You don’t just wake up miserable one day and stay that way. To the contrary, producing a nice, consistent level of misery takes a lot of work. Do you ever hear anyone say, “Wow, that guy does whatever it takes to be miserable!” Of course not. Everyone is too busy patting the happy people on the back. “Wow, I wish I could be as happy as she is!” “They’re just such a happy couple!” “Wow, what a happy child!” How about a little appreciation for all the work people put into being utterly miserable? After all, as you’re about to see, depression takes effort!
1) Don’t pursue your ideal self.
Abraham Maslow once said, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” So, take his advice to heart. Make comfort your highest priority. Surf the web as much as possible at work and do the same things, day after day, year after year without making any effort to improve. Veg out in front of the TV every night and channel surf. Don’t read, don’t take classes, do the same old, same old. Get yourself into a nice deep rut and then, as an extra added bonus, blame your spouse or kids for “holding you back” and keeping you from achieving the dreams you haven’t made any effort to pursue for years. That’s just the sort of stagnant life that will help keep you down in the dumps.
2) Isolate yourself.
People are flighty, they go away, they let you down. Sure, they also lift you up, make you feel connected, and give you someone to share the ups and downs with, but forget about all of that and focus on the bad side of other human beings. Have a nice time with someone and then make sure you’re unavailable for two months so they don’t get any funny ideas. If they’re insistent about trying to be a bigger part of your life, just give them the cold shoulder until they give up. Also, make sure not to reach out and bring anyone new into your life. If you do make that effort, give up the first time everything doesn’t go perfectly. That’s one of the most frightening definitions of hell I’ve ever heard — cut off, alone forever without the hope of ever experiencing love or human warmth again. On the one hand, that’s not as scary as being tortured forever, but on the other hand, you can experience it right here on earth and many people willingly choose to do so.
3) Make other people responsible for your happiness.
Do you know who cares as much as you do about your happiness? Other than God, nobody — and even He seems inclined to let people live with the consequences of their poor choices. You might think, “Hey, what about my spouse, my parents, my grandparents and my friends? They love me and want me to be happy!” Sure, but they also have their own lives to live which takes up the majority of their time. It’s even worse if you start relying on the government to take care of you. Ask the people in New Orleans after Katrina or the people in Jersey after Sandy how well FEMA looked after them. They didn’t do such a great job, right? That’s how it always turns out. So, put your own happiness last and just ASSUME that your parents, your lover, your spouse, your government — someone, somewhere, somehow will show up and put making you happy right at the top of his list. That will enable you to have a long, sad, unsatisfying wait topped off by a big helping of deep disappointment that no one ever puts you first.
4) Spend a lot of time focused on things you can’t control.
Worrying will wear you down under the best of circumstances, but if you really want to ramp your frustration level up to 11, spend your time worrying about things you can’t control. What kind of mood will someone be in tomorrow? What if your child gets sick? What if your boyfriend doesn’t like what you cook him for dinner next week? Getting upset about these sort of issues allows you to combine a sense of helplessness along with a completely useless, anxiety-producing activity. So, it’s the worst of all worlds.
5) Think short term all the time.
Everybody thinks short term sometimes, but the true experts at making themselves miserable have turned it into an art form. They become captives of their emotions and live for short-term gratification. Of course, that ignores the fact that for most people, life is a long piece of business and those short-term choices may still be reverberating decades hence. So drive drunk, have sex without a condom, walk out of a good relationship the first time you get frustrated, try that drug because there’s no way you’ll ever get addicted, go along with your friends when they’re doing stupid things because you don’t want to tell them “no.” Then there are the short-term decisions that you can repeat habitually. Blow half your paycheck each weekend, don’t put any money back at all, and then struggle to pay your bills. Yell at your kids every time they upset you. Nag your spouse incessantly for annoying you until he can’t stand to be around you. If you really want to be forlorn over the long term, living in the short term as much as possible will really help with that.
6) Become attached.
Buddhists believe that the principle cause of suffering is attachment. So, learn to love everything you own like a hoarder. Cling to your girlfriend like she’ll always be around. Say things like, “I can’t imagine what life would be like without my little doggie,” even though your lifespan is nine times as long as his will probably turn out to be. When something great happens, just take it for granted because after all, you can count on it being there forever! Instead of enjoying each moment as it comes, fill your life with material goods, activities, and people that you just can’t do without and then just wait. Then life, being what it is, will step in and take what you love away from you, which will allow you to brood over it incessantly. Some people can do this for DECADES which is, as you can imagine, really depressing.
7) Focus on the bad, not the good.
Find me the happiest human beings you know and get them to spend an hour thinking about the people in their lives that they care about who are no longer around, the things they want out of life that they don’t have, their biggest failures, their biggest disappointments, how they’ve let people down, what they lack and why they should be depressed and by the time they’re done, they’ll be completely despondent. This is because much of life is arbitrary. If you get fired, is it because you’re a loser who’s probably not going to be able to get a job anywhere else before you go broke and get thrown out of your apartment, or was being fired a blessing because you get to take a couple of weeks off before you’ll probably find a job that pays better with more opportunities for a promotion? If you have a break-up, is that someone you care about leaving your life forever or an opportunity to find your real soulmate? The key to living a life of sorrow is to settle on a negative interpretation and then to ruminate on it as much as possible, like a cow chewing cud until its jaw gets tired. Even if all else fails, this will help keep you mired in a nice, consistent funk over the long haul.