Being Happy is Overrated
So you have come here to be the most unhappy person on earth. Why bother any more right? This post will be your Ultimate Guide to be the most unhappy person possible. A valiant goal to strive for, but you will probably fail.
A few terms to define before starting:
Risk Factor – a variable that increases your likelihood of developing a disorder or disease. Such as smoking cigarettes increases the chance of developing lung cancer.
Protective Factor – A variable that lowers your likelihood of developing a disorder or disease. Getting vitamin D can lower your risk for various forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Modifiable Factor – A factor that YOU can reasonably change and have influence over. Like exercising everyday.
Non Modifiable Factor – Any factor that is immutable, such as genetic predisposition.
Keep in mind that just doing anything once is likely not to have a huge impact on long term health outcomes. In order for the impact to be statistically substantial it needs to be repeated and habitual. Otherwise in research it would be impossible to make assertions about associations between such variables and outcomes.
Follow these tips to success on your road to unhappiness:
- Remain sedentary and stay in the same room.
- Don’t exercise.
- Avoid the outdoors, don’t take Vitamin D.
- Get sick and stay sick.
- Forget sleep routines.
- Worry about things you can not change. Focus on the past and future.
- Maximize your screen time.
- Forget your friends and family
- Set your goals too high
Avoid activity, don’t do anything. Lay around, lounge, avoid completing any significant tasks besides waking up and fulfilling your absolutely basic human needs. Sedentary behavior has been a predictor for lower self reported life satisfaction, happiness, and overall well being (Pengpid, 2019). So prioritize doing nothing, in fact stay in bed, and eat in bed, try to do everything possible in one location. Your brain will begin to associate this as a learned helpless, much like a rat stuck in a pool of water (Maier, 1976). After all, we are all only rats in a cage.
Stop, don’t even think about doing push ups or sit ups on the floor. Exercise releases endorphins, neurochemicals like Dopamine and Serotonin that will increase positive mood and affect (Scully, 1998). Not only this but it also improves cardiovascular health and is one of the most powerful modifiable risk factors for disease (Penedo, 2005).
Just by exercising you could increase your subjective well being, boost immune health, and decrease risk of disease (Penedo, 2005). It is physiologically one of the healthiest things you could do to your body and it could derail all of your progress thus far.
Be a Vampire
Absolutely do not go outside! Vitamin D has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (Lee, 2008). Not only this but Vitamin D is one of the most widely deficient vitamins in the northern hemisphere and is one of the key components that leads to seasonal affective disorder (Gordon, 2004). Make sure you stay inside to maximize these deficiencies.
People residing in the blue regions do not get enough sunlight and vitamin D at least during the winter/spring months. With the shift to more indoor sedentary jobs rates of vitamin D deficiency are rising even in fall and summer.
Not only this but Vitamin D is known to support immune health. With a Vitamin D deficiency then you will be more susceptible to illness. When your immune system is compromised you are more likely to get sick, if you are sick more often you will be in a worse mood, and this cycle will continuously repeat itself. You can thank your Hypo-thalamic Pituitary Axis for this feedback made possible by the hormone cortisol, which inhibits interleukin cytokines from allowing your immune system to function properly (Besedovsky, 2000). Thanks body.
The Left image shows anatomical location of the HPA axis. The Right image shows the schematized, or simplified circuitry of the system. The important thing to release is that there is a feedback loop in this system. The more cortisol created the more negative feedback the body should get signaling the cessation of more hormones. In a chronically stressed state this is not the case and the body will continuously create more cortisol. This will then have long term negative effects on the body.
Stress and immune function are highly correlated. It is well established that when the HPA axis is activated chronically then immune function is suppressed. This is due to a heightened state of arousal that prioritizes the stress response over immune function.
Evolutionarily this makes sense. If you need to run away from a large predator fighting that cold you may have is not the most important task at hand. The risk of being eaten outweighs the need to fight a cold. Nowadays we don’t have large saber tooth tigers chasing us. So this amplified stress responses is not as useful for the everyday human.
