How to maximise your misery | Just Reflections #47
It turns out the road to misery is quite smooth. Misery is not out of reach for even the most fortunate of us. It's an equal opportunity servant. And it's a skillset that can be honed and perfected.
There are many books out there about how to be happy. But happiness is quite elusive. So what if you had a different goal. What if, instead of being happy, you wanted to maximise your misery. Surely, pursuing misery must be much simpler, right? Well, if that's what you think then you're completely correct. It turns out the road to misery is the smoother one. No crazy curves, no thorns, no uphill and no bumps.
Misery is not out of reach for even the most fortunate of us. It's an equal opportunity servant. Like playing tennis or juggling, misery is a skill set that can be honed and perfected. And today, if you want to be unhappy we know how to do it. We have the technology and we have perfected the art.
In this article, I will teach you some strategies to become less happy. You may discover that you have already mastered many of them and practice them regularly. Regardless, you can always get better…or worse I guess. So, sit back my friends. Let me show you how to become the saddest saddo to ever do it.
1. Avoid all exercise
Typically, in these how-to lists, we start with minor points and build up gradually to the more powerful ones at the end. On this list, I’m starting with the best. If you’re only willing to try one thing, then take this one and it will get you there.
Remain indoors as much as possible, preferably in one room, and be inert and unmoving. You don’t want to let a beautiful day tempt you for a walk so close all your windows and curtains and use artificial light only. Avoid anything even vaguely related to exercise. This will keep any reward chemicals related to exercise out of your brain. Stillness will also guide you nicely to medical problems which will keep you in bed meaning even less movement. It’s a vicious cycle. Sedentary people are more miserable and miserable people are more sedentary.
This is a very potent strategy, so maximize it. Avoid exercising religiously! Make your bedroom your all room. Live, work, play, eat and sleep in the smallest space possible. And if you have to get out, drive everywhere you go, even if it would be faster to walk.
2. Mess with your sleep
The second big ally you have in the journey to misery is insomnia. Its mere presence will be unpleasant but it will also ruin your productivity. This is good because productivity might make you happy.
Make sure that you never get into a regular sleep cycle. Vary your bedtime and your wake times at least twice a week (more is even better). Sleep in late, preferably very late, on some but not all days. Tell yourself you’re making up for your sleep deprivation and sleep for long hours in the afternoon as well. You will feel terrible when you wake up early and when you wake up late. Irregular sleep is another really effective strategy because it also creates a vicious cycle. The more you vary your sleep the harder regular sleep becomes which makes your sleep more variable. You get the idea. The goal is to never sleep at the same time or wake up at the same time.
But if you really want to take this further then don’t waste your time on sleep. Get by with as few hours of sleep as possible. There’ll be plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead. By reducing your hours of sleep you will reduce your concentration, dull your mood and easily get overwhelmed by life’s demands. You will be more irritable, less productive, less creative and more prone to bad decision-making. Tell yourself that you’re too busy to waste your time sleeping.
3. Maximise your screen time
Now that you’re moving and sleeping as little as possible. You need something to do with all that extra time. Simply sitting still is boring and hard to maintain. It may also lead you to get into mindfulness and reflection. We don’t want that. Instead, fill your time with screens.
Boredom could also drive you to move, so let the screen entertain you. Tiredness could drive you to sleep so let the screen keep you awake—sort of—as long as possible. Always fall asleep with your phone in your hands and put your eyes back on it as soon as you wake. Every moment your eyes are off the screen is a moment you might be drawn to something more productive, so keep your head down. When you tire of scrolling through the phone, turn on the TV. In fact, have the TV on while you scroll on your phone. And if you’re really looking for a challenge, have the TV on, and scroll through your phone while you work on your computer. Convince yourself that you can multi-task.
Fortunately, on the screen, you have many allies competing to hold your attention for as long as possible. Let them reach you to pull you back every time you turn away. Turn on your notification bell, turn on vibrate, and if there’s a notification light turn that on as well. You want to make sure that you never miss an alert. When you sit down to work, first open your email, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Just to make sure you missed nothing.
