Gretchen Rubin

Tips for how NOT to be happy.

Tips for how NOT to be happy.

One big revelation I've had about the nature of happiness is that some people simply don't want to be happy.

There are many reasons: you want to control other people, you want the satisfaction of being pitied or self-pity or both; you want special attention; you want to take the pressure off yourself, because you can't be expected to achieve much when you're so unhappy.

Oddly, too, you might associate unhappiness with depth of soul or intellect, and so pride yourself on unhappiness as a sign of inner worth.

Plus, for many people, it's less work to be unhappy than to be happy.

If you don't want to be happy, what qualities might you cultivate? Consider these:

  • Hone your powers of discernment so that practically nothing can meet your standards, and be sure to tell everyone else how the food, performance, or service fell short.
  • Stay alone as much as you can. Avoid seeing other people. Cancel plans frequently, don't answer your phone, tell people things like, "I hate parties," "I detest crowds," etc.
  • When someone bugs you -- whether it's a stranger talking loudly on a cell phone or a relative repeating the same maddeningly stupid jokes year after year -- tell as many people about it as possible. You may even need to see a therapist twice a week to talk about your grievances sufficiently.
  • Avoid any physical effort. Drive everywhere, and when at home, get off the sofa as little as possible.
  • Cultivate habits that keep you feeling stretched and overwhelmed. If you're short on cash, overcharge on your credit card. If you're busy at work, stay up late cruising the Internet or flipping among cable channels. If you don't have enough time to yourself, make complex plans that will take lots of time and errands to manage -- say, plan an elaborate birthday party for a two-year-old.
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