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Get into an intimate relationship (e.g. from a dating site or something): Not comfortable enough with self for this to be anything but a burden for the other party.

Nope, that's just what low-self esteem feels like from the inside. Go get 'em, champ.

Buy some fun (take a train to some kind of fairground ride or try surfing or go on holiday for a weekend, something like that): Feels very selfish and it's just a temporary emotional kick, not clear this would be a significant part of improving my life.

Doing that kind of thing often is how I stay at all productive (for example, alive). Some ways are cheaper than others (hanging out with friends, for example) but anything short of buying a jacuzzi seems worth it.

Also, you probably need to spend more time outside, get more sunlight, and (ugh) get more exercise.

[-]Zed13y220

All the information you need is already out there, and I have this suspicion you have probably read a good deal of it. You probably know more about being happy than everybody else you know and yet you're not happy. You realize that if you're a smart rational agent you should just be able to figure out what you want to do and then just do it, right?

  1. figure out what makes you happy
  2. do more of those things
  3. ???
  4. happiness manifests itself

There is no step (3). So why does it feel more complex than it really is?

What is the kind of response you're really looking for when you start this topic? Do you (subconsciously) want people to just tell you to buck up and deal with it? Do you (subconsciously) want people to tell you not to worry and that it's all going to be alright? Or are you just in some kind of quarter-life crisis because you don't really see clearly where you're going with your life and the problems you have are just side-effects of that?

  • Maybe you need to be held accountable for your actions?

  • Maybe you need additional responsibility?

  • Maybe you need a vacation?

  • Maybe you need to grow as a person in another manner?

We can't answer these questions for you and you know we can't answer these questions for you. Yet you ask us anyway. It doesn't make sense.

Now, I can make a complete shot-in-the-dark guess about your situation and make the following assumptions:

  1. you're in social isolation
  2. you spend much time on intellectual issues
  3. you're not producing, you're almost exclusively consuming intellectual stuff
  4. you're not eating as well as you should
  5. you're letting lazy habits chip away at your life on the edges
  6. you tell yourself that there's nothing wrong with you and that you should just man up
  7. you hate the fact that you procrastinate and yet you keep procrastinating
  8. every time when you feel you're making progress it doesn't last and you regress every time to square one.
  9. you have trouble making lasting changes in every single aspect of your life

Psychological help doesn't work because you don't need people to explain this stuff to you, you've done your homework already and you know all this.

I'd be happy to talk to you over skype if you want, we can talk about whatever you want to talk about. For some people talking about their problems really helps, especially if they otherwise bottle it all up.

What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this. The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is - here's the clincher - boredom...

The question you should be asking isn't 'What do I want?' or 'What are my goals?' but 'What would excite me?'

Remember - boredom is the enemy, not some abstract 'failure.' (T. Ferris)

Ouch. Halfway through that list I started wincing. A lot of what chimera has said resonates with me, and plenty of your observations fit me as well!

Chimera, I can say that lots of the advice so far on this topic are things I tried and they worked like charms. I mean 'charm' quite literally. It was like magic.

I read this comment half a year ago and it was very helpful to me. I'm already in a much better spot now, thank you, 9 years later :) 

I've let myself slip into social isolation, become shut in, wasted a tremendous number of days not working towards achieving anything and let melancholy dominate my emotional states. I don't know how to fix this, I've thought about it more and more in the last few weeks and today I committed myself to posting here about it in the hope that it might be a turning point.

It's good to acknowledge this and actively seek out ways to improve your life. First, the basics: nutrition, sleep, and exercise. If you aren't taking a multivitamin, start. Also make sure you aren't deficient in protein or omega-3, and aren't eating too much sugar. Sleep 8 hours per day. Don't sleep more than 9 hours unless you're making up for a recent sleep deficit. If you live somewhere with nice weather, pick a route and try to make a habit of running it.

