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  • feedwordpress 20:23:25 on 2022/08/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Tamar Haspel, To Boldly Grow   

    Tamar Haspel: “Time on the Steep Part of the Learning Curve Builds Confidence” 


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    Interview: Tamar Haspel

    Tamar Haspel writes the James Beard Award-winning Washington Post column "Unearthed," which looks at how our diet affects us and our planet. She’s also written for Discover, Vox, Slate, Fortune, Eater, and Edible Cape Cod. With journalist Mike Grunwald, she co-hosts the Climavores podcast, which examines food’s impact on climate and environment.

    Her book, To Boldly Grow: Finding Joy, Adventure, and Dinner in Your Own Backyard came out earlier this year.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Tamar about happiness, habits, and food.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Tamar: Doing something I’ve never done before because that first iteration – from zero to one – is where you learn more than any subsequent iteration. I can work and work – for decades! – at becoming a better writer, but the increments of improvement are small and uncertain. Undetectable, even.

    But over the last decade, I’ve built a chicken coop, grown shiitake mushrooms, caught fish, raised several kinds of livestock, and (this is a big one) learned to back up a trailer. What it taught me, besides those actual skills, of course, is that spending time on the steep part of the learning curve builds confidence and competence. It makes you ready to tackle the next thing.

    When the new things you tackle are food-related, it’s a self-improvement two-fer: your diet gets better, and your own self does, too.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    It doesn’t seek you out; you have to find it. You have to want it.

    You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers – most?

    I write about food, and food is personal. The most intriguing – and, let’s face it, irritating – research findings are the ones that conflict with our preferences. The most hate mail I’ve ever gotten was when I wrote that all eggs taste the same. Yes, if you taste them blind (and it’s gotta be blind because eggs often look different) the ones from your backyard chickens – or mine – taste exactly like the lowest-common-denominator supermarket eggs.

    I care about the life of the hens that lay my eggs. I want them to know happiness to the extent a chicken can. The fact that their eggs taste like other eggs doesn’t change that.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    I am a Questioner (a sensible type for a journalist to be).

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? 

    I’m sorry to say that it’s laziness. I know, from long and varied experience, that I thrive on new activities, but sometimes I just stay on Twitter too long. I’m working on that.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book?

    In 2012 I read Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind. It’s a very compelling explanation of the shortcomings of human decision-making, and why facts are so stubbornly unpersuasive. As a journalist, I’m supposed to evaluate evidence for a living, and Haidt’s book convinced me that humans absolutely suck at that.

    That conviction changed my journalistic M.O. I learned to be skeptical of my own conclusions, to develop strategies to check my own bias, and to look for opportunities to change my mind. It has made me slower to form opinions, and to be less dug-in on them once they’re formed. Don’t get me wrong! There are still hills I will die on. Just not very many.

    In your field, is there a common misconception that you’d like to correct?

    Oh is there! It’s that food is the province of experts. The human species’ ability to feed itself has propelled us to planetary dominance, yet there’s a kind of learned helplessness about food in the modern, developed world. Growing it, cooking it, choosing which of it is good for us – those things just aren’t that hard, and we can generally handle it with minimal expert intervention.

    In a complex world, there aren’t many problems we can solve single-handedly. If something goes wrong with your job, or your marriage, or your finances, or even your dishwasher, chances are you can’t fix it all by yourself. But if you’re unhappy with your diet, that’s a problem you can solve.

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:00:00 on 2022/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: ,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: How Do I Spark My Creativity? 


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    A question that I'm often asked is, "How do I spark my creativity?" I find it very helpful to consider this question, to make sure I keep doing the things that keep me sparked!

    These are the strategies that work for me; I'm also fascinated to learn about other people's methods of stoking their creativity and productivity.

    1. Reading. Reading is my tree house and my cubicle, my work day and my snow day.

    One of my favorite things about myself is that I often become intensely interested by certain subjects. I’ll do countless hours of reading about these subjects, sometimes over the course of years.

