It used to be that you criticized people at work for being “holier than thou.” Now, the most stinging criticism you can make about a co-worker is that they’re “happier than thou.” This raises an interesting question — if so many people are so darn happy, how come you’re still a miserable wretch?
I’m happy to tell you, I may have the answer. The reason you’re not happy is because you haven’t been following the latest scientific studies on how to achieve a state of ecstatic bliss 24/7. Fortunately for you, Jeremy Dean, a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog, has been keeping his nose buried deep into scientific journals and has recently published “10 Easy Activities Science Has Proven Will Make You Happier Today.”
Now, I know you have your doubts about science. And I agree — some of the so-called scientific facts they come up with today are obviously ridiculous. Like this nonsense about the Earth being round, for example. Or that the universe is made up of teeny-weeny little bits of matter called atoms. (I’ve never seen one. Have you?) But let’s be positive here. According to the law of averages — if you believe that piece of twaddle — scientists have to be right about something sometime, so let’s see what Mr. Dean says scientists say will make us happy.
“Mentally subtract something good from your life,” is suggestion No. 1. “Thinking about what might not have been can be tremendously powerful if used in the right way.”
I agree. Close your eyes. Imagine that you had never gotten your job and never had a boss to explain to you in detail all your shortcomings. Then mentally subtract your endless commute, your annoying co-workers, and your puny paycheck. After all these subtractions, you’ll be totally happy, at least, until you open your eyes and find you’re still employed, still have the same boss, the same commute, the same co-workers and the same paycheck.
Then you’ll be back to being miserable, but at least you can remember that wonderful moment when you were unemployed, starving and totally happy.
“Spend money on someone else” is another scientific happiness-maker. If you want to test out this so-called fact, without disrupting your reputation as a tightwad, feel free to send me a money order, made out to cash. I won’t tell anyone about the money, including the IRS, and even though you’ll definitely regret it, at least one of us will be happy — me.
You don’t need scientists to tell you to “Get some exercise,” but they’ll tell you anyway. “If you’re in the office,” they say, “make sure you get out for a walk at lunch-time instead of eating sandwiches in front of your computer.” I’m not sure this will work, unless you first exercise yourself to the office fridge and load up on sandwiches from your co-workers’ lunch boxes. Eating your tuna sandwich is pure pleasure, but nothing will make you happier than eating someone else’s tuna sandwich, even if you do have to take a walk to do so.
“Listen to music” is another top scientific strategy for getting happy. I think we can all agree that listening to Hootie and the Blowfish at peak volume from 9 to 5 will make everyone in your workplace happy. If your co-workers have no taste and don’t appreciate the greatness of Hootie, try playing music that everyone likes. That would, of course, be polka music. When it comes to crowd pleasers, you can’t beat Richie Yurkovich and Polkarioty, though I know you prefer Norm Dombrowski and the Happy Notes. Either way, be sure to crank up the volume, so everyone in the office can enjoy.
“Practice your signature strengths” is a happiness generator since “people are usually cheered up when they do things at which they excel.” Unfortunately, you don’t excel at anything, except being miserable. But you will start to feel happy when I tell you that in scientific research on “life-savoring strategies, positive mental time travel was found to be one of the most effective.”
The insight here is that “in the course of the day, our minds tend to wander a lot, but directing that mind-wandering in a positive way can be very beneficial.”
You want to keep your daydreams positive, so you will definitely have to time travel through someone else’s life. Don’t use me; I’m miserable, too. If you need an imaginary life to live, I recommend Norm Dombrowski. Just be sure to bring your accordion.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.