The next thing is to go out and make friends with some people, with the goal of spending more time socializing. Depending where you live and what modes of transportation you have available to you, you may need to expand your range - learn how to use public transit, get a bicycle, get a car, etc. Take a few hours going through meetup.com, copying everything that sounds vaguely interesting onto your calendar. Copying it onto your calendar doesn't commit you to go unless you feel like it at the time, but it should give you a notification 15 minutes before you would leave. Do the same for dances - and don't worry about not knowing how, most of them will say "beginners welcome" or something similar in their description. Don't worry about not knowing anyone there; if they didn't want you to come they wouldn't be advertising online. Keep looking for stuff to put on your calendar until you have at least one entry per day. If there's a Less Wrong meetup within your range, visit it. Finally, look for new settings; it's better to sit bored on your computer in a park or library than bored on your computer at home.

You can start thinking about more ambitious stuff later. For now, just level up in every way you can.

[-][anonymous]13y190

.

Wow, that OkCupid result is surprising. It has not been my experience. What are you doing that causes people to reach out to you in a friendly (rather than romantic) way on there? (Or are you the one reaching out?)

And I agree with regard to the intellectual standard, especially if you consider your intelligence a defining characteristic. Reading the discussion here (and not having much to contribute) has... recontextualized my own self-image.

[-][anonymous]13y110

.

Thanks so much for the detailed response.

[-]knb13y140

This really is a common trap. The Japanese call the extreme version "Hikikomori", but it seems to exist in most developed countries. You could look at it as a specific type of agoraphobia, one which mostly affects young men when entering adulthood, though of course it can last for years.

Gradually work yourself into a habit of leaving the house every day for at least a few hours, and doing something. Make it something fun, and visualize the benefits. Go to a matinee or something. Once you've regained some social skills (these have likely atrophied somewhat), get a job (one which requires you to leave the house every day). Just doing this much will likely make you much happier. I base this on the period of isolation I went through when I moved to a new city, but before I started work on my job and made friends. I started becoming withdrawn and depressed and stopped taking care of myself, which started a vicious cycle of low self-esteem and avoidance behavior. I just felt exhausted and used internet/video games to distract myself from my ever-growing problems.

The cycle broke when I finally had to pull myself together to start working. Just seeing myself cleaned up and well-dressed for once cheered me up. Being outside cheered me up. Having conversations where I didn't just (speak as little as possible, nod, avoid eye contact, etc.) and was seen as likeable made me fear social situations less. I started making friends, had more energy, and things have gone great for me since then. It is usually possible to come back from this.

I remember hitting this problem in my early 20's, and it's not to be trifled with. However, there's a lot you can do. There are a number of techniques.

  1. Exercise. A number of people have mentioned it, and it's a very powerful technique - it releases a whole lot of chemicals that make you happier and smarter for at least a couple of days after each session.
  2. Regular routine. Sleep at a regular time, and wake up at a regular time. Have a pattern to your day where you do things at regular times.
  3. Sunlight. It cheers you up right away, and has a longer term mood enhancement too. You need to be outside in it, as the UV radiation creates vitamin D, which helps.
  4. Purpose. Have a plan to do one thing, and work at it. A job seems like the right one to try to me. You don't need to figure out what you'd really like to do right now - just aim for something you're qualified for and can get along with. You can get a better job later....
  5. Diet. Eat food that resembles something that might grow naturally outside.

Did you know that facial expressions are bidirectional? If you smile, you'll feel happier. If you have a miserable expression, you'll feel more miserable. I don't suggest you go around grimacing (although it's worth trying that once, just to show yourself how significant the effect is), but find some reason to do something social which requires you to be publicly cheerful. And after a few minutes, it will work its magic.

Watch out for deep introspection - it has its uses, but when melancholy, it can easily chew through all your mental energy, and the benefits just aren't there. Just from your post I can tell you're fundamentally an interesting guy, and it doesn't need to be any more complicated than that. You won't answer your big life questions right now - in fact nobody tends to answer them at all. In fact I'd go so far as to say that a big part of getting out of melancholy is to stop thinking about yourself - think about things, activities - other people - anything except who you are and the meaning of life.