    For instance, my preoccupations have included: color, clutter, aphorisms and proverbs, the placebo response, the sense of smell, dogs, the Eleusinian Mysteries, Winston Churchill, cold reading, the nature of biography, the question of why owners would destroy their own possessions, happiness—and, very appropriately for this post, ways to spark creativity. (So if you have suggestions, send them my way!)

    2. Taking notes. When I read, I’m always looking for passages that I want to note. I mark them as I read—either by adding a sticky flag if I’m reading a library book, or by marking the page if I own the book. Then, when I’ve finished the book, I type my notes into my computer. I have many giant documents that hold various types of notes, and sometimes, one part of a giant document will split off and form its own book.

    3. Talking to people. I get many of my most important insights and examples from conversation. For instance, years ago, at lunch with a friend, she said, "I don't get it. I know I'm happier when I exercise, and when I was on my high-school track team, I never missed track practice. So why can't I go running now?" Our conversation haunted me, and pondering her question gave me a crucial clue in my understanding of what became my Four Tendencies personality framework.

    Back to #2—if I want to take notes during a conversation, I email myself.

    4. Watching documentaries, movies, TV shows, plays...more fodder! Ask me about the Get Back documentary. I can't stop thinking about it.

    5. Making a daily visit to the Metropolitan Museum. As part of my research for my book about the five senses, I do a "daily visit." I visit the same place every day—to see how the place changes over time, and how each of my senses reveals different aspects of it, and how making a daily visit changes me. I may visit the Met every day for the rest of my life.

    Also, when I go to the Met, I'm walking (research shows that walking is very good for creativity) and I'm also spending time outside as I make my way there and back (also good for creativity).

    6. Turning my ideas into some kind of written creation. This could be a book, like Better Than Before. Or a podcast episode of Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Or an entry in my "5 Things Making Me Happy" weekly newsletter or for my "Moment of Happiness" daily quotation newsletter. Or an entry in my Book of Aphorisms. Or an article like this one. To think through ideas, to organize my thoughts, to test my conclusions, I always need to put them into words.

    7. NEW: Creating physical objects. Inspired by my five senses, I've become increasingly drawn to the prospect of making tangible, visual creations. I write about one such project in my upcoming five-senses book (stay tuned! I love this project), and when my daughter Eleanor and I were in Paris together, she made an impassioned case for why I should put more energy into making things. The thing that surprised me was that once she suggested it, I knew what I wanted to create. Can I execute on my vision? I don't know. But I'm enthralled with the prospect.

    8. Tapping into my five senses. When I started my research, I predicted that tuning into my five senses would spark my creativity—and wow, that has happened. In fact, I'm a bit overwhelmed by how many more projects I'm working on or planning. (If you're thinking, "Okay, Gretchen, but how did you tap into your five senses?" never fear, that's what my next book is about.)

    9. Giving myself recess. To keep going, I need to let myself stop. As an Upholder, I can get very focused on my schedule and my to-do list, so I schedule time to goof off (as ridiculous as that may sound). For instance, going to the Met (#5) is one way to make sure I have time to wander.

    Also, because I'd read so much research about the benefits of a daily nap, I've been napping regularly as part of #Rest22in22. I'm a real fan of the short mid-day nap.

    10. Working steadily. I realized a long time ago that if I want to create, I need to work constantly. As one of my aphorisms (see #6) holds, "Pouring out ideas is better for creativity than doling them out with a teaspoon."

    I work just about every day—including weekends, holidays, and vacations. It might just be twenty minutes, but I sit down to work. For me, that practice works best. Relatedly...

    11. Suiting myself. I plan my work with my natural rhythms in mind. I'm a real morning person, plus I love the silence of the early morning, so when I'm doing original writing or tricky editing—my most difficult intellectual work—or other difficult tasks, I tackle them in the morning. As the day goes on, I turn to less taxing work. (Want to track your own energy patterns? Look here.)

