Spanish people have this pleasant tradition of taking an afternoon break for themselves. During these hours, they close their shops, go home, or engage in relaxing activities like reading, cooking, napping, and everything that comes with a laidback and calmed way of life. They call it siesta. Of course one would never see these kind of behavior in busy industrial cities, where residents are constantly rushing to get to work, grab a quick bite, hit the gym, and do one hundred things at once. Such fast paced lifestyle where multitasking and compromising yourself with social events is considered a skill, can slowly make you miserable. At least, that is what famous existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said on his book Either/Or: A Fragment of Life.
Kierkegaard saw the consequences of neglecting the self and he associated it with time. The Danish philosopher thought unhappiness resulted from a busy way of life. Nowadays, Kierkegaard’s writings on busyness resonate louder than ever with our culture. We tend to brag about our busy schedule to the point where we are slowly forgetting about the little details that make our lives happier. Of course technology has worsen these habits, and if Kierkegaard was to be alive today, he’ll probably say “I told you so.” Here are some habits that make you miserable according to Kierkegaard:
Filling ourselves with tasks
When was the last time you decided to give yourself an opportunity to enjoy a moment? To sit down, stretch your arms, and just look at the sky. The pleasure of doing nothing can be forgotten and your body can resent it. Stress, anxiety, and a tired body are the consequences of wanting to be everywhere. Kierkegaard says that no matter how many tasks we stock under our agenda, the outcome will be the same: unhappiness.
“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.”
Being absent while being present
Have you noticed how you exchange your dinner talks with friends and family for the bright screen on your smartphone? According to Kierkegaard, people with the habit of not engaging in conversations, distracted all the time, and absent while being present, have forgotten the pleasure of relaxing and feel uncomfortable when not doing “productive” activities. He says they are easily offended when called out because they are aware of their own unhappiness.
One cannot strictly call an individual unhappy who is present in hope or in memory. For what one must note here is that he is still present to himself in one of these. From which we also see that a single blow, be it ever so heavy, cannot make a person the unhappiest. For one blow can either deprive him of hope, still leaving him present in memory, or of memory, leaving him present in hope.
Showing off your busy lifestyle
Bragging about all the things you can do will not only turn into annoyance for others. The philosopher questions this behavior and asks why do people feel the necessity of feeling important? He didn’t see this as a way to make friends and other admire you. Instead, he thought it was kind of childish.
Your own tactic is to train yourself in the art of becoming enigmatic to everybody. My young friend, suppose there was no one who troubled himself to guess your riddle–what joy, then, would you have in it?
Not caring enough for yourself
With our busy agenda and attempts to always be up-to-date, we abandon the tradition of caring for ourselves, as if there were more important things to do. These priorities forge our unhappiness and the philosopher describes it as an absence in our own selves.
The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself. But one can be absent, obviously, either in the past or in the future. This adequately circumscribes the entire territory of the unhappy consciousness.
The rush that comes from a fast paced city can make us believe we can split ourselves in order to be everywhere, but instead, we lose the enjoyment of going out, trips, and family reunions because our heads are constantly trying to takes us to the next place. Kierkegaard thought, people were absent when they pushed themselves to the busy life style: “The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself.” Allowing ourselves to enjoy our time off at home or just chilling at the park seems lazy and non-productive, but we learn to appreciate the things that fill us with happiness.