For mood improvement purposes, I wouldn't aim for big, deep relationships - it can work, but it often takes too much energy and it can easily all go wrong. Try larger numbers of lighter relationships. Perhaps you can join a team sports club or something like that.

Aim to get a job - nothing much else in life really goes places unless you've got some money to make it happen. Get your CV sorted out, and have applying for work as part of your routine.

And don't do it all at once - nobody can change more than a couple of habits at a time !

Sleep at a regular time, and wake up at a regular time. Have a pattern to your day where you do things at regular times.

This does help immensely. After I finally figured out my sleep disorder, I was able to adjust for it, and suddenly both my mood and my health improved dramatically. (Of course, for me, that was a shift from suicidally depressed to melancholy and bored but it's still a huge improvement and just remembering the relative difference has a tendency to mildly cheer me further.)

I'd go on but my problems are different enough from chimera's that they're not relevant to this thread.

Some of this stuff worked for me:

  • Reading. It combines self-improvement and it's fun ( if you like reading...) I've read almost all books that Lukeprog mentioned in his post "How to be happy" but I found them to be not very helpful, but that's probably unusual. Maybe you should try reading some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy books like "Feeling Good" by David Burns. It's weird but reading the Sequences made me much happier. I guess reading philosophy and literature was also somewhat helpful, but I don't want to make the mistake of other-optimizing. Oh, and reading autobiographies of inspiring people ( e.g. Bertrand Russell) was really great.

  • Medication. Although antidepressants like SSRIs are barely better than placebos, you could give them another try. Or, cuz it's cheap, safe and without prescription you could try St.John's worth. It seemed to work for me. Probably just placebo, who knows.

  • Diet.

  • Exercise. Weight lifting and short sprints in particular.

  • See a professional about mental health: Tried this, absolutely useless.

Please elaborate on your experiences with this. This certainly sounds like an ugh field.

Even taken at face value, one failed attempt at gaining professional help isn't particularly good evidence that the entire mental health field isn't going to be productive. As with anything that involves dealing with people, and especially with deep emotional rapport with people, there's going to be a lot of individual variation between mental health professionals and it may be necessary to shop around.

That probably isn't going to sound very encouraging to anyone in a position to need it, but it is what it is.

[-][anonymous]13y40

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What flavour of therapy was it?

[-][anonymous]13y10

I don't know.

First, I think this post was a good idea, and thanks for taking the time to write it and for putting yourself out there.

Consider reading about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy, and see whether that was the strategy which your therapist used. If not you might want to broach the topic with your parents and see whether they'll find you a therapist who will use CBT. Worth a shot, although it's [not necessarily efficacious in depression].

On the other hand CBT does not work for all people. I'd really suggest for you to have and/or "buy" some fun. Selfishness in the short run is often for the good of everyone in the long run.

In my experience, which is anecdotal and therefore isn't worth much (so take it with a grain of salt), the expected utility of having a well-paying job increases as time goes on (until retirement, of course). At some point, it becomes enormous, unless you are independently wealthy or have some other means of support.

In order to have a well-paying job, you need some skills and an education. In fact, if your skills are good enough (sadly, what is "good enough" varies greatly by industry), you can get a decent job any time you want, so you don't even need to stress out about keeping a particular one.

What the job buys you, ultimately, is freedom. You could choose to move out, buy fun, pay mental health professionals, and try out various other items on your list.

That said, I'm not you, and I have no hard data to back up anything I'd just said, so you probably shouldn't take me too seriously...

In my experience, which is anecdotal

Is there another kind?

Well... no I guess not. Good point. I just wanted to make sure that no one tried to generalize from my single example.

I advise you to stop thinking and just follow Luke's post.

wasted a tremendous number of days not working towards achieving anything

How old are you - 20? However many days you may have wasted so far, it's nothing compared to the number of days you still have a chance to waste in your life!

I suggest you enrol at the Sith Academy. Give "Sith Master Sean" a student with some real potential.

I suggest you enrol at the Sith Academy. Give "Sith Master Sean" a student with some real potential.

I don't feel competent to give much advice in this sort of thing, but I'm pretty sure that this isn't the best path.

[-][anonymous]13y10

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That is eerily accurate.

I had inside information.

Make paperclips: just kidding.

Most I've laughed today. Props.

Secondly, most of the other comments have given great advice, so I hope you follow it. Depression runs in my family, and I know how destructive it can be. So props to you for writing this and looking for help. Too many don't.

Only one other thing stood out to me:

Get a job to generate income: Difficult, can't think of a single job I'd actually enjoy at the moment."

Is this your true rejection? By getting a job you would be adding value to society, which you seem to value, and the money would give you the disposable income to do things that might make you happy. I find it hard to believe that you couldn't find anything to do with the money that would not easily offset the negative utility of the job.

One thing that occurs to me would be buying a pet. Seems like it would be good in your situation, but I don't know the specifics (allergies, parents, etc.) I have a tremendous love of animals, particularly dogs, and particularly golden retrievers. I seem to recall a study once that was done on depression where they gave the subjects pets and they showed tremendous improvement. (A cursory search shows a number of results, particularly, and surprisingly, for parrots.)

I said I only had one thing, but as I write this, more stands out, and it's kind of related to what I just said.

Buy some fun (take a train to some kind of fairground ride or try surfing or go on holiday for a weekend, something like that): Feels very selfish and it's just a temporary emotional kick, not clear this would be a significant part of improving my life.

Third alternative: Buy someone else some fun! Donate to a charity! Volunteer to serve food at a homeless shelter! I predict you'd feel a lot better afterwards, and it would give you the human interaction that, as others have pointed out, you need. Beside that, a "temporary emotional kick" is often exactly what you need to get out of a cycle of depression.

Oh whoops, I missed "Volunteer Work". Didn't notice that. Still, saying you "just don't have" the qualities seems like a rationalization. I'm sure the vast majority on this site are heavily introverted, as you likely are, and it can be difficult, I understand. But if you don't push yourself to be uncomfortable ever, you'll never get out of your shell.

So if I can sum up, don't be afraid of mild discomforts, sometimes they're good to endure for long term benefits. And get a dog! Dogs are wonderful.

(A cursory search shows a number of results, particularly, and surprisingly, for parrots.)

Parrots in general make very demanding pets, and they also live a very long time for their size - anything much larger than a lovebird is basically a lifetime commitment and in many cases you'll also need to figure out who you'll be leaving the critter to when you get cryo'd, even if you live a long life. They also have a tendency to get neurotic and self-destructive if they don't get enough social interaction, which is almost a given for parrots owned by people who work outside the home.

For someone who's able to handle all of that, I'm not surprised that they do make excellent companions - parrots are both very smart and very social - but I certainly wouldn't recommend them to someone not familiar with pet care.

(What would I recommend? A small herd of guinea pigs in a sufficiently large cage. They're also very social (unlike most cats), and smarter than they're usually given credit for (this usually isn't obvious because they're kept alone in insufficiently stimulating environments), while being relatively low-maintenance (unlike dogs) and inexpensive (unlike exotics), generally not aggressive (unlike rabbits) and with a reasonable lifespan (unlike rats/mice/hamsters).)

while being relatively low-maintenance (unlike dogs)

But dogs are just so cute!

Pick something off your list. Preferably something that prevents or corrects the problem of social isolation. Is fun. And you get paid for it. Do it. It only has to be 'good enough'. Perfect may last a lifetime, but until you KNOW what perfect looks like, pick 'good enough'.

You are responsible for yourself, and sometimes you can buy some fun. Or at least a better quality of hummus.

ETA: Because it sounds like you are suffering from limited access to satisfaction. You can work on the access. Or you can work on the attitude. And you can work on both.

If the only issue with taking up art is lack of an audience, that sounds like something to try. There are communities out there for artists (DeviantArt and some parts of tumblr come to mind off the top of my head, or any of a number of webcomic collectives) that will help you with that.

