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How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,951 ratings  ·  250 reviews
In How to Be Miserable, psychologist Randy Paterson outlines 40 specific behaviors and habits, which—if followed—are sure to lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. On the other hand, if you do the opposite, you may yet join the ranks of happy people everywhere!

There are stacks upon stacks of self-help books that will promise you love, happiness, and a fabulous life. But how ca
Paperback, 248 pages
Published May 1st 2016 by New Harbinger Publications
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Randy Paterson Want to see a short summary of the book on YouTube? CGP Grey has recently released a video here: (or just sea…moreWant to see a short summary of the book on YouTube? CGP Grey has recently released a video here: (or just search cgp grey misery; you'll find it). Grey is a little more blunt than I might be, but it'll give you an idea and his video is undeniably popular (2.5 million views in 2 months).(less)
Randy Paterson Hi there - Sorry for the delay; I've been off GoodReads for a bit developing a new book and some web courses. I'm not familiar with The Antidote, and …moreHi there - Sorry for the delay; I've been off GoodReads for a bit developing a new book and some web courses. I'm not familiar with The Antidote, and just looked it up on Amazon. From what I gather, it emphasizes the idea that we try to make ourselves feel better by avoiding things, and that actual happiness is more likely if we approach and tolerate the things we are avoiding (forgive me OB if I am misrepresenting!). This is a central idea in psychology and psychotherapy, as well as Buddhism, and some of the content in How to be Miserable does echo the concept (especially Lessons 16, 19, 32, and 36, if you have my book). A central point that I make in my intro is that much of our behaviour is guided by the quest for short-term contentment, whereas longer-term and stronger contentment typically comes from doing the opposite. So the books may be a bit similar, but complementary. If you read both, it might be interesting to hear the two perspectives - especially given that Burkeman didn't write based on my work, and I was not familiar with his. Two independent views.(less)

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Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, 2017
I got this book after watching CGP Grey's 7 Ways to Maximize Misery. I recommend both the video and the book - the video is based on seven of the 40 strategies given in the book.

This book is excellent. It puts things into perspective and doesn't try to give you false motivation (that in my experience just piles onto the downward spiral of "oh another thing I suck at" when you can't just do the one easy thing that will help you feel/do/be better...). It approaches happiness through showing what w
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, self-help
This book is the most impactful "self-help" book I have ever read and after reading it I almost feel no need to touch another self-help book again. This book does something that no other self-help book I've read before has done. It empowered me to like myself just the way I am, not who I should be or want to be by reading this self-help book. the whole book is set up really well. It starts with the top things that if you do them (or don't do them) will make you the most miserable. It goes over f ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Clever. Before you try to feel better, let's look closely at the strategies you currently use to improve your happiness. Ah, interesting. Yep, you seem to be quite the expert on misery. You know what they say...If you want to get what you've always got, then do what you've always done.... ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: self-help, dnf
Forty chapters of typical self-help content masquerading as ways you are already making yourself miserable. So the trick is to try to do the opposite of everything that the book recommends to you.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Like every other nonfiction book, this one has about 60 pages of content, and the rest is padding.

I gave it two stars for the introduction, where the author went to his patients suffering from major depression and said to them, "If I offered you ten million dollars in exchange, what would you do to make your condition worse?" It's an interesting thought experiment.

The actual chapters, though, are all inverted versions of the same old advice we're all familiar with. To be miserable, don't exerc
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it

Tongue-in-check reverse psychology lists all the usual advice for life improvement in reverse, describing the opposite of advice in order to use humor to help with embracing the idea of changing unhealthy habits.
Teo 2050

This book was a quick listen featuring most of the ways people could (and do) worsen their situation/mindset. Some of them were shown in CGP Grey’s 7-minute YouTube video 7 Ways to Maximize Misery :(. This is a good checklist to see where you are already acting wisely and what habits you’d best focus on reversing.


Paterson RJ (2016) (05:00) How to Be Miserable - 40 Strategies You Already Use

Introduction: The Dreams of Another Age
• The Ten-Million-Dollar Question
• Colu
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm one of the people who are mostly miserable. In fact, when I'm happy, I already worry about later, when this good time ends. It might be part of my culture, we are not known for the happy go lucky atitude. ( I doubt you woukd be either with the horrible long dark winters we have). I suspect that I was just born this way. My mom is quite an optimist, so is my dad. Brother is a always the most outgoing and effusive. I just feel too much, worry too much, think too much. I hate smug ppl, the kind ...more
Patrick Barboun
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really like the premise of this book. Figuring out how to be happy is hard, but identifying things that make us miserable is easy. There were many strategies in this book that seemed to me to be obvious routes to misery, and made me wonder how anyone might employ them, however, these moments of confusion were always quickly followed by things that I definitely do frequently. The constant referral to research that supports these strategies was interesting as well.
Greta Fedaraviciute
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite
This is one of the best self-help books I’ve came across, partly because it doesn’t feel like the author is preaching. In fact, you need to do the opposite of what he’s saying, which works like a charm for my stubborn mind. After reading it as an e-book, I’ll be ordering a hard copy just so I can lend it.
the hundred-eyed human
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book helped me when I would wake up in the middle of the night, in cold sweat, with absolute disconnect between the world and my mind. As I threw up day after day in sheer anxiety and fear of all the things happening in my life. It helped me as I proceeded to cope with numbing and distraction and procrastinating which would keep me like a hamster running over a wheel of guilt and even more guilt.