4. Stroke your negative emotions
Now that you have screens in front of you all the time. You might eventually scroll through all the things that interest you and get tempted to do something else. So, read the news and get all the details. The news media companies will work tirelessly on your behalf to find, record and report on every disaster, every refugee, and every detonated bomb. Screens can then play all these events for you repeatedly, social media can provide blow-by-blow commentary from countless ill-informed perspectives. Today we can view tragedy continuously and enjoy the excitement of watching catastrophe unfold in real-time.
Be well informed while doing nothing. The things you care about could draw away your attention, giving you a reason to leave your all room and take meaningful action. Fortunately, you can use the things you care about as further sources of misery. Focus on the bad to fuel your resentment and despair. If you must contribute, do so only in meaningless token ways. Post black squares on your Instagram, add hashtags to your bio and add the Ukraine flag next to your username, you get the idea. After that, be disappointed when things don’t change.
As often as possible, get angry at the government, the pandemic, Will Smith, Amber Heard, global warming, etc. You really want to reinforce the idea that the world is messed up and there’s nothing you can do about it. Focus on the shortcomings of others, the failings of your country and the state of the economy. This will really make you feel powerless and since the goal is to be miserable, that’s perfect.
5. Always follow your impulses
How should you decide what to do when you’re not on the screen? The good news is most things that will elevate your mood bring relatively little anticipatory desire. So the best way to decide what to do is to follow your gut.
The odds are stacked in your favour on this one. When you put no effort you will default to things that will cause you misery in the long term. You will want to stay indoors, you will want to not exercise, you will want to sleep in, you will want to do what you know will make you sadder after you’ve done it. Your impulses will mislead you, so be sure to follow them all the time.
Always procrastinate. When the thought dawns on you to do something productive just ignore it, you’ll do it later. You want to get in the habit of delegating all your important work to the future version of yourself who will probably have a lot more motivation and energy than you do right now.
Continue to do things that make you feel weak and inferior. Never prove to yourself that you can overcome obstacles or better yourself. Never attempt to transcend your vices or change your lifestyle for the better. Subscribe to the idea that people can’t change, so you shouldn’t try.
6. Stay in your comfort zone
Let your comfort zone be the authority on what you do and don’t do. If it’s not comfortable, don’t do it. Avoid discomfort at all costs. Take part only in activities that are familiar and effortless. Don’t concern yourself with gaining fresh perspectives or novel experiences. Stay in your lane. Living in your comfort zone is warm, reassuring and very tempting. But one day you will wake up to the reality that your comfort zone is shrinking millimetre by millimetre. Once, you felt fine in all but the largest crowds, today you can detect a flare of anxiety at the dinner table. Your avoidance of crowds was once a subtle preference, now it is an overwhelming need. Once, the thought of speaking up in a meeting was mildly concerning, now it provokes outright panic. “The zone of comfort hides a secret, the longer you spend in it the smaller it gets.”
A part of your brain, monitoring your behaviour, will conclude that the paths you have not taken must truly be unwise and threatening. And your inward impulse will become steadily stronger. What seemed like a momentary preference will become an urgent need for safety and familiarity. So listen to your fears and take them seriously. It is better, of course, if your zone of comfort is small, to begin with.
7. Set VAPID goals
One of the best ways to be miserable is to relinquish all your goals altogether. Unfortunately, this would be too extreme for many of us. So here’s a better idea that will give a similar result. You’ve probably heard that you should set SMART goals. Ignore that, set VAPID goals instead.
Vague: You should be unclear about how you are going to complete the goal. If you want to run a marathon you should be unclear about how you will train, look for the right equipment or even which marathon you will run.
Amorphous: The finish line for your immediate goal should be indistinct so that your depressive self can disqualify any progress you have made. Setting a goal to clean the entire house today will allow you to criticize yourself when you don’t finish because it’s impossible to clean the entire house in one day. There’s always more to do.
Pie in the sky: Indulge your innate ability to overestimate what you can do. Say that today you will revamp your company’s finances. You will never complete that in one day and this is perfect.