    Nevertheless, while many experts say, "Never look at your emails first thing in the morning," and even though that's precious time for me, I know that for me, it's impossible to concentrate on anything until I've glanced through my emails to make sure there's nothing I want to answer. That works for me.

    =

    In my study of happiness and human nature, I've learned something essential: there’s no magic formula, no one-size-fits-all solution for happiness, creativity, or anything else.

    We won’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits; we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best.

    In his fascinating book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey examines the work habits of 161 writers, composers, artists, scientists, and philos­ophers.

    His examples make it clear that while brilliant people vary tre­mendously in the specific creative habits they follow, they all know very well what habits work for them, and they go to enormous lengths to maintain those habits.

    If you'd like to stoke your own creativity, try my Creativity Jump-Start.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:36:56 on 2022/08/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    What I Read This Month: July 2022 


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    For six years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads.

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    When I read books related to an area I’m researching for a writing project, I carefully read and take notes on the parts that interest me, and skim the parts that don’t. So I may list a book that I’ve partly read and partly skimmed. For me, that still “counts.”

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I track books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read last month, the full list is here.

    Lately, I've been listening to a lot of episodes of Backlisted, a books podcast that I love, and many of the suggestions this month were inspired by the hosts' conversations.

    July 2022 Reading:

    Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson (Amazon, Bookshop)—a thought-provoking memoir with an unusual structure.

    Beyond the Vicarage by Noel Streatfeild (Amazon)—More Streatfeild! The third volume in her three-volume third-person memoir.

    Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alice Wong (Amazon, Bookshop)—A collection of excellent essays from different authors about their experiences of living with disabilities.

    A World for Me and You by Uju Asika (Book Depository)—A lovely picture book about appreciating the beauty and joy of living in a diverse world. (If you want to read my interview with Uju Asika, it's here.)

    Say the Right Thing: How to Talk about Identity, Diversity, and Justice by Kenji Yoshino and David Glasgow (Amazon)—A very practical, thoughtful consideration of how to have conversations with greater compassion and understanding (in galley).

    Drive Your Plow: Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel by Olga Tokarczuk (Amazon, Bookshop)—Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—A fascinating, surprising novel.

    The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E. L. Konigsburg (Amazon, Bookshop)—I love the work of E. L. Konigsburg, and when I did an event with the people making a musical of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Amazon, Bookshop), I met Konigsburg's three children; when her son said this novel was his favorite, I realized that somehow I'd never read it.

    This is Not a Novel and Other Novels by David Markson (Amazon, Bookshop)—experimental, interesting, not like anything I've ever read before. I want to read more of his work.

    Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Amazon, Bookshop)—mystery, magic, competition, champions, hidden identities, and a delightful hotel...so many elements I find irresistible.

    Good Company: A Novel by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeny (Amazon, Bookshop)—New York Times Bestseller, A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick—I really enjoyed The Nest so wanted to read this excellent novel about marriage, family, love, theater, and what matters over time.

    Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (Amazon, Bookshop)—a classic work of fantasy, with kingdoms, powers, conflict, strong characters, and a well-realized world

    Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy (Amazon, Bookshop)—a terrific old-fashioned novel, and I mean that as high praise.

    The Last Interview: and Other Conversations (The Last Interview Series) by Nora Ephron (Amazon)—I'm reading through a lot of these short "Last Interview" collections; they're wonderful.

    The Last Interview: and Other Conversations (The Last Interview Series) by Toni Morrison (Amazon)—ditto.

    The Children’s Bach by Helen Garner (Amazon, Bookshop)—a short, intense novel about the collision of characters.

    Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner (Amazon, Bookshop)—More Helen Garner—a terrific collection of her non-fiction.

    Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life by Delia Ephron (Amazon, Bookshop)—A "Best Memoir of 2022" by Marie Claire, A "Best Memoir of April" by Vanity Fair—I love the writing of Delia Ephron (also Nora Ephron, see above), and this is a wonderful memoir of losing her husband, finding new love, and dealing with a health crisis.

