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  • feedwordpress 09:00:31 on 2018/09/06 Permalink
    Tags: attention, , Chris Baily, distraction, focus, , ,   

    “I’m One of the Laziest People You’ll Ever Meet—and That’s What Drives My Productivity.” 

    Interview: Chris Bailey.

    Chris Bailey is a writer who thinks a lot about productivity -- he literally wrote the book on it, The Productivity Project.

    He has a new book that just hit the shelves: Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction. It turns out that when you're trying to be productive, it's important to know how to keep your focus.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Chris about happiness, habits, and productivity.

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

    Chris: My latest project is my book Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction, which is a deep dive into the research on how our attention works—how we can sharpen our focus, better relax our attention to recharge, and how we can resist falling victim to distraction (long story short, being distracted isn’t our fault, but there are also science-backed ways we can manage our attention better).

    One common theme kept recurring as I connected the research: that the state of our attention determines the state of our lives. If we’re distracted in each moment, these moments accumulate, day by day, week by week, year by year, to create a life that’s distracted. When we focus on what’s meaningful and productive in each moment, these moments accumulate to create a life that’s filled with those same qualities.

    This surprised me. I went into the project thinking I was writing a productivity book. But the more research I explored, the more I realized that managing our attention isn’t only a way to squeeze more productivity out of our day. It’s a way by which we can live a more meaningful life, and even increase our happiness.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits?

    Chris: I spend around half of my year on the road. This is totally fine, but last-minute travel can really trip up my healthy habits.

    I make sure to plan ahead if I see a heavy bout of travel in my calendar. I stay at hotels with gyms (and bathtubs!), look for healthy take-out options nearby, and schedule time to meditate and talk to friends and my fiancée, all of which ground me and make me happier. Obstacles are a piece of cake—provided we deal with them in advance. Last-minute trips make this planning a lot more difficult.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Chris: Yes: that laziness is a bad thing. I’m one of the laziest people you’ll ever meet—and that’s precisely what drives my productivity. My laziness motivates me to look for shortcuts (ones that don’t diminish the quality of my work), and also forces me to carve out room so I can think more deeply about what I’m doing and creating. Setting aside this time for idle thinking is one of the best things we can do for our productivity.

    Looking at the state of our attention, we spend so much time responding in autopilot to the tasks that come our way. It’s in the space between doing tasks—when we let our attention rest and wander in these periods that sometimes come across as lazy—that we choose what to do next (we think about our goals 14x more when our mind is wandering versus when we’re focused). This is also when our best ideas strike.

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

    Chris: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

    The source of this proverb is unknown, but it’s one of my favorites. I’ve found it to be true across pretty much every part of my life. For example, a lot of people assume that putting out a book is a solo project. But speaking from personal experience, the cumulative work of everyone else on the team is likely far greater than my own. Between editing the book, pitching it to media outlets, marketing it, designing the cover, creating translations, and so on, publishing a book (at least in the traditional way) is a team sport.

    At work, at home, and everywhere else, our happiness, productivity, and success is intertwined with the happiness, productivity, and success of the people surrounding us. If you think it isn’t, you’re not living up to your full potential.

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

    Chris: I practice Buddhism, and one of its central tenants is that happiness is nothing more than coming to terms with how things change. We can do this by managing our expectations—that’s meant a mental shift where I now believe things never truly go wrong, they just go differently than I expected.

    Truthfully, these ideas took a while for me to internalize. Once I did, my stress levels plummeted. This is not to say I don’t strive for success, especially by more traditional measures (money, recognition, and so on). But today, when I notice my happiness is being batted around by external circumstances, I make sure to check what expectations I had in the first place.

    When doing so, I often find there’s something I felt entitled to that I shouldn’t have, or some uncomfortable truth that I’m not willing to face about myself or the situation. It’s always worth running towards discomfort.

    Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey

     
  • feedwordpress 12:00:07 on 2018/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Ingrid Fetell Lee, ,   

    “I Have a Phrase That I Come Back to Again and Again: ‘Remember What You Love.’” 

    Interview: Ingrid Fetell Lee

    Right now, I can't learn enough about color and scent -- I'm looking for anything I can read, see, touch, learn, or listen to on these fascinating subjects. Plus I'm always thinking about happiness and human nature.

    So when I got an advance copy of Ingrid Fetell Lee's new book, I couldn't wait to read it. Just the title was enough to spark my enthusiasm: Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.