Irrelevant: Tell yourself that if you achieve your goal of overcoming social anxiety you will be able to do the research for your mechanical engineering master’s thesis. You should then lock yourself in the house and study business as a necessary prerequisite.
Delayed: Avoid setting a specific time to complete your goal. Instead, resolve to get to it when you feel like it which will likely be never.
Make both the target and the path unclear. This will distract your productivity nicely. After this, focus only on the end goal with no regard to any intermediary steps. And be sure to berate yourself for every failure to achieve your goals at every step of the way.
Never be proactive about finding new opportunities to grow your career or meet new people. Wait for the opportunities to come to you. After all, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen. “Que sera, sera,” right? You’ll meet the love of your life one day and things will probably just work out. You’ll make friends with outstanding people who share your interests if you just wait long enough. Don’t try and figure out actionable steps to get there, it’s not in your power, anyway. Just wait until things work out.
For some extra impact, make fear of negative consequences the primary motivator of everything you do. If you must set deadlines, set ones that frighten you and punish yourself for failing to meet them. And remind yourself constantly that your entire life could fall apart if you don’t keep your head above water.
8. Believe you are special
Now that we’ve lulled the internal triggers of joy, let’s move our attention to external ones. The first of which is other people. If you’re not careful, your associations with other people might make you happy. You likely already have some people in your life right now so let’s start with pushing those away. The best way to do this is to believe that you’re better than everyone else.
Behave like you’re entitled to things because you’re just different from everyone else. Assume that the people who have what you want in life just don’t deserve it as much as you do. Always regard yourself as talented, unique and one of a kind. This will really help you develop an outsider complex which will make it difficult to open up to other people or see things from their perspective. But since you don’t want to do any of that uncomfortable stuff anyway, that’s perfect.
Next, be default no. When a friend asks you to go out for lunch, just say no. After all, you’re very busy these days and have a lot of work to do. When your manager gives you an opportunity to lead a new project at work, try to find an excuse to get out of it. The key here is to give everyone the impression that they should just let you do your own thing. Be so good at saying no that people stop asking you to do anything.
This might become difficult at some point. A good way to stick to your ways is to be suspicious of people. Never give people the benefit of the doubt. Believe that everyone just wants to take advantage of you. Because of this, you should be guarded and put up walls to protect yourself emotionally. Assume the smiles that people give you are fake and their motives are always malevolent.
9. Pursue happiness relentlessly
It turns out a relentless pursuit of happiness is actually a fairly good way of producing its opposite.
If the steps so far haven’t made you completely miserable, it’s time for some clever manoeuvring. Happiness is such an elusive goal that if you try to achieve it directly you will achieve the opposite. So, to be truly unhappy set your expectations for happiness very high. Imagine happiness as a place where happy people are happy all the time. This will turn happiness into a perpetually unreachable state of bliss that no one has.
See life not as it is, but as you wish it to be. Daydream of a day when things will be better. Fantasize about a life where all your problems are gone. You want to make sure that you mentally escape as much as possible to distract yourself from the obstacles of real life. Pour your mental energy not into fixing your problems or improving yourself but into building up this fantasy to be as detailed as possible. Reflect daily about what you would buy if you won the lottery or became a celebrity. Constantly compare your life to this mental picture and become resentful at the discrepancies.
And with that, we’ve reached the end. Though this is not an exhaustive list it should be enough to set you on a steady path. If suffering is what you’re after and you crave the daily strife, simply follow this advice and you’ll be miserable for the rest of your life.
Many of these are adapted from the book How To Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use by Randy J. Paterson, PhD. It’s a fantastic, quick read. Check it out.
Weight: Get to 75kg by April 28 and 70kg by July
Nah running is not more entertaining, I’m just developing the mental strength to bear it I think. I’ll keep at it.
Sleep: Consistently sleep avg. 8 hours per day
Averages this week:
Duration: 6h 30m.
Avg. bedtime: 04:05.
Avg. wake-up time: 10:21.
Business: Start a business in 2022
Nothing to report here. Just a normal uneventful week.