    I Wrote This Book Because I Love You by Tim Kreider (Amazon, Bookshop)—A People Top 10 Book of 2018—terrific essays; I just bought another collection by Tim Kreider.

    A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, 1) by Becky Chambers (Amazon, Bookshop)—I love the work of Becky Chambers! Plus I love a pantheon of gods.

    The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe (Amazon, Bookshop)—A magical world set in Appalachia. It reminded me a bit of the work of Nina Kiriki Hoffman, which I love.

    The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings by Geoff Dyer (Amazon, Bookshop)—A meditation on endings in Geoff Dyer's inimitable voice.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:00:49 on 2022/07/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , Ed Mylett, , , The Power of One More   

    Ed Mylett: “I Spend Very Little Time Dwelling About the Past.” 


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    Interview: Ed Mylett

    Ed Mylett is an entrepreneur, performance coach, author, and host of The Ed Mylett Show podcast. His new book, The Power of One More: The Ultimate Guide to Happiness and Success (Amazon, Bookshop), is available now.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Ed about happiness, habits, and success

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Ed: I spend very little time dwelling about the past. We’re often weighed down by our past, and that can cripple what we want to do in the future. What’s done is done, and sometimes, the best you can do is catalog the event, learn from it, and use that knowledge to help you do better in the future.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    You don’t find true happiness in material possessions. You find true happiness by having close and loving relationships with your wife, children, pets, extended family members, friends, and most importantly, with God.

    You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers – most?

    The beauty of what I do is that every day reveals itself in fascinating ways to me. I’m just as excited to talk to a health and wellness expert as I am talking to a music superstar or a pro athlete. I love hearing about interesting journeys that unlock new ways of doing things better, or how people have overcome adversity in their lives. The real payoff comes when I share it with my audience and they let me know how they’ve found value too.

    The bottom line…and this is not a cop-out…I mean it when I say everything surprises and intrigues me in one way or another.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit – or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    I have been a bodybuilder for several years now. The great thing about this type of healthy habit is that it’s entirely internal. It’s you versus the resistance of lifting dead weight. The other thing is that it allows me to keep a promise to myself to keep going with this habit even when I don’t feel like lifting, or I’ve got some minor injuries that I deal with from time to time. That’s an important part of maintaining my confidence, to work through adversity which feeds my self-esteem into and carries over to several other parts of my life.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness?

    There are a few things that come to mind and they revolve around my health.

    While I enjoy my down and quiet time at home, the habits I’ve developed mean that I’m very intense and in the moment when I do work. If I go for long periods like this, I’ll empty my physical and my mental gas tank. Sometimes, but not always, I’ll catch a bug or just feel wiped out for a couple of days. My recovery time is shorter than for most people though because I do eat the right way and always add exercise into my life by playing golf, working out, or going for walks.

    The other thing I could probably be better is learning how to say “no” more often. Unfortunately for me, I’m intensely curious, and saying “no” stifles that need to know.

    As far as happiness goes, nothing interferes with my decision to be happy. I recognize that I’m leading a blessed life and so I’m filled with gratitude in everything I do. Gratitude is a form of happiness.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    I’ve had a few but the one that stands out for me was early in my career. I had been struggling for a while to find any kind of success, and I was not having any luck. One night when I was hosting a seminar, I expected 40 people based on RSVPs. Only eight people showed up. I was crushed and I went home and had a talk with myself. That night’s events had put me at a crossroads. After a lot of deep thought and prayers, I decided not to give and make a change in my career. I dug my heels in and said I was going all-in on this with everything I had. On the surface, I did not change, but deep down, I did.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    Absolutely! I continue to draw a lot of strength and inspiration from my favorite passage in the Bible, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

    Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?

    The Bible. My faith is the cornerstone of my life.

    In your field, is there a common misconception that you’d like to correct?

