their advice. Then when we get older, we are cast aside. Our institutions are falling apart; war and hatred are too common in the world.
More and more does not make us happier. We are seeking in the wrong place. In our individual lives, when we achieve one goal, such as getting a good job and feeling financially secure, we find that something else is out of place. Maybe we don’t have enough love in our life. When we find love, we discover that there is still something missing. There is always something missing no matter what we do. Our desires are endless.
When we reach the point of frustration and despair over this, it’s actually the best place to be. That means we realize we’ve been looking in the wrong place. It’s only then that we will begin to seek what is truly meaningful in life.
Seek truth. Ask yourself who you really are inside.
What do you really need? What is truly missing from your life?
Have you discovered your purpose? Do you know who you are? Do you have a belief system that helps you understand where you might go when your time is up?
Sit quietly, undisturbed, and place yourself mentally on your deathbed. Visualize yourself thinking at that moment what you will regret having done or not done in your life.
Will you feel sorry that you didn’t appreciate the people in your life more? Or perhaps appreciate yourself? Will you wish you hadn’t placed so much emphasis on making more money and less on finding out who you really are? Will you want more time to resolve these things?
Grab that time for yourself now. Seek truth. Find whatever your purpose is in this moment. Stop regretting and start appreciating more and more the things that make you feel whole. Live for the moment. Realize you are safe and secure, lacking nothing. Feel your heart open. If it’s not opening, focus on learning how to open it.
Find someone else who needs your help and offer to help them. If they are suffering from the same lack as you, all the better—you can learn how to be fulfilled as you support each other.
Expand your thinking beyond your own tiny little world. We sometimes think microscopically when there is a whole universe of ideas to explore. It’s a human trait. Learn new ideas, new ways to think, new things to do.
Soon life will not seem so painful.