Misery-inducing tactic #1. It can be hard to stay sad when there are wonderful things all around us; friends and family who adore us, sun shining, birds singing, frogs croaking, children laughing...All of these things make it really hard to stay in a slump. But if you want to maintain your dour image, then all you really need to do is watch the news. There is an entire army of journalists scouring the world (and sometimes beyond) just looking for upsetting stories to keep you sad and fill you with a sense of doom and gloom. For the misery-inclined, journalists are your best friends.
Misery-inducing tactic #2. Blame inward. Give credit outward. Every time something goes wrong, we blame ourselves. It's always that we're too stupid to figure out how to put together that new dresser we purchased from Ikea; it's never that, prhaps, the directions are faulty. Renowned psychologist Martin Seligman has focused much of his career on the sources of lowered mood. He and his colleagues have categorized the sources this way: A. Internal or External - Internal. Internal means we blame ourselves. External means we tend to look for blame elsewhere. Depressed frogs (and humans) usually use the internal method of rationalizing bad situations. B. Global - Specific. Global signifies that we, as a group, are getting picked on in some way, ie "The governament doesn't care about the people." A specific attributions points the finger at a spefic person or incident, ie "The person who wrote these instructions wasn't thinking clearly." C. Stable - Unstable. A stale attribution is unlikely to change over time. "I'm an idiot at filling our forms...always have been." An unstable attribution is more situational and, thus, doesn't occur as frequently. "I was strssed out when I tried to put the dresser together. My frog was sick and I was worried so I didn't read read the instructions carefully." Seligman's research shows that happy people tend to show a degree of balance in their atributional styles, while depressed people stuck with the tried-and-true negative ones. Even when the event is a positive one, like a job promotion or acing a test, miserable people will say that it was just luck...or the test was easy; any idiot could have gotten an A. Positive outcomes never have anything to do with them directly. Negative events, however, will be given attributes that are internal, global, or stable.Unwelcomed events are always viewd as being all about the person.
Go ahead. Now's a good time to check out your own attribution style. Think of three positive events and three negative events that have happened recently and write them down. For each event, asked how it happened and write down the first thought that comes to mind. Next, look at the attributions. See a pattern? Misery is best-induced with external-specific-unstable for positive events where internal-global-stavle attributes for the negtive events will give you the most "bang for your buck," misery-wise.
Misery-inducing tactic #3. Set VAPID goals. The best way to attain, and keep, misery is to relinquish your goals and become utterly directionless. "The cause of misery is well-served by failure," said psychologist Randy J. Paterson. And boy-howdy is he right! So if misery is your ultimate goal then avoid these so-called SMART rules:
S- Specific. Know how you will accomplish your goals.
M - Measurable. How will you know when you have succeeded?
A - Action-oriented. Your goal is to do something. It's not to think or feel a particular way.
R - Realistic. You already know you can do it, even if you don't feel particularly well.
T - Time-defined. You have a clearly defined time frame for the completion of your goal. If it's a large goal, break it down into measurable tasks and then set a time frame for finishing each task.
Now if you want to become miserable, or to stay in your current miserable state, you'll want to skip over SMART and go directly to VAPID.
V - Vague. You should be very unclear as to how to accomplish your goals. And pay no attention to any of the details.
A - Amorphous. The finish line to your goal should be indistinct. It's far easier to stay depressed when the finish line isn't obvious. If you set your goal to "work on the back garden," you can easily chastize yourself for not finishing everything, thus eliminating the need to feel any satisfaction over the work you did do.
P - Pie-in-the-sky. Indulge in your innate ability to overestimate what you can do. Always set loft goals, like painting your entire house in a day or starting a business from scratch in a week. By ensuring your failure, these loft and unobtainable goals will allow you wallow in self-defeat for a long time to come. Then, you can beat yourself for incompetence.
I -Irrelevant. Tell yourself that if you achieve your goal of, let's say, overcoming your social anxiety, then you will be able to join the ski club (etc.). In preparation for this happy moment you must, of course, get prepared by learning and memorizing the complete history of alpine skiing.
D - Delayed. Avoid setting a specific time for accomplishing your goal. Instead, tell yourself that you'll do it whenever the mood strikes you. Because you are highly unlikely to ever walk to clean out the garage, weed the garde, etc., you can rest assured that these goals will never get done and you can continue to feel depressed! And that is very good news!
I've been writing this with tongue-in-cheek, obviously, but the real point of this blog is point out that we do so often sabbotage our own happiness. It could be out of fear or, perhaps, it's just that we've become accustomed to not recognizing that we can control our own success and destiny. Either way, I hope I've been able to make you smile and, maybe, pointed out a few changeable behaviors that can make you much happier in 2017 and beyond.
See you all back here tomorrow!