How To Be Unhappy

I can’t write much about being happy, as my normal state is definitely not upbeat or cheerful.  However, after reading the fantastic and funny “This is How” by Augusten Burroughs, I was inspired to write about the elusive state of happiness.

In one chapter, Burroughs writes that the pursuit of happiness can have the opposite effect. This “goal” can make you frustrated and unhappy because that’s not your natural temperament.  However, he doesn’t use that as an excuse to live in a perpetual state of depression and unhappiness. His point is that it’s ok to feel just OK.

Right now, I feel surrounded by unhappy people.  I’m not excluding myself from this unhappy lot entirely.  However, after reading “This is How” and a slew of self-help articles, I do feel like an expert not about happiness but how to be unhappy.

This is how you can be truly unhappy:

  1. Dwell on things, especially on past events.
  2. Spend too much time on Facebook.
  3. Compare yourself to others.
  4. Lie to yourself.
  5. Regrets.  As Augusten Burroughs said, you can only live in the present.
  6. Worry about what others think.  This also contributes to financial problems!
  7. Hold on to grudges and what others have done or not done for you.
  8. Trying too hard to change others.  Most people won’t listen and you just get frustrated.

Do I have answers on how you can stop doing all of the above things?  No way.  I think the main reason I feel OK right now is that I’m trying to live in the present and not dwell on “what ifs”.  I have good days and bad days in terms of happiness.  I’m also not trying to be happy; feeling content with what I have and where I am is more do-able for my personality.  That’s not to say I don’t experience great moments of happiness, especially around my kids.

Of course age has something to do with my current attempts at being OK with my self. At some point, you just got to accept yourself and your life.

What do you think are the keys to unhappiness?

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11 responses to “How To Be Unhappy

  1. Not eating enough chocolate is a big one.
    Speaking of eating… I get really unhappy when I get hypoglycemic. I also get really unhappy when I’m too hot or too cold. I’m not a nice person at all when I’m too hot. And I have been told (but have no recollection of this) that I swear like a sailor when I have been sleep deprived and am rudely awakened.
    3, 7, and 8 have been big ones on my list. I’ve given up on 8 (except my kids, I’m still working on getting DC1 to not lean his chair back at the dining room table, for example).

    One thing that made me happier was reading The Paradox of Choice. (Yes, I know you said not to pursue happiness, but I didn’t read it with the intent of becoming happier! That just happened as a side effect. http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/satisficing-as-a-life-philosophy/ It’s kind of about what you’re talking about– optimizing leads to unhappiness. Satisficing doesn’t.)

    • Just read your satisficing-as-life-philosophy post. I totally agree. I am/was an optimizer in many insignificant areas, including getting the best price on everything. Now I still keep an “ideal” best price list but I now just try to get a good enough price and not worry about it too much.

  2. Oooh, #1 is the one that most often gets me. And like @Nicoleandmaggie, you don’t want to be around me when my blood sugar drops. My husband has learned to recognize the signs and feeds me crackers.

    I really like this post- sort of turning the typical approach on its head!

    • I think all of the things I listed have gotten to me at certain points in life. Now I’m really good at not comparing self to others and not caring what others think, but must work on the rest!

  3. What a great list! (I love NicoleAndMaggie’s addition of not eating enough chocolate as adding to the Rampant Unhappiness Factor.)

    The “caring what others think” is one I’ve always had difficulty with. I imagine it’s tied to a people-pleasing upbringing (not unusual for women?), but that doesn’t make it any easier to shed.

    I would definitely add getting on the scale every day (or several times a day) as another way to be unhappy. (Something I no longer do.) Then again, the fact that we still worry so much about attaining a state of happiness tells me we must be a pretty unhappy culture over all. Or just a little nuts.

    I’m a believer in happy moments when we feel them, and not asking myself whether or not I’m happy. Or unhappy.

    • BLW: I remember you did a post about our culture’s obsession about finding happiness that was quite interesting. I was thinking of the “caring what others think” in two ways — women tend to want to please others but both men and women are also often obsess with status / image and want to appear more successful than they perhaps really are.

  4. I am with you as a generally not very upbeat person. I wish I were more cheerful, that would make me nicer to be around.

    I think I am guilty of every single item on your list. As you say, with age I seem to be getting better about letting things go, worrying less about others’ perception of me… But far from perfect in these respects.

    In any case, this was a great post! Thanks!

  5. Cool post. I’m a satisficer (as Nicole & Maggie mentioned above) and it really does make life less stressful and unhappy. Getting over dwelling on stuff is hard, though. I’m working on a quick switch. Wish me luck.

  6. I have been dying to read How To for months now. #4 is my big one because I usually lie to myself and tell myself how bad I am at things or how I can’t do things and stuff like that. Not nice.

  7. Maybe we should replace our search for happiness to a search for contentment! You don’t have to exude a bubbly, chirpy exterior to be happy. I love all of the tips…HOW TRUE!

  8. First make your self happy which will boost your life and it will make others happy

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