Seven ways to be miserable, and how to avoid them

Originally published at:


I’ll give you the first six, but I’m not so sure on this one.

But, I make unhappiness a career, so I may not have the best opinion.


“Use your screen to stoke your negative emotions - feed your anxiety and anger about things over which you have no control.”

Someone on the Making Light discussion board came up with a great name for angst and fear ridden threads warning of impending autocracy, the inevitable crackdown on everything we hold dear, and et cetera:

Anxiety Porn.

Some folks are the mental equivalent of Doomsday Preppers. There is something to be said for putting together a Go-Bag and having a week or two of food put away for when the big quake comes, but spending the majority of your time and fortune and thoughts preparing for the worst is a sure way to be miserable.


Finally I’ve found something that I’m really good at!


Those may not make me a miser, but they could certainly make me ineffective.

Also, read articles about how to be and not to be happy. Those will make you miserable for sure.


… how to avoid them:

  1. Impeach Trump
  2. Impeach Trump
  3. Impeach Trump
  4. Impeach Trump
  5. Impeach Trump
  6. Impeach Trump
  7. Impeach Trump

You’re absolutely right!

  1. Joining a march or other protest to impeach Trump gets you outside and exercising.
  2. All that marching and waving signs bearing anti-Trump messages helps promote sound, restful sleep.
  3. Protesting gets you away from the screen and talking/working with other people who are also working toward impeaching Trump.
  4. By taking actions against Trump, you help feed Trump’s anxiety and anger, which makes him tweet uncontrollably and make other ill-advised moves. Which in turn helps impeach Trump.
  5. Instead of setting v.a.p.i.d. goals like Make America Great Again, sett s.m.a.r.t goals such as protesting this Saturday, June 3rd with the March for Truth.
  6. Enjoying your right to pursue happiness, by celebrateing every little baby step toward the goal of impeaching Trump, whether it is calling your representative or sending a postcard.
  7. And of course, impeaching Trump will be a major milestone toward protecting and preserving democracy, our Constitution, and our country, which will afford more people the right to pursue happiness.


(I feel like a two year old.)


I hate these lists. I get that they help some people, but let me go through this one.

  1. If I’m staying inside all the time, it’s probably because I’m miserable. I grant that I’m going to continue to be miserable if I stay inside. It’s a vicious cycle. Having someone tell me to go out more does not break that cycle. I just feel slightly guiltier while I continue to stay inside. The other reason I might be staying inside is because I’m poor, and going out to do things usually costs money. If the weather is fair, walking/running/jogging are possible free things, admittedly.

  2. This is the absolute worst. My sleep is fucked because, while I try to go to bed and get up at the same time, I’m often too anxious to fall asleep. Misery makes sleep difficult. One of the things I wind up anxious about is the fact that I’m not going to get enough sleep. Emphasizing the need to sleep more is the opposite of helpful.

  3. These days this might as well be the same as number 1. But too much screen time is bad. Okay, fine. What is this though: “Let the screen keep you awake” If a screen is keeping me awake, it’s my Kindle. Because I’m reading a book. I tend to read on my Kindle a lot because I can get books for it cheaper, and I can get a lot of library books direct through the Kindle. Near as I know, no one has ever advised not reading a book at night, so let’s not pretend that it’s somehow bad if it’s on a screen (Most of my lights are compact florescents that are supposed to simulate daylight. They were advertised as being better that way. Now of course, we say screens keep you up at night for the exact same reason, so I’m kinda fucked either way until I get new ones in that regard). I also do look at a screen first thing every morning, because the first thing I do is check the weather so I can be informed as to what I should wear that day. I feel this is a rational policy and plan to continue.

  4. Yeah, okay. This one is all right.

  5. I partly hate this because I hate feel-good acronyms. Specific goals is good. Vague goals are listed here as both “vapid” in general, and, because vapid has a p in it, “pie-in-the-sky”. Do you really have to insult me to make these acronyms? And is v.a.p.i.d. really better than saying “Don’t set vague goals. Set specific goals in specific time frames and have a plan for how to achieve them.” I’ve already forgotten what v.a.p.i.d. stands for. … What the hell is an irrelevant goal anyway? Irrelevant to what?

