How To Be Unhappy

Feeling happy? well done you. But if your looking for a break, looking for a way to be a little unhappier then please read on…Or, if you’re commonly found pitching your tent in the unhappy camp – maybe this article can help break you out.

Human nature seems to put us on a constant charge toward that which makes us un-happy. The marketing machines out sell us products and services which we perceive will make us happier…right? 

The whole cycle of consumerism means we need to work harder, work longer all the while spending less time doing the things we like with the people we love; all in pursuit of that little bit more. The newer car, the glossy kitchen, the extension on the house; all of which costs our time to earn the money.  Or in most cases, time to work to pay off the loan.

How to be unhappy
A bustling shopping centre

‘If you want to be unhappy (or a little unhappier) just spend your life chasing that little bit more’.

Whats the Recipe for Unhappiness?

So I suppose, in a nutshell, the recipe for unhappiness is this: ‘If you want to be unhappy (or a little unhappier) just spend your life chasing that little bit more’.

One of my lasting memories of school was when my teacher rolled into an anecdote and spoke of the richest man in the world who, when asked what would make him happy replied: ‘just a little bit more’. 

Indeed chasing that little bit more is clearly a core part of our programming, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the intrinsic need for more has spurned us on to pioneer in all manner of human goals and through this we have achieved virtually unquantifiable attainment. 

The Ape Inside

We as a species are driven to protect, to survive, and as modern day mammals commuting to work each day, those drives are often misplaced.  We now seek to line our nests with extra layers of insulation, of protection, of ‘things’ to make us more secure within the fruits of our endeavours – in the eyes of our modern ape peers.

Human Nature

Whichever way you spin the view, we are intrinsically greedy for safety, power and/or stuff.  A kind of skewed version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; looking more like a hamster wheel than a pyramid.

So What Can We Do?

So what can we do about it if we are greedy by nature? 

As this drive for more is part of our nature, are we doomed to strive for what we don’t have? To spend less and less time doing what we value most. 

Not at all.  Does anyone in their winter years really advise on working longer and harder? No. 

Do they advise on putting in longer hours trying to gain recognition or a promotion? Nope. 

They will simply advise to make the most of the time you have with the people that matter and doing the things that make you happy.

The Answer Is Simplicity

I was recently in Madrid, traveling is a huge passion of mine, and took the time to visit the Prado Museum where I came across a 417 year old still life, painted by an inspirational artist called Cotan. 

This is only one of 6 Cotan paintings still in existence and the ethos of the artists work with this piece was simplicity. To revel in the basic things in life over and above rich worldly goods; this is perfectly outlined in the painting above.

How to be Unhappy
Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit – 1602, Museo del Prado Madrid

Shortly after completing his works Cotan became a recluse and chose the life of a monk. I am not saying for one second that this is the path to happiness for everyone; but the principle is a powerful one majestically summed up in his work. Chasing the simple things in life is a far more noble and achievable quest than the alternative. The hamster wheel approach of pursuing the riches on the horizon – ‘anyone who tells you differently is selling something’ – to quote a line from The Princess Bride (a childhood favourite of mine).

What Am I Doing About It?

I am focussing my energy on spending time with my young family.  To work around them, to spend my time working on projects about things I love and things that inspire me.  Thats also the driver behind this food blog, as I absolutely love food and what it stands for; the endless potential for it to act as a means for us to share time together.

In conclusion

What should we do? As discussed above the simplest explanation is often the most effective and in my humble opinion, the recipes for greater unhappiness and happiness are:

Unhappiness =

To be a little but more unhappy – simply spend the rest of your life chasing that little bit more and keeping up with the Jones’s.

Happiness =

To be that little bit happier – spend the rest of your life chasing ways to make the most of what you have. Focus on the needs and not the wants and you wont go far wrong.

The latter point is probably more of a journey rather than a destination for many of us in the modern world. But it is surely a path to greater happiness, to greater simplicity. 

Should we only live once then it has to be a path worth taking!

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