Curing the winter blues
Tired of the cold? Depressed about breaking resolutions? Still drowning in holiday debt? Fortune's Stanley Bing tells you how to shake those winter blues.
(Fortune Magazine) -- Word comes from a psychologist at the University of Cardiff, which is to be found in Wales, I believe, that this time of the year is empirically proven to be the unhappiest.
Factors for misery include: the weather, debt from the holiday season, the length of time until next Christmas, the fact that many of those who were stupid enough to make New Year's resolutions have already failed them and a low level of motivation in general, exacerbated by the conviction that we should be doing something about our malaise but just, you know, aren't.
We didn't need a research study to know that we're in a trough here. Spirits are low. Bills are high. Spring is a long way away, even in Malibu, where just the other day some poor schnook slipped on ice that had collected on his driveway when his lawn-sprinkling system kicked on in spite of a 29-degree frost.
Most of us who thought we could change with the new year haven't. Those who have are unhappy about the effort required. We don't feel much like getting out of bed, and that's the truth.
Can anything be done? Must we, like groundhogs, stay indoors in our fetid burrows until the equinox? Or is there a way out of the dark and into the light? Yes, I say! Here's how.
First, let's take care of the weather. That's easy. Why did God make business trips? True, global warming has broken off icecaps in the Arctic and Greenland that will one day melt, destroying a third of the world's habitable land, but for the time being there are lots of places that require managerial attention by people in summer-weight garb. Southern California is still possible, if you have a sweater. Miami, before it sinks into the ocean, will always be nice, particularly South Beach, for reasons that cannot be printed here. Asia has many warm spots that allow gambling.
The wretched of the earth who do not have a travel allowance have two alternatives. One is staying at home with a raging head cold. The other is the seasonal equivalent of Stockholm syndrome - you can embrace the source of your captivity and go play in the snow somewhere. Right now, that means Denver. But who knows? Soon you may be able to go skiing in Mexico City.
Now, what about that Christmas debt? There is only one solution. Before you sit down and pay all those bills, go out and buy yourself something extravagant. Me, I just purchased a Leica. And guess what? I am not one bit more worried about money than I was before. I'm equally freaked, but now I have a new camera! So whatever floats your boat, go for it - unless it's a boat, I think. Those are notoriously hard to pay off. Just ask Dennis Kozlowski.
An acquisition also helps to offset the effect of the next metric: the long, long time between now and the next jolly holiday season. I have found that it is possible, with a good credit card and a strict policy of paying it off every month as much as possible, to have Christmas all year round.
In 2006, during similar bouts of self-bummage, Santa Claus brought me a laptop, an Epson printer, some suits, slacks and shirts, and iPods in varying shapes and sizes. That's the short list and doesn't include the artisanal cheeses and feisty bordeaux I pick up on a daily basis to alleviate my impression that the universe is more cold and hostile than I would like.
About those New Year's resolutions. They're bogus, inherently. Most of us made them when we'd had a few glasses of champagne, right? And if you, like so many, are back to eating double-stuffed potatoes and worrying about your weight, take it from me. You're not as fat as you appear to be. Mirrors add 15 or 20 pounds - did you know that? And if you go to any International House of Pancakes, you're sure to see somebody who makes you look like Nicole Richie. Relax!
Now it's time to deal with your low level of motivation. It's certainly a problem, which I will address right now by doing what you should do - cut myself some slack and forget it.
You're now on the way to removing the final element of the bad stew we're in: the guilt that we are doing nothing to change the way we feel. I don't know how you can manage this aspect of the situation, honestly, but since I'm an executive, I can wash it away by doing what we do best: yelling at somebody and shifting my negativity downhill onto the first available person who works for me. Boy, that feels good!
And if you're not an executive?
Well, I guess you'll just have to stay out of our way, won't you?
Stanley Bing's latest book, "100 Bullshit Jobs & And How to Get Them" (Collins), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the February 19, 2007 issue