Did this book eliminate my bad days? No. But it sure how told me where I was going wrong and bri
Milos Radosavljevic
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are a lot of books that tell us how to be happy and what we should do to be happy but this book takes a different approach, it show us all the things that make us miserable and how we can avoid them. It tell us to look for all the various ways we make our self sad, to accept that we are doing them and have to fix them. We do not have to fix everything at once, we just need to start with small steps and continue in the right direction.
Емил Лозев
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book to find your personal flaws and start working on them!
Yatharth Agarwal
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yatharth by: CGP Grey
Hey you, perusing this Goodreads. “Imagine that you could earn $10 million for just half an hour’s work—let’s say tomorrow morning between 11:00 and 11:30. All you would have to do is make yourself feel worse than you do now. Worse, in fact, than you’ve felt in the past week. How would you do it?”

Thought about it? Now, when you wake up in the morning and already feel miserable, what do you feel like doing?

Many of the same things. “What feels right when you're miserable is what feeds the misery,
Lisa Baggerman
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cheeky and flip, but full of wisdom. It keeps coming back to me.
Nina Kennett
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
2 stars for the sarcasm, other than that, its pretty meh.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Ahab by: CGP Grey
According to the author, "How To Be Miserable" (hereby shortened to HTBM) is not really a book aimed at truly depressed people. Instead, it's aimed far more at the general populace. After reading it, I agree that pretty much everybody should read this book. It should be translated in as many languages as possible and be read by as many people as possible, young and old. But while I read it, the following thought never escaped my mind:

"This book is made for people who are engulfed in flame."

And b
anna b
Aug 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I picked this up as a "fun" read and was greatly confused from the beginning. Of course, I read self-help and those "positivity" books to give myself some hope and fresh perspectives to face the world. Starting on this book thrown me off because it went against I want for myself (I'm an idiot). It's split into 4 parts - activities, thoughts, inter and intra personal relationships, and each has 10 chapters on how to exacerbate your state of misery. The chapters usually start with a brief on findi ...more
Feb 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
If you're going to pick up a self-help book, let this be one of them! It was not only entertaining and enlightening, but it also really helps put things into perspective. I think to an extent we all struggle with the idea that "we are not doing enough" or that "we could be doing more", and rather than criticize that behaviour, this book provides the reader with insight into what is actually happening when we either choose or choose not to do something or make a decision. It does not give any sen ...more
J. Nick Fisk
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a great book. My only problems with it come from a personal dislike of the whole self-help genre of book (which Paterson does attempt to subvert in comic and sarcastic ways.) At the end of the day, though, I still couldn't get over the slightly holier-than-though tone of this self-determent book.

Setting all that aside, though, it really is a helpful book--especially for using the general strategy of thinking about how one might achieve the opposite of their true goal. Overall, I can on
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching
Depending on your exposure to self-help books and psychology in general this book may or may not be a revelation to you. But even if it should be full of fairly well known knowledge the very act of approaching the subject from a different direction than typical can help you understand and see your own fallacy all the more. I enjoyed his overall wit and general practicality. No one excels in all these areas at once, and as you will soon find out, you shouldn't try to. ...more
Nice and short book for the road. No huge revelations there but a few tips on behaviors that are guaranteed to lead to misery.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Definitely need to revisit this one later--there's a lot here. Paterson is a clever, fluent writer who can succinctly describe many major tenets of psychological health (or ill health, as the case may be) and how to cultivate them (or not). Everyone could find a chapter or two, at least, that hits close to home. I especially appreciated the metaphor of "the theater of the mind" with its multiple screens--and a mirror. The "how to be miserable" angle slips from time to time, but since Paterson is ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I felt personally attacked while reading this.
Milan Žila
If someone offered you 10 million dollars to be more miserable tomorrow than you are now, what would you do tonight? Overeat junk food to make yourself sick? Get little sleep to feel tired and unwell?
It may not sound like a useful exercise at first but make a list of things that you would do and you may be surprised to find something that you do already, regardless of the payout.

Continuing in this spirit, the book gives you advice on how to maximize your misery and ironically points out what you
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun, different, and information-packed spin on happiness and wellbeing :)
Michael Burns

For a long time I’ve been practicing being depressed and miserable as a hobby. A side thing. I never thought I could professionally despair. But this book showed me all the things I’ve been doing wrong that might lead me astray and towards contentment and happiness. Thankfully I have seen all the little things I was doing wrong. With this book, you too can become professionally miserable. You won’t make any money of course, being miserable is its own reward.

As the name suggests How to be Miserab

May 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A clever idea, taken a bit too far. In the Acknowledgements, Paterson notes that the "book arises from a talk I first gave at ... [a] lecture series for the public." Perhaps a single talk or a short series would be more appropriate to maintain the humor and avoid excess.

Paterson points out that his tongue-in-cheek-advice is intended for unhappy people, not for those with clinical depression. He begins by sorting the situations of life into two categories: Column A is for circumstances that we ca
Sean Goh
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: psych
Easy to read reverse psychology. See which of these you are doing, and stop doing them. Easier said than done.

Those in the deepest valley of depression often need other strategies (besides chirpy satire) and another voice.

The modern world was created based on hominid desires, not on a dispassionate analysis of what might work best. Our early surroundings have given us drives and instincts that, today, work against our best interests.

There is an interconnectedness between mood and impulse. As
Apr 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this books via GOODREADS giveaway. Thank you very much.
Hilarious and insightful book that uses irony to get the point across about the behaviours that makes us miserable in our quest for happiness. It is a book about what a lot of us are already doing that makes us miserable. It has even some strategies I didn’t know about and will definitely try not to try…. Very tempting though, just in case. You never know.
The tone of the book and the many examples of behaviour described make the s
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Dr Randy Paterson is a psychologist and author living in Vancouver Canada. He founded and operates Changeways Clinic (, a multiple-provider psychotherapy practice focusing on cognitive behaviour therapy for stress, anxiety, and mood disorders. He is the author of four books (including How to be Miserable, Private Practice Made Simple, and The Assertiveness Workbook - the ...more

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