If you are sick and stressed then it is easy to create maladaptive thought processes. You then get more stressed about how sick you are constantly. Which increases your anxiety and worry. This creates more cortisol as you are always in a worried state. This cyclical cycle can continue indefinitely if there is no intervention.
Become Intimate with Insomnia
The next step is ensuring that your sleep schedule is as irregular and poor quality as possible. Do not go to bed at regular times, do not wake up at regular times. Create as much irregularity and variability in your sleep regime as possible. This variability has led to poor outcomes of psychological well being and self reported mood (Pilcher, 1997; Steptoe, 2008).
Sleep has also been shown to be another risk factor for disease that is entirely modifiable. Good sleep has been associated with improved physical and mental health outcomes. Become an insomniac to avoid becoming this healthy.
External Locus of Control
Tune into your favorite news cast on your phone, watch as the market takes a dive, war breaks out, a pandemic seizes the world, and watch politicians bicker. Reminisce on how awful the situation is, how despite having no control over any of these things, take it personally. Think to yourself that it all impacts you directly, in fact, it mind as well have been your fault. Orchestrate some sort of situation where you had control over any of these outcomes and guilt yourself into a nervous fit thinking about all the bad things that could happen and continue to happen. This is known as creating an externalized locus of control.
Locus of Control is a term psychologists use to describe a person’s ability and perception to take action and accept the outcomes of those actions, or associate reward and punishment for a behavior and an outcome. Research has shown that having a strong internal locus of control, a grasp of what you can do to make positive change, leads to improved life satisfaction and happiness (Ramezani, 2015). So we need to blame the world for everything that is going on, take it personally, and get anxious over things we have no control over.
Tell yourself that you need to bear the brunt of the world’s misery.
Live off of Blue Light
There have been a series of studies that suggest that screen time and happiness are negatively correlated. One study looked at amounts of screen time and media in adolescents and found that reported happiness and satisfaction dropped as media exposure on screens increased over time (Twenge, 2018, 2019). So what are you waiting for barry your head in your phone and constantly look for new notifications about social media posts.
Compare yourself constantly to others online. Wish that you were as happy as their online persona. Couple that with the previous point about locus of control. Watch news clips and worry about how the world is falling apart. Global warming is melting the ice caps, we may never see tomorrow: this is true, and of course worrying about it at 11 PM in your bed is perfect.
Who needs friends
There has been extensive research on the impact that social networks have on not only your mental health but also physical health. This modifiable risk factor, which if strong enough can become a protective factor against disease and illness has been shown to improve health outcomes in older adults over longitudinal studies (García, 2005). If you are trying to be unhappy and ultimately unhealthy ditch all your friends and family. To compound this effect avoid any social interactions besides ones on your phone that are superficial in nature and unsatisfying.
Make your goals unachievable
Most people are probably aware of SMART goals. If not, feel free to check out my post on them to familiarize yourself. A goal needs to be achievable and relevant, “A” and “R” of SMART. So in order to perpetuate your unhappiness you should set goals for yourself that are not achievable. We are all good at something so instead of intentionally doing poorly just set a goal that can not be achieved.
In addition, make the goals you want to achieve not relevant. So they do not align with your values. One such goal could be Make the next best Flappy Bird so you can be rich by the end of the month. Maybe you like software development, but the language used for mobile devices is not familiar to you. On top of that you don’t have any interest in being rich, you would rather do what you love, which is UX development for database management systems.
Research has shown that those with low academic performance are more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms, and those that are more depressed are more likely to perform poorly (Deroma, 2009). This cyclical feedback loop will keep you disoriented, confused and disappointed perpetually.
Health and Happiness
Glad to see that you have made it this far. I am surprised you are still reading!
Some of the best advice to give would be to NOT follow the tips in this post. If you did the opposite of what was suggested you would be setting up a fairly productive and satisfying lifestyle.
Long term change doesn’t happen overnight. Taking small steps could be incredibly beneficial over the lifecourse. Shoot to be 1% better everyday, and you may find that it is easier than you thought.