    There are a couple of things.

    The biggest thing I see is that many people think you must make huge changes in your life to get more success and happiness. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is exactly why I wrote The Power of One More. It’s based on the premise that you’re only one more try, emotion, relationship, or habit away from getting the life you deserve.

    The other thing is that I see many people who invest in all kinds of great material about being more successful or achieving peak performance. Some of them think that simply by reading or watching these materials, they’ll automatically reach their success goals.

    They completely miss the point that all we can do as teachers and mentors is give them a roadmap to a better life. It’s up to them to not only learn and think about a better life but to also jump into action and take the required steps. Action is the key.

    I would also, of course, shine a spotlight on anything that you’d particularly like to bring to readers’ attention.

    After my dad died a couple years ago, I was going through his personal items and I found a bunch of notecards each with just 2 letters and a single date on them. After a bit of investigative work, I discovered that they were the initials and the sobriety anniversary dates of dozens of people that my father helped to battle their struggle with alcohol. He often called these people to remind them of the power or staying sober for just “one more day.” That was the philosophy that he had used to transform him from being an alcoholic most of my childhood to then becoming my best friend and role model as he remained sober for 35 years.

    The “one more” philosophy was how he quit drinking. He tried “one more” time. And then he never committed to staying sober the rest of his life, but he did it by committing to do it for just “one more” day. God then used his own struggle and brokenness to bless the lives of others.

    I have applied that “one more” strategy to every part of my life and business. It’s helped me to accumulate millions of dollars and to also reach millions of people. So I recently wrote a book called The Power of One More where I teach how I’ve applied it to relationships, faith, money, success, health and many different aspects of my life. The book has already sold over 100k copies in the first few weeks and became a #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller. The book is dedicated to my father and a reminder to all of us about the transformative “Power of One More.”

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:00:07 on 2022/07/19 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    From My Recent Trip to Paris: My 11 Secrets of Adulthood for Travel. 


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    One item on my "22 for 22" list is to "Take a trip with my daughter Eleanor." And we did it! We just returned from Paris, where we had a wonderful time.

    After going so long without traveling, I still feel a bit out of practice. Before and during this big trip, I found myself reflecting on some of my most useful Secrets of Adulthood for Travel:

    1. Always leave plenty of room in the suitcase.
    2. Don't let anyone get too hungry, too tired, too hot, or too cold.
    3. Never pass up an opportunity to go to the bathroom.
    4. Never pass up an opportunity to charge your phone.
    5. Wear comfortable shoes.
    6. Keep a stash of back-up snacks (see #2).
    7. Pack a canvas tote bag (we didn't end up needing this bag, but on other trips, I've found it invaluable).
    8. No matter what the weather is outside, dress warmly for the airplane.
    9. Make a plan, but leave room for spontaneity.
    10. If something's important, don't put it in a checked suitcase. (This reminder turned out to be very important; my bag took eight days to arrive in New York City.)
    11. Remember, it's supposed to be fun.

    If you'd like to read more Secrets of Adulthood, they're here.

    If you'd like more travel hacks, episode 180 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast is dedicated to listeners' hacks—so many great suggestions.

    What Secrets of Adulthood would you add to this list? I'm always looking for more ideas.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:00:34 on 2022/07/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Crying in the Bathroom, Erika L. Sanchez, , ,   

    Erika Sánchez: “I Realized…You Can’t Achieve Your Way Out of Trauma.” 


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    Interview: Erika Sánchez

    Erika Sánchez is a poet, novelist, and essayist. Her debut poetry collection, Lessons on Expulsion (Amazon, Bookshop) was a finalist for the PEN America Open Book Award. Her debut young-adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Amazon, Bookshop) is a New York Times bestseller, a National Book Awards finalist, and is currently being made into a Netflix film directed by America Ferrera. Her memoir, a collection of essays called Crying in the Bathroom (Amazon, Bookshop), just hit shelves.