Also in general, it sounds like you're writing a lot of things off with 'I think that will fail, so I'm not going to try'. This seems counterproductive. Even if you have to try 10 or 20 things that each have a 10% chance of working for one to click, the process of trying things itself is likely to be beneficial in several ways. Think of it as information-gathering.

Adderall (good for mood and motivation) / Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The benefits might mostly come from placebo effects, but so what. Sometimes one med works even after others have failed so don't assume from past failure in this area that new meds would be ineffective, you need to experiment.

I was in the exact same position a few months ago. I feel better (though not great) now, but it's not clear to me exactly why. My introspective powers on this topic have been pathetic, but I can at least list for you what's changed since I felt the way you seem to:

1) I've started a fairly standard job and 2) moved in with my girlfriend. She's more social than I am, so chatting at the office, and then again at home with occasional guests (and her, of course) may be the answer. Or possibly, the mental shift I've made from being very uncertain about the sort of career I want and trying to stay ambitious enough to keep those options all open. Zed's mention of "you spend much time on intellectual issues" and "you're not producing, you're almost exclusively consuming intellectual stuff" hit close to home for me, there.

I'm working on coming up with my own advice for you, chimera. First, I would like to ask some questions.

What prompted this post? Have these concerns always been with you, but have recently found a voice? Alternatively, did you realize that you had these problems as a result of something you read on Less Wrong or some other recent event?

I get the impression that you posted this after realizing that you were in a funk and had no idea how to get out. How long have you felt the way that you felt when you posted this, or if you feel that way still, the way you feel now?

What about the time leading up to this funk? Did you feel that were accomplished, progressing in your life, accomplishing your goals? Do you feel that you recently lost an important part of yourself, as if a bit of your self image was dissolved?

In the last year or so, has anything changed in your physical surroundings or routine? These will be keys to discovering why you feel the way you do.

I'm a fan of moving forward, just like everyone on Less Wrong, but it's likely the proximate cause of your situation will give us a hint at it's ultimate cause, and may point us in the direction of a solution.

[-][anonymous]13y00

What prompted this post?

I tried to write something along these lines a couple times before, but deleted it.

Have these concerns always been with you, but have recently found a voice?

I'm not sure what this means.

Alternatively, did you realize that you had these problems as a result of something you read on Less Wrong or some other recent event?

No.

I get the impression that you posted this after realizing that you were in a funk and had no idea how to get out. How long have you felt the way that you felt when you posted this, or if you feel that way still, the way you feel now?

For the last 5 years.

What about the time leading up to this funk? Did you feel that were accomplished, progressing in your life, accomplishing your goals?

Not really, but I didn't feel the need to be.

Do you feel that you recently lost an important part of yourself, as if a bit of your self image was dissolved?

No.

In the last year or so, has anything changed in your physical surroundings or routine? These will be keys to discovering why you feel the way you do.

Nothing has changed.

I'm a fan of moving forward, just like everyone on Less Wrong, but it's likely the proximate cause of your situation will give us a hint at it's ultimate cause, and may point us in the direction of a solution.

Sorry my answers don't seem to really say but I suppose that it's better than not replying at all.

About relationships: If you really feel you would only be a burden to the other party (I suggest that this is not accurate, but recognise that a feeling can be its own reality), how about compensating the other party with money? Unless you live in a very small town, something of the sort should be available. I suggest this only as a first step; it is amazing how much better you can feel after getting laid. (This advice applies if you are male; if female, getting laid should involve more filtering out creeps and less searching for willing partners.) Other possibilities are nonsexual massage and lap dances; humans are not designed to be alone, and physical touch is a major component of how we interact. It does not really matter how you get to the point of intimacy; your primate brain will believe you gained status in the tribe, and feel much better about life.

Again, this is to be considered a first step, a sort of shot in the arm of serotonins and whatnot to break a vicious circle. Get laid, then consider your options; I predict with high confidence that they will look much better.