There is plenty of research to link positive emotions and positive health outcomes, an entire center at Harvard is devoted to this field of study. Altruistic behavior, that is the act of helping others for selfless reasons increases this self reported level of happiness (Post, 2005). These higher levels of health have been reported in longitudinal studies to improve health outcomes, decreasing rates of chronic disease and leading to higher levels of satisfaction (Gerdtham, 2001).
A large international study looking at modifiable risk factors for myocardial infarction found that many of our everyday behaviors had profound impacts on our overall health and risk for disease (Yusuf, 2004). Some of these behaviors are as simple as exercising, having strong social bonds, getting a balanced diet, and not consuming too much alcohol.
We all feel sadness or disappointment at some point in our lives. This is inevitable. The hardest thing is getting started. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. Taking a walk outside, doing a quick workout, hanging with some friends, or even spending some time with your dog, are all activities that require minimal effort.
If you are feeling depressed or stuck don’t hesitate to reach out to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) tel:1-800-662-4357.
Or reach out here. We are never alone, we may just think we are.
I hope that you enjoyed this post. It was a bit of a different format. Any of your feedback or comments are appreciated. Thank you and have a great day!
Quote to Live By
“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”
- Roy T. Bennett
Besedovsky, H. O., & Del Rey, A. Z. (2000). The cytokine-HPA axis feed-back circuit. Zeitschrift für Rheumatologie, 59(2), II26-II30.
Deroma, V. M., Leach, J. B., & Leverett, J. P. (2009). The relationship between depression and college academic performance. College Student Journal, 43(2), 325-335.
Maier, S. F., & Seligman, M. E. (1976). Learned helplessness: theory and evidence. Journal of experimental psychology: general, 105(1), 3.
García, E. L., Banegas, J. R., Perez-Regadera, A. G., Cabrera, R. H., & Rodriguez-Artalejo, F. (2005). Social network and health-related quality of life in older adults: a population-based study in Spain. Quality of life research, 14(2), 511-520.
Gerdtham, U. G., & Johannesson, M. (2001). The relationship between happiness, health, and socio-economic factors: results based on Swedish microdata. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 30(6), 553-557.
Gordon, C. M., DePeter, K. C., Feldman, H. A., Grace, E., & Emans, S. J. (2004). Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among healthy adolescents. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 158(6), 531-537.
Lee, J. H., O’Keefe, J. H., Bell, D., Hensrud, D. D., & Holick, M. F. (2008). Vitamin D deficiency: an important, common, and easily treatable cardiovascular risk factor?. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 52(24), 1949-1956.
Pengpid, S., & Peltzer, K. (2019). Sedentary behaviour, physical activity and life satisfaction, happiness and perceived health status in university students from 24 countries. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(12), 2084.
Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current opinion in psychiatry, 18(2), 189-193.
Pilcher, J. J., Ginter, D. R., & Sadowsky, B. (1997). Sleep quality versus sleep quantity: relationships between sleep and measures of health, well-being and sleepiness in college students. Journal of psychosomatic research, 42(6), 583-596.
Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: It’s good to be good. International journal of behavioral medicine, 12(2), 66-77.
Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Decreases in psychological well-being among American adolescents after 2012 and links to screen time during the rise of smartphone technology. Emotion, 18(6), 765.
Scully, D., Kremer, J., Meade, M. M., Graham, R., & Dudgeon, K. (1998). Physical exercise and psychological well being: a critical review. British journal of sports medicine, 32(2), 111-120.
Steptoe, A., O’Donnell, K., Marmot, M., & Wardle, J. (2008). Positive affect, psychological well-being, and good sleep. Journal of psychosomatic research, 64(4), 409-415.
Ramezani, S. G., & Gholtash, A. (2015). The relationship between happiness, self-control and locus of control. International Journal of Educational and Psychological Researches, 1(2), 100.
Yusuf, S., Hawken, S., Ôunpuu, S., Dans, T., Avezum, A., Lanas, F., … & INTERHEART Study Investigators. (2004). Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. The lancet, 364(9438), 937-952.