  6. Eh, okay I guess. I’m not sure anyone actually thinks that “bliss” is eternal. Honestly when I’m miserable, I’m not even perusing happiness. I’m perusing not being miserable.

  7. Okay, this one I like. Partly because it should be clear that I’m rather crotchety, and I hate when people say to follow your instincts and/or heart. Especially as I know my instincts are terrible.

Ultimately, however, the real reason I hate these lists is because if you’re miserable, they make it your fault. It allows people to ignore circumstance, or even that some people are happier than others just because it’s who they are. What makes these lists work is they give an illusion of control. We all want to feel that our happiness, wealth, and health are in our control. While there are things some of us can do to be happier, healthier and wealthier, for the most part, it’s going to be a minor factor that slightly modulates factors beyond our reach. I can cut back, and maybe have a few hundred extra dollars at the end of the month, but I can’t, through the magic of frugality, suddenly jump into the upper class. I can exercise more, but if I have a genetic condition, I can’t fix that. I can make efforts to be happier, but most people have a fairly set happiness level. When we pretend we can control these things, we feel better, but we also start blaming because who have health issues, or are poor, instead of helping them. I think the same thing applies when it comes to happiness.


I absolutely agree with this one. Think of it like this: you’re miserable, you want to stress eat. You devour a bag of chips, and man, that salt and fat are AWESOME. Half an hour later, you need Tums, you’re pissed at yourself for eating all that crap, and you’re still miserable about the first thing. Or say you procrastinate. You have something you need to do, but instead, you binge watch Netflix. At the end of it you feel like a lump for having sat on your duff for so long, and you still have to do the thing you procrastinated on, and now there’s less time to do it.

I am probably not drawing those examples from my own life.


I really hate to admit when facile, reductive advice like this is actually helpful. I’m a grown-ass man who generally likes to think he’s thoughtful and well informed (I know I know, but still). And yet sometimes a dumb life advice video hits me between the eyes, turns on a light bulb, and helps me feel better. So thanks for sharing this. I’ll save my snark for another post.


I was always sure there were more than 7…


This may be of marginal help to normals, but for anyone suffering from clinical depression, this is 100% horseshit. It’s about as useful as the old "Just snap out of it’ line.


Feck off!

There are forty, but you’re only cleared for seven. Fnord.

Also, I learned the most amazing cure for insomnia. Apparently, most of the time people think they can’t sleep, they’re actually already asleep. Researchers observed people who complained of insomnia, and when they reported laying awake four hours at night, they were actually awake five minutes, and then dreaming they couldn’t sleep. So the solution is to be quiet in the dark and count sheep or something. Many times, I’ve looked at the clock and grumbled I can’t sleep, and then glanced back at the clock to find three hours had gone… somewhere.


This, this, a million times THIS. I don’t know how many times I have been given tips like “you just need to focus more to be more productive” from someone who doesn’t get that ADHD is a real thing that adults can suffer from, and that paying attention is physically draining, which makes it harder to focus, makes me feel guilty for not being able to do a simple thing… And then I am sure as hell not going out to have a good hard workout when I can barely drag my feet across the floor because I am exhausted from “doing nothing but sitting all day and you would feel better if you got exercise”.

What gets me most about Pop-psych shit like this is how many people think it really is that simple, for everyone, if we would just try. Ask the guy who wrote this:

how well a seven point list would have worked for him. Especially one that said he needed more exercise. Sometimes, some of us are miserable because we’re fucked up, but things like this make it harder to accept we need help, because our brains fucking lie to us and say “see, it’s easy. But you just can’t be bothered.”

If you’re actually miserable, there’s probably something more wrong than can be fixed by a few “life hacks”. Until you identify and deal with the root cause, you’re just as likely to make things worse.


Yeah, I remember the time when I was grouchy about having counted 2000 sheep and, when I looked at the clock, 30 minutes had passed! Where did all the time go?!

Reading the list… ok, ok… ok… ok… WHAT?


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Well, yes and no. I mean, if you have clinical depression, you can’t snap out of it any more than you could will your broken leg better. Therapy and medication are needed, and that’s just fine!

But, that said, even if you have clinical depression, you should still avoid these as far as you can, because they’re bad for you in any case. Following this list as far as you can won’t cure your depression, but it will keep you from getting even more miserable.