Key Point: Psychologists point out that there is a difference on the continuum between people who are clinically depressed and those that seem to choose misery as a way of life. Sometimes, feelings of depression arrive in complete mystery. Everything in life seems to be “great” by external standards. A person might have supportive friends, an excellent job, financial security, a loving family and yet still feels unhappy. When people find themselves depressed we know it’s important they get the right kind of professional help. It’s also vital that “judgment” is not in play. If I’ve learned anything about mental health recently, it’s that depression is certainly not a personal choice and it is very inclusive. No demographic is “immune.” However, this blog focuses on the latter issue; the idea of self imposed misery.
Ok… So, I’m vacationing in Maui, Hawaii. I rent a road bike and am cycling literally right next the Pacific Ocean in perfect weather. Can you hear the waves, smell the ocean, and feel the warm trade winds? I get a flat tire, put in a new tube start riding and get another one. Darn! Someone comes by me and exclaims with good intention: “You must be having a bad day.” And I cannot help but think, “how could I be having a bad day in paradise?” In fact I start chuckling to myself thinking, “while I would like to avoid flat tires at any time, I would be so fortunate to have future flat tires riding a road bike again sometime in Maui.” It would be so easy to determine how the flat tires ruined my ride, my day, my trip, and… I became curious about things people think and do to help them be intentionally miserable. So if anyone is inclined, I have found 14 habits that will help put us in misery overdrive according to psychotherapist Cloe Madanes:
- Be afraid, very afraid, of economic loss.
- Practice sustained boredom.
- Give yourself a negative identity.
- Pick fights.
- Attribute bad intentions.
- Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain.
- Avoid gratitude.
- Always be alert and in a state of anxiety.
- Blame your parents.
- Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures.
- Ruminate about problems and always make them about you.
- Glorify or vilify the past.
- Find a romantic partner to reform.
- Be critical.
- If you want to advance your skills at being intentionally miserable please read Cloe’s article and practice the misery exercises she suggests under each of the 14 areas. She also notes that if we’re only good at four or five, make sure we berate ourselves for not enacting the entire 14!!
- Of course depression is to be taken very seriously and we need to be self-empathetic and courageous enough to get help if we ever find ourselves in that state. On the other hand, we can occasionally get into behavioral habits that are more mindset choices than clinical depression (whatever reason). And in those cases a little self-reflection, awareness, humor and intentional positive reframing can help us actually enjoy a “flat tire in paradise.”
Loving flat tires in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Avoiding a cynical mindset has become a pretty big focus of mine. I’m just generally uninterested in dwelling on misery, but you seem to encounter folks who argue the idea that perpetual happiness is more annoying than realistic. I’ve even been in trouble for being “too positive,” because I’ll come across as dismissive, ignorant, or whatever else a (generally unhappy) person dreams up to rationalize my perky point of view. But, as one as of my favorite podcast hosts said one time, “If you’re unhappy more than 15 percent of the time, then homie, you need to get some help.” And I truly believe that. Maybe that help is simply a bike ride in paradise.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis