I am plagued by my American optimism. Even in the dark, cold Icelandic winter, my default emotional state is a stupid-happy malaise. Sometimes, I am even borderline bubbly. I have often imagined that my spirit animal may be a chocolate Labrador. Being happy feels fine most of the time, but does make me infuriating to be around for people who are fully committed to making themselves glum. In an effort to fit in with more stoic Icelanders, I have gleaned some useful tips over the years on how to stay miserable throughout the long dark winter. I hope you find them as useful as I do.
Let the weather dictate your emotions
When your alarm wakes you up each morning after not enough sleep, the first thing you should do is look outside your window. Notice that it is dark. And cold. And probably windy, icy, raining, snowing, or an epically depressing combination of these. Let the icy wind chill you to the bone and penetrate your very soul. Remind yourself that it will be like this for another six months. Maybe more. Your friends are all taking vacations to Spain or Malta or someplace with a beach and those colorful drinks with umbrellas. They will come back with tan lines. Not you. Nope, you are stuck here. Because you are broke. And this darkness represents all the fun you are ever going to have. Embrace it. Choose to wear black clothes today.
Keep it inside
On days when the weather is not cruel enough to drag your mood down, avoid going outside. Without a doubt, Iceland will give you several days this winter that are clear, crisp, and kissed with peaceful ethereal sunlight. You may feel tempted to play in the powdery snow. You may get the idea to make a snowman just for the hell of it, or to take a walk in the still forest. Or to go to the local pool for a cozy soak in the hot tub. Don’t. If you are ever going to achieve true unhappiness, you must avoid fresh air and physical excursion at all costs. So stay in, draw the shades and wait. The wind will come back. Remind yourself, it always does!
Avoid human contact
Other people are probably the biggest obstacle between you and your highest gloom-potential. People tend to seek out companionship and connection as a way to stay sane and healthy. Going to a café with friends, listening to their jokes, looking into their eyes and hearing stories from their day-to-day lives will only make you feel like you have a support network of people around you who care about you. Totally useless on your quest to feel miserable. If you must interact with others, make it your primary aim to crush their spirits, otherwise you run the risk of being infected by their joy.
Always judge a situation against your highest expectations
Meditate on your life’s ambitions. Count how many of them you have not been able to achieve. Rather than forgiving yourself for your failures and past mistakes, let yourself be defined by them. Alcohol is often helpful at this point, as it tends to reinforce that you are essentially lazy and incompetent. Just like you thought. If you tend to feel like you have done fairly well in life, I suggest logging onto social media. Notice how much better everyone else is doing than you. Beautiful people with perfect jobs and loads of friends are having a blast and kicking ass at life. It says so on Instagram. Must be true.
Make junk food your comfort food
What you put in your body is just as important to your unhappiness as how you move it (or rather, don’t). As quickly as you can, build up a dependence on sugar. If you are worried that candy and cakes will make you happy, don’t be. I promise the uplifting effects are temporary, and the ultimate shame, guilt, and self-loathing that come along with eating too much sugar will greatly outweigh any potential positive benefits. If sugar doesn’t work for you, chips, greasy pizza, or anything with the word “cheese” spelled with a “z” is typically a good bet.
Be mindful of all the small things in life that are not going the way you want them to. Focus on them, while ignoring anything positive. This is a craft that must be practiced if you are ever to achieve unhappiness. Though this is the most difficult step to master, it is the most essential part of transforming into an unhappy person. The Northern Lights are not as impressive as in the brochure. They don’t put enough sand on the icy sidewalks to keep you from slipping. This beer was insanely expensive. You have put on some weight recently, haven’t you? How is your career going? Mmhm. I thought so. Exchange any remaining feeling of gratitude for resentment. Spend your off time imaging all the things that could go wrong. When they do, take this as evidence that you are right.
Stop and smell the roses, and notice that they are all dead.