    I've read both her novel and her memoir, and I couldn't wait to talk to Erika about happiness, habits, and mental health.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Erika: I have to take solitary walks to feel balanced. There’s a large park and river trail close to my house that I love. It’s a beautiful piece of nature in the city. I enjoy the trees, the birds, and the people, most of whom appear to be in a happy mood. Whenever I start to feel anxious or depressed, I make myself take a walk even if I don’t want to. By the end, I usually feel refreshed, and I have drawn some sort of conclusion or made a connection I didn’t expect. My imagination comes alive. My mind wanders in all directions because I’m present, which perhaps makes no sense to anyone but me.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    At that time, I thought that if I achieved enough success, my depression would magically disappear and that I would be happy for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until I had a mental breakdown after my first two books were published that I realized this wasn’t true. You can’t achieve your way out of trauma. At 18 I also hadn’t yet learned that I have a mental illness that requires medication. I now understand that I literally can’t experience happiness when my brain chemistry is not right. Thank you, science!

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit – or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    I don’t always particularly enjoy working out—it’s a love/hate relationship— but I force myself to do it because I know how relieved l will feel after the fact. My favorite form of exercising is running outdoors. I like to get fresh air and enjoy the scenery. There’s something very satisfying about exerting myself physically. I’ve also shifted my perspective on working out. I make myself move because it feels good, not to lose or maintain my weight. Even though I’m incredibly slow, I feel like I deserve a parade when I’m finished.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    I’m a Questioner!

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Social media is a real pain in the butt for me. Part of me wants to delete it forever, but another part of me enjoys it and believes it’s now necessary to my career. Sometimes I scroll mindlessly, and I hate myself for it. Sometimes it becomes a compulsion, and it makes me feel very gross. I’m still trying to figure out my relationship to it. I don’t want it to take up too much space in my brain. I want to be present in the world.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    This happens a lot when I’m reading or taking a walk. A few months ago, I was at the park and realized that I carried my female ancestors with me. Their flesh is my flesh. I believe both my rage and talent come from them. I’m the first woman in my family to have the opportunity to determine my own life. I had been working through a lot generational trauma, and that fact stunned me. I cried it out and felt stronger for it.

    Is there a particular quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    “I stood at the border, stood at the edge and claimed it as central. l claimed it as central, and let the rest of the world move over to where I was.” –Toni Morrison

    Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?

    Books change me all the time. One that comes to mind right now is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron (Amazon, Bookshop). I read it when I was recovering from a very severe bout of depression. It helped me reconnect with my Buddhist faith and find meaning in my suffering.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:00:01 on 2022/07/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , Bookends, , , Zibby Owens   

    Zibby Owens: “Books Change My Life Every Day.” 


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    Interview: Zibby Owens

    Zibby Owens is the founder of Zibby Owens Media, which, among other things, includes a new publishing house for fiction and memoir. She's also the host of the award-winning podcast, Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books, and a regular columnist for Good Morning America. And if all that's not enough, she's also an editor and author—her new memoir, Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature (Amazon, Bookshop), just hit the shelves this week.

    I've known Zibby for many years. We first got to know each other through our deep love of reading and libraries.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Zibby about happiness, habits, and, of course, books.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Zibby: A habit that makes me more productive is active email management. Once a day, I stop replying to incoming messages and attack the backlog. (Okay, fine, maybe once a week.) When I do that, I dedicate at least two hours to it and sort the emails alphabetically rather than by date received. That way, I can go through one person’s emails at a time, delete unnecessary emails, and then really dig into the rest. I note the starting amount when I get discouraged about how many I have left, I start working my way up from the Z’s. Then I’ll flip back to working down from the A’s. If I don’t do this after two weeks max or when I get to 500 emails, I basically freak out.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    That I could be profoundly happy at my current weight. I think that would have horrified me then.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit – or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    I’ve started eating a protein and veggie shake for breakfast every morning instead of my kids' leftover pancakes. It sets the day on a better path. (I love the chocolate flavor from Ka’Chava, a sponsor of my podcast that I have grown obsessed with.) I did it a few times in a row and realized it really did make me feel better. Now I miss it on the days I’m traveling or have run out.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Obliger. 100%. After doing a recent event with Gretchen, I realized that each one of my four kids is a different temperament. It’s actually changed the way I parent in such a positive way!

