Strategies for Happiness

I read an excellent book recently called How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use, which I found out about after watching this video. The book describes, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, various strategies for decreasing one’s happiness such as adopting unhealthy lifestyle habits or unhealthy thought patterns.

Now, most people would rather avoid increasing their unhappiness (though I recall the matrix film series suggesting that humans prefer misery), and one is rather meant to read the book in order to reflect upon which behaviors are to be avoided, thereby increasing their mental and physical strength.

I’ve thought about the five most important takeaways for me from reading this book:

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

This means eating well, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep. Additionally, I believe that living a healthy lifestyle in the information age also means being conscious of ones information consumption. Be wary of mindlessly browsing e.g. youtube or checking the news constantly. Give your mind time to rest.

Set achievable goals with a well defined measure of success

Divide large tasks into smaller chunks that have a well-defined measure of success. If you have some long term goal, create an execution plan. Do not chase nebulous, ill-defined objectives (i.e. losing weight) and instead prefer specific actions you can take to achieve the end goal (e.g. exercise, dieting).

Avoid catastrophic thinking

That is, avoid being irrationally negative and jumping to the worst possible conclusion. There’s a happy medium between pessimism and optimism called rationalism. Don’t sell yourself short, don’t let the negatives overwhelm the positives, and try to assess situations objectively. If something doesn’t go your way, it might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Do not constantly compare yourself to others

This is the quickest path to unhappiness and feelings of inadequacy. There is always going to be someone more talented than you in some aspect. Harboring feelings of jealously and bitterness towards others because they’re superior in some regard is the hobgoblin of petty minds. Rather, strive to learn from them. Avoid comparing the best parts of others with the worst parts of yourself. See others as people with their own strengths and weaknesses. We all have our own circumstances and it’s better to remember that we only see the tip of the iceberg in most cases when interacting with others.

Make time for life and pursue the activities you enjoy

For me, this means taking time to smell the roses, doing things for yourself, and not making life a constant effort to live up to the expectations of every single person you meet. Leave work at work, and do things because you want to do them, not out of some sense of guilt.

Some of the strategies discussed in the book might resonate more with others, but these ones were the most immediately applicable to my life.