Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to be sad

Two weeks ago I wrote about a youtube video describing techniques to make yourself sad.  It contained 7 guidelines to making sure you stay as depressed and down as possible.  It was a refreshing change from happiness tips, because you can easily see what to do to reverse the advice and it added a little bit of humour on top.

I am reading the book How To Be Miserable:  40 Strategies You Already Use.  It is much the same sort of thing, just more thorough.  Since 40 is greater than 7, you know.

The book covers a wide range of things you can do to make yourself unhappy.  It starts off with the most obvious and powerful one - exercise.  Don't get any!  That is extremely effective at staying miserable.

It moves on through a variety of techniques from making sure to compare yourself to the most skilled person in the world at any given thing, setting your goals to be vague, amorphous, pie in the sky, irrelevant, and delayed, to maximizing your screen time.

You will also learn how to have exacting standards for the people you will associate with, especially if those standards are written down and specific enough that you won't find anyone who will meet them all.  If you do meet anyone, the book will tell you how to make everything you do with them into a pointless contest with defined winners and losers.

For example, the book directs you to "Dwell on how wonderful that old bohemian apartment of yours was - or that relationship, that job, that city, that sparkling halcyon time in your life - and remind yourself that it is now over.  You have lost it forever."

How To Be Miserable is written by a psychologist who specialises in treating things like depression and it clearly comes from a place of experience.  The author says (and I agree) that it isn't meant to be a cureall for someone with serious mental health issues, but it could be a useful gentle reminder for people to make the changes that they know they need but have forgotten about, or perhaps let people see their own behaviour and realize that perhaps it isn't the right way to live.

The book is a quick read and has enough humour in it that even if you don't get much out of it in terms of fixing your life you will likely enjoy it just on its own merits.  However, I think that even if you don't actually use the advice within, it will give you some moments of clarity where you recognize yourself in this book of truly terrible advice.

Most books are worth reading once and then are fine to return to the library.  This book is different though.  I think it warrants a place on all kinds of bookshelves where it can be found and quickly read through every few years.  Even people who are aware of how they might make themselves happier can use a reminder every so often and this seems like a fine way to get it.

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