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness?

    My compulsion to manage my emails and not get behind on work. (See #1 above.) It throws a huge wrench in my determination to move more.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful?

    Don’t miss the plot. An old therapist told me that and it helps me every day.

    Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?

    Books change my life every day. I do 365 podcasts a year, each one with a different author. I’ve learned such an enormous amount it’s crazy. I’m like in the school of life.

    In your field, is there a common misconception that you’d like to correct?

    I’m in a lot of fields: podcasting, publishing, book-fluencing (is that a thing?!), parenting, being an author. A misconception is that you have to pick just one field!

     
  • feedwordpress 20:54:01 on 2022/07/05 Permalink
    Tags: , challenges, ,   

    The Value of Lightness in Heavy Times. 


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    These days, many people are feeling overwhelmed, drained, and worried. And given everything that's happening, it can feel frivolous to worry about our own happiness.

    However, research shows that people who are happier are more interested in helping other people, and more interested in taking action in the world.

    So if it is selfish to worry about our own happiness, we should be selfish—if only for selfless reasons!

    One important element of happiness can be a feeling of lightness, of fun, of levity.

    Levity can include rest, calm, and activities help us feel recharged. Making time for levity doesn't mean we're ignoring serious issues, or neglecting our responsibilities; it allows us to gain energy and focus.

    For instance, a person might consider...

    • Spending time in nature
    • Reading a great book each night
    • Making fun plans with friends and family
    • Re-watching a favorite comedy series
    • Planning a weekly "Empower Hour"

    By making time to recharge when we can, we help build the resilience we need to weather crises and manage periods of uncertainty more effectively. In this way, we strengthen ourselves to be more helpful to others and our community—now, and in the days to come. It's that old cliche: you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before you help others.

    Remember, what can happen at any time, often happens at no time. If something's important to you, it can help to put it on the calendar.

    What kind of levity do you want—or need—more of in your life?

     
  • feedwordpress 16:00:35 on 2022/06/30 Permalink
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    What I Read This Month: June 2022 


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    For four years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads.

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    When I read books related to an area I’m researching for a writing project, I carefully read and take notes on the parts that interest me, and skim the parts that don’t. So I may list a book that I’ve partly read and partly skimmed. For me, that still “counts.”

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I track books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read last month, the full list is here.

    June 2022 Reading:

    Pure by Andrew Miller (Amazon, Bookshop)—A terrific novel that captures an interesting moment in history—the moving of the contents of the Les Innocents cemetery in eighteenth-century France.

    Sorrow and Bliss: A Novel by Meg Mason (Amazon, Bookshop)—Winner of the Book of the Year (Fiction) at the British Book Awards—an absorbing novel of a woman and her family.

    Artificial Conditions: The Murderbot Diaries (The Murderbot Diaries, 2) by Martha Wells (Amazon, Bookshop)—USA Today Bestseller—I rarely listen to audiobooks, but for the Murderbot Diaries, I tried the audiobooks, and really enjoyed the experience. I love the main character of these novellas.

    Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries (The Murderbot Diaries, 3) by Martha Wells (Amazon, Bookshop)—ditto

    Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries (The Murderbot Diaries, 4)  by Martha Wells (Amazon, Bookshop)—ditto

    The Absolute Book: A Novel by Elizabeth Knox (Amazon, Bookshop)—Several people told me to read this book. It reminded me a little of Little, Big: Or, The Fairies' Parliament by John Crowley.

