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How to be miserable in lockdown

Lockdown 2, while less alien than the first, is still a wonderful opportunity to descend into misery and despair. It’s easier than you might think, so easy that you might be doing it already.

If you’re serious about getting miserable, the first thing to consider is your sleep schedule. You should endeavour to wake up and go to bed at wildly varying times each day, sometimes late, sometimes early, sometimes not at all. This will keep your brain nice and confused and your circadian rhythm dysfunctional. This is the best way to avoid feeling anything close to refreshed when you wake up. Once you are awake, you should reach for your phone without delay. Personally, I like to check Twitter for an early morning cocktail of rage, anxiety and disappointment.

Speaking of Twitter, you should check social media as often as you can. This will keep you both perennially anxious and wholly unable to concentrate. Fortunately for us, social media platforms are designed for the explicit purpose of getting and keeping our attention. Although, many phones now come with features to limit the time you spend on a given app, so be sure to avoid that.

Once you’re up and anxious, it’s time for breakfast. But first, don’t under any circumstances make your bed. When fetching breakfast, you should take the utmost care to avoid any housemates or relatives, as even mundane conversation is likely to lift your mood or otherwise help you cling to sanity. Eat breakfast, and in fact all meals, in your room.

You should do everything, eating, sleeping, working and relaxing, in the same place. This way your subconscious won’t ever be quite sure what you’re supposed to be doing, making concentration and productivity a pipedream. After a few hours spent in the anxiety riddled abyss somewhere between working and relaxing, it’ll be time for lunch.

You may at this point find yourself tempted to go outside, but you shouldn’t let a sunny day, or a friend tempt you out. Exercise and social interaction are certain to stimulate the release of reward chemicals in your brain, bringing contentment. No one wants that.

Instead I’d recommend taking this time to get embroiled in some pressing political or social issue. Although, be careful to avoid engaging with it in any meaningful way. Remember, what you’re looking for here isn’t change, but something beyond your control to get angry and anxious about.

After lunch and with very little achieved you might find yourself beset by a powerful sense of imminent crisis and a need to work. Don’t let yourself break your work into small and manageable tasks. Instead let it stay as one great monolithic block in your mind, discouraging you from even starting.

If you do feel an overwhelming urge to work, ensure failure by setting your goals impossibly high or making them so vague that you can never be sure if you’ve achieved them. Think “I will read this entire book right now” rather than “I will read this chapter today,” or “I will get better at X today,” rather than “I will practice X for 30 minutes.” This’ll mire any progress in a sense of failure when you inevitably don’t achieve everything all at once.

Eventually it’ll be bedtime. Here, you should spend at least an hour browsing social media. If you’re doing it right, you should find yourself never actually enjoying the experience but nevertheless unwilling to stop. Importantly, the brightness of your phone screen will stimulate the release of chemicals that tell your brain it’s still daytime. When you do eventually fall asleep, you’ll be prepared for another miserable day.

Helpfully, the sadder you become the easier it will be to stay that way. But beware, this works both ways. Even a few small but consistent changes from this formula can leave you a happier and more productive person, and we can’t have that.

24/11/2020

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Ted Tuthill-Jones


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