How a meaningless life could make you happier in 2022: Mindful nihilism

meaningless life

Mindful nihilism is all about seeing yourself as an insignificant cog in the universe’s big picture—and it could be the key to a more content 2022.

Do you ever lie awake at night agonizing about being utterly forgotten once you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil? Or do you even matter? Do you feel so pressured to leave behind some semblance of a legacy that it’s making you miserable of this meaningless life ? Ever feel like your burning ambition is physically draining or making you ill?

Nihilism, the belief that life is meaningless, is not something we typically associate with millennials who have grown up in the age of the side hustle, the “be the change you want to see” #inspo and sometimes toxic #girlboss culture.

It’s all about “mindful nihilism”, which is essentially a mindset that gives you the space to enjoy the simple moments in life available to you, like noticing a crisp autumn morning, rather than torturing yourself with thoughts of the dreams and goals you think you ought to be chasing.

stressed girl

How to be a Sunny Nihilist

In a relationship

Many of the stories we tell ourselves about relationships focus on the idea that true love is fated. But viewing love as preordained takes focus off the joy, luck and privilege of it. When I look at my partner, I don’t tell myself that the universe conspired to bring us together, I focus on the chaos.

It’s wild that we met at all. That we were both born within a few years of each other, ended up in the same city, in the same social circle, and happened to meet at a point in our lives when we had the emotional capacity to commit to another person. With that perspective, our ordinary, pleasant interactions don’t feel like destiny. They feel like the luckiest break of my life.


In the workplace

When evaluating jobs we tend to get lost in a haze of opaque “meaning”. Company mission statements offer purposely unclear claims that we’re “part of something” or “creating change.” But for the most part if you asked them to explain exactly what they meant, they couldn’t. They’re pressing meaning into jobs because they don’t want to address the value.

Meaning is made up. Value is real. It could be in the service a job’s doing for the wider community or simply your pay cheque.

Look at your job, ignore the meaning people are placing on it and focus on the value. Is that enough? Are you happy and satisfied with it? If yes, great! If not, don’t let any wafty conversations about meaning distract you from the fact you’re probably not actually getting what you’re owed.


In moments of high stress

When you feel overwhelmed by a situation, consider its impact in a month, a year, or (stick with me) when you’re dead and gone. In almost all cases, no one will remember it. It, like almost all things you do with your life, will have no impact on the wider world. In the larger scheme of things it’s meaningless. So, why are you worried about it?

Approached this way, nihilism makes you wonder about what you pay attention to. Is what another person thinks of you as meaningful (or meaningless) as a brush of jasmine tumbling over a neighbor’s fence? Not really. So why are you consumed by one while ignoring the other? Both are just an absurd sequence of random events, happening for no reason at all, that will exist briefly and then be gone. The only difference is one leaves you stressed, the other delivers a fleeting but pure moment of pleasure.


Enjoying the little things

Ideas of meaning and purpose exist on a huge scale, but they remove us from the value in the everyday. Instead of worrying about what it all “means” in the face of eternity ask: what if I only had today?

This wakes you up to the preciousness of pointless and forgettable moments. Next time you eat a delicious peach, stare at the face of someone you love, or laugh at a perfect joke, and consider the act as a sunny nihilist. Remind yourself that this instance exists for no reason, it is in many ways a cosmic mistake, a fluke. But one that you were lucky enough to come across. It will make a sweet, passing second feel like the greatest gift of your life. Which, of course, like all passing seconds that exist at random then dissolve forever, it is.


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