Sisyphus is a tragic figure in Greek mythology. After trying to outsmart Zeus, he was forced to push a boulder up a steep hill in the underworld as punishment. But whenever the boulder reached the top, it would roll back to the bottom, forcing Sisyphus to start all over again. Many people throughout history have accepted the story of Sisyphus as a perfect metaphor for the human condition; no matter how hard we try to be happy, our boulder will always roll back down.
But maybe there is a way to reach the top. And maybe this article can help.
The first thing to deal with is physical health. You’ll already know about this kind of thing; brush your teeth, have showers, eat a lemon once in a while to not get scurvy. But exercise is a key part of our lives that many of us neglect. Individual needs will vary, but it’s important to keep active in some way. The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. A good run will always clear your head, and the endorphins are a nice treat for your brain. It’ll also reduce blood pressure and the amount of gunk in your arteries. This gunk is called cholesterol, and can cause coronary heart disease, the biggest killer in the UK.
Let’s assume that you’ve sorted your physical health out. Great job! Now let’s look at mental health.
Our brains can often be battered and worn out, but the tell-tale signs of this can be hard to recognise. If you notice a negative change in the way you think/feel/act, it might be time to change something in your life.
If you suspect you’re struggling with a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, you should book in with your GP. But don’t resort to self-diagnosis! And remember that we’re social creatures, so have a chat with someone you trust instead of letting things weigh down on you.
If for some reason you can’t talk with people you know about your issues, you can always call one of the anonymous and free services listed at the bottom of the article.
Well, it looks like you’re in great mental and physical health. Well done! Having these in order makes the rest of your life much easier, but that doesn’t mean that everything becomes uncomplicated from here on out.
Sorting out goals is a MUST
In the short term, you’re looking at events and milestones to work towards. A trip with friends on the weekend. A holiday coming up soon. A presentation at work that you’re actually really excited about giving. I add that last one in because the society we’re born into encourages placing the weekend and our holidays on pedestals. This encourages us to spend more when it comes to making our precious free time more enjoyable.
It’s important to understand that, whilst holidays are fun, your entire life can be enjoyable. You don’t have to wait to be happy, and there’s no shame in finding joy in your work, even if you enjoy something that other people like to complain about (my guilty pleasure is group icebreakers. Everyone rolls their eyes at the thought of them, but I honestly love getting involved in stupid games and acting like a little lad again).
In the long term, you’re looking at where you want your life to go. What do you want to do when you finish school? Do you want to switch jobs? Maybe you want to get married. It’s a huge step letting someone else into your life, so just make sure that you’re happy on your own first. Too many people think that getting married will make them happy because that’s what we see as the ‘happy ending’ in TV shows and films.
I’m not trying to scare anyone, by the way. By all means, live a happy life with someone who will support you. But just make sure that it’s the life you want.
And don’t feel like you have to have children. There are a lot more people that shouldn’t have kids who do than there are who don’t but should (take a look at Phillip Larkin’s poem ‘This Be The Verse’ to get a better idea of what I mean). You only want to bring another person into this world if you’re absolutely sure that you have what it takes. Just remember that if you do have children, you should show them this article.
If you’ve made it to this point, congratulations! You’ve built a picture-perfect life! But now comes the part where I have to debunk everything I’ve said …
Unfortunately, this guide probably won’t work the way that you think it should. There are people who have done all the above and still aren’t satisfied. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ungrateful. It’s just a part of the human psyche to always want more. In theory, nothing could ever be enough for a human being, which is what makes everything so much sadder.
Life is defined by its end, and we’re all born with a predestined last chapter to our stories. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be happy on your death bed. Lots of people aren’t. The world is scary, and terrible things could happen that are completely out of your control.
But you have to try. No-one really knows why, but you have to. Every day that you wake up is a victory, and everything after that, everything I’ve talked about above, is just icing. But I think we all know that cakes taste much better with icing.
A friend once told me something really interesting about Sisyphus that his philosophy teacher told him. There’s a way to make the tragedy of Sisyphus into something beautiful. And all you have to do is imagine. Imagine if, as he’s using all of his force to push the boulder up, and as it continually rolls to the bottom of the hill, over and over again … Sisyphus is smiling.
Samaritans helpline: 116 123
Childline: 0800 1111