    Becoming a Gardener: What Reading and Digging Taught Me About Living by Katie Marron (Amazon, Bookshop)—I have no desire to garden but I love books about gardening. This meditative memoir looks at the power of gardening, with gorgeous illustrations.

    A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch (Amazon, Bookshop)—I'm on a Murdoch kick. They're always worth reading, though this wasn't one of my favorites.

    Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me by Ada Calhoun (Amazon, Bookshop)—A fascinating memoir about a complex father-daughter relationship...plus Frank O'Hara.

    The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison (Amazon, Bookshop)—I couldn't wait to read the next book in the Cemeteries of Amalo series.

    The Reason I Jump by Naomi Higashida (Amazon, Bookshop)—New York Times bestseller—an interesting memoir from an unusual perspective (after reading it, I learned that there's some controversy about this book).

    The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder (Amazon, Bookshop)—Winner of the Pulitzer Prize—a short and thought-provoking story about life and fate.

    The Great Passion by James Runcie (Amazon, Bookshop)—A historical novel with a compelling narrator—a thirteen-year-old who finds himself in Bach's circle.

    Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life: A Memoir by Delia Ephron (Amazon, Bookshop)—A "Best Memoir of 2022" by Marie Claire, A "Best Memoir of April" by Vanity Fair—Romance, marriage, aging, New York City, bone-marrow transplant, sisters...a terrific memoir.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:00:12 on 2022/06/21 Permalink
    Tags:   

    Design Your Summer with the Happier App 


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    Toward the end of a summer, do you ever wish you’d done more with the season? “Designing your summer” is about taking advantage of the season and making it distinctive. Life feels richer and more memorable when each season of the year feels special in some way.

    This idea comes from a quote by the writer Robertson Davies, who says:

    Every man makes his own summer. The season has no character of its own, unless one is a farmer with a professional concern for the weather. Circumstances have not allowed me to make a good summer for myself this year…My summer has been overcast by my own heaviness of spirit. I have not had any adventures, and adventures are what make a summer. —“Three Worlds, Three Summers,” The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies

    For many of us, summer means good weather and more hours of sunlight, less structured schedules, time off from school or work. These weeks and months present an opportunity to break out of our normal routines and have adventures (whatever that means for us). 

    Planning ways to make your summer stand out doesn’t require taking a vacation or scheduling something expensive. You might make a list of places to visit, choose a theme for the season, make a summer reading list, or aim to spend more time outside.

    One useful way to think about this is to ask yourself: What do I want to do more of this summer? What do I want to do less of? 

    However you choose to design your summer, the Happier™ app offers tools that can help.

    • Use the Don’t Break the Chain tool to check off every day you take a walk
    • Use the Numbers Tracker tool to track how many hours you spend outside
    • Use the Photo Log tool to document your adventures
    • Record a highlight of each day with the One-Sentence Journal tool
    • Check in every day you read with the Accountability Partners tool

    Your aims might be:

    • Visit a certain number of parks
    • Spend a certain number of hours outside
    • Check off a summer reading list
    • Enjoy local summer produce
    • Block out time for a creative project or hobby—and aim to finish a project by summer's end
    • Ask your kids for a highlight of the day each evening
    • Make progress on tasks around your home
    • Train for a race
    • Plan and save for a trip or vacation

    Summer can also present potential pitfalls and loopholes for maintaining good habits. Our schedules might change, we might go on vacation, our priorities for how we spend our time might change, we may be faced with temptation.

    One trick to stay on track? Decide ahead of time which habits you’d like to maintain, which you want to modify, and which you want to take a break from—and if you’re taking a break, be sure to give yourself a return date.

    You can also make planned exceptions. With a planned exception, you decide in advance to permit yourself an exception to your usual habit. To work effectively, this exception needs to be planned ahead of time and limited in scope.

    The Happier app will feature tips, prompts, and ideas for designing your summer all season long. If you don’t already have the app, you can try it for free by tracking a single aim, or subscribe to track multiple aims.

     
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