Chaplain's thought for the week
Revd Tom recommends 10 ways to misery
This week in my Sixth Form assembly, I shared with pupils ten things they can do if they want to be miserable. Here’s a summary:
1. Take as little exercise as possible
One of the quickest ways to make yourself miserable is to cut out all exercise completely. Researchers have found that when they test for both physical fitness and mood, there is an inverse relationship between the two. Taking exercise can be particularly dangerous for those who are seeking misery because it can instantly lift your mood. Studies have shown that even as little as 30 minutes exercise three times a week can disrupt unhappiness in people.
- Get some kind of watch or app which can measure your steps and aim to take as few as possible.
- Cancel your gym membership. If you do insist on going to such places make sure you don’t raise your heart rate too much, try spend more time chatting than exercising, and if you can, go to a gym with an escalator, so you don’t waste energy climbing the stairs.
- Aim to drive wherever you can, even if walking is faster or more convenient.
- Avoid a walk in the beautiful Devon countryside at all costs; this will seriously harm your chances of being miserable.
2. Do little else but school work
Aim to have a dreadful work-life balance in which you think of and do little other than school work. Work late into the night, and make your whole value dependent on getting good grades. What’s the point of us if we don’t get top grades anyway? Let your work get in the way of your hobbies and all the things which make you remotely happy, and let it get in the way of your relationships, too. Remember: there isn’t more to life than work.
3. Dwell on the regrettable past
Fortunately, our brains have evolved to help us out with this. Psychologists suggest that our brains evolved in an earlier period to be on the look-out for the smallest sign that our survival is at risk. We now no longer have that risk, but our minds haven’t caught up: we are still more likely to dwell on negatives than on positives, and you need to give this all the encouragement it can get. Think of negative experiences which happened to you, think of those embarrassing memories and times when you felt really low... and dwell on them. Even better, use them to build a story about yourself which suggests you are useless, a failure, a total loser... you’ll soon start feeling miserable.
4. Fritter time away on social media
This a great one: do it as much as possible. There are four reasons why this can seriously increase your misery.
- You can waste time worrying about the fact that other people look as though they’re having a lot more fun than you with their cool, cheerful photos and status updates. You can then worry about what you might post to make it look like your life is just as great.
- You can also get yourself worked up by how many ‘likes’ and comments you get, and waste plenty of time checking these.
- It’s an endless distraction from some of the more pressing things in life which, if left undone, will certainly make you miserable.
- Doing this will help you positively to not engage with the people who are physically present to you.
5. Leave work till the last minute
This is a wonderful way of getting your stress levels up which gets you in a particular state of misery. Try to avoid writing down what work you have to do, so you have the anxiety of trying to remember. Try to get right to the edge of a deadline so the quality’s shoddy and that will soon lower your mood.
6. Rehearse three bad things each day
You might have heard that regularly expressing gratitude can make you happier. There’s lots of research to suggest that gratitude is connected to mental wellbeing as it can make you more content with the things you have and builds on your positive emotions. Well, this is to be totally avoided if you’re serious about misery. You can counteract the effects of gratitude by rehearsing three bad things at the end of each day. They don’t even need to be particularly dreadful, just anything which will distract you from anything remotely positive.
7. Look after number one
You might have heard about Random Acts of Kindness, too, and that these have an impact on your mood to make it more positive. Instead, you should focus solely on trying to make yourself happy and this will have the effect of making you miserable. Try to have a total disregard for other people’s happiness: what does it matter to you? Try to trample on others on the way to the top. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan: it was the first two who passed by the injured man who are the real heroes. They didn’t waste their time with sentimental compassion: no, they got to their destination and went about their own business and I’m sure they were a lot more miserable for it.
8. Endlessly compare yourself with other people
Try to spend as much time as you can worrying about how much better other people are than you. After all, we can all think of people who are better looking, smarter, funnier, richer, successful, sportier, more musical than we are. Don’t for a minute focus on your own good attributes. Aim instead to put yourself down in relation to others at all times.
9. Get as little sleep as you can
Remember Margaret Thatcher’s motto: ‘sleep is for wimps’. Aim to get as little sleep as possible, which will seriously lower your mood. I’m sure you’ve heard the research on this often enough. Let’s face it: sleep is a waste of time, especially if you’re serious about my second tip which was to do little other than school work. There are only 168 hours a week, so don’t waste up to a third of it by being unconscious! If you’re find that you drop off a little too easily, then try some of the following tips.
- Have loads of screen time before bed, especially on your phone so that you’ve got all the negative effects of social media going round your mind which have already been mentioned.
- Leave your phone on beside table while you try to sleep, so that it will disrupt you with messages you can’t possibly afford to miss.
- Get on with some of your most tricky homework just before bed.
10. Remember that life has no meaning at all
Reflect often – and deeply – upon how pointless and meaningless your life is. You’re not precious in any way, after all. Listen to those who tell you that faith and religion are just psychological crutches for the weak, and listen, too, to all who say that science has disproved God, no matter how intellectually dubious this is. Love is a total illusion. There’s no such thing as beauty. There’s no such thing as right and wrong. Our lives our meaningless and we just happen to exist on this earth for a short time of misery before dying and ultimately rotting. So don’t try to make a difference in the world; don’t try to do great things; don’t try to live the good life. It’s all a waste of time: life is meaningless.
For once, I hope that our pupils completely ignore my advice!
For more steps to misery, try the very good book ‘How to be miserable: 40 strategies you already use’ by R. J. Paterson, from which I drew many ideas for this assembly.