    Ingrid  is a Brooklyn-based designer and writer whose work focuses on the way that design affects our health and happiness.

    She gave a terrific TED talk called "Where joy hides and how to find it" and writes an excellent blog called The Aesthetics of Joy.

    She has more than twelve years of experience in design and branding, most recently as Design Director of IDEO's New York office, having led design work for Target, Condé Nast, Eileen Fisher, American Express, Kate Spade, Diageo, Pepsico, and the U.S. government, among others.

    About herself, she notes, "loves pancakes, polka dots, and rainbow sprinkles, and has an extensive repertoire of happy dances for any occasion."

    I couldn't wait to talk to Ingrid about happiness, habits, and productivity.

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

    Ingrid: Happy dances! My husband and I often do a happy dance on Friday evenings to mark the start of the weekend. We also do them when one of us has good news. It sounds silly, but there’s science to suggest it works. Research shows that celebrating good news with someone else can deepen relationships by increasing our confidence that they will be there for us in hard times, not just in good ones. And dancing with other people can bring about a state that scientists call synchrony, which elicits feelings of unity, generosity, and a desire to be helpful. Not to mention that happy dances are silly and fun!

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Ingrid: That true happiness is really a sum of many smaller moments of joy. When I was younger, I associated happiness with large milestones or goals in life: getting into the right school, finding a good job, getting married, having children. Reaching some of these milestones has brought me happiness, and some I haven't reached yet — but now I understand that you can have all the “right” things happen in life and be unhappy, and you can have big disappointments and still be extremely happy.

    My research on joy has shown me that the small daily joys matter a lot more than we think. A picnic in the park with a friend, a deep belly laugh, or taking time to stop and smell the proverbial roses: these simple moments of delight have powerful effects that linger long after the moment has passed. Small sparks of joy can mitigate the physical effects of stress, open our minds, and connect us to others. They can even make us more resilient, by sparking positive feedback loops that promote long-term wellbeing. Though the moments themselves seem small, they have ripple effects that do end up influencing our happiness on a broader scale.

    The reason this is important is that while the big elements of happiness are often out of our control (we don’t always get the dream job, and we don’t know when we’ll meet “the one”), joy is always accessible to us. Turning our attention to the joys of the moment absorbs us in the present, focusing us on the parts of our lives that are good, not the ones we’d like to change. We notice more moments of joy — in fact, research shows that people in a state of joy are actually more attuned to positive stimuli on the periphery of their visual field — and begin to include others in our joy. When we focus on joy, happiness finds us.

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

    Ingrid: I've found that people are often surprised to learn just how deeply our physical environment affects our emotions and wellbeing. The field of psychology has historically focused almost exclusively on the internal factors that shape our emotional experience, in the form of thoughts, behavioral patterns, and neural chemistry. Almost no attention has been paid to environmental factors. So, if we are feeling sad or anxious, we’re conditioned to believe this is due to either our genetics or our learned responses. We never look around us and think that there might be something in our surroundings that is making us uneasy.

    Yet when you look at the research, there are many well-documented links between environment and emotional wellbeing. One example that has gained visibility in recent years is Seasonal Affective Disorder, which highlights the link between light and mood. But light therapy has actually been shown to be effective in treating non-seasonal depression too, so effective that in some studies the results are comparable to those achieved by anti-depressants. (We rarely hear about this research, perhaps because it's more lucrative for pharmaceutical companies to fund studies about drugs than about light.) Other research shows that employees with sunnier desks sleep better and are more physically active in and out of the office than those without windows, and that just changing the lightbulbs in a nursing home can reduce both depression and cognitive decline among Alzheimer’s patients.

    These effects can come from very subtle aspects of the environment, ones we may not be conscious of, such as symmetry and shape. For example, researchers at the University of Chicago have found that showing people pictures of visually disordered, asymmetrical environments increases the likelihood that they will cheat on a test. And fMRI studies have shown that when people are shown pictures of sharp, angular objects, a structure in the brain called the amygdala, associated in part with fear and anxiety, lights up, but stays quiet when people look at curved versions of the same objects.

    I've found that many people have an intuitive understanding of these effects but have been taught to tune them out. Or worse, made to feel that their impulses toward color and light, symmetry and curves are frivolous. What has surprised me most about this work is how validated many people, especially women, feel to know that these sensations are a real, measurable contributor to their wellbeing. I even heard from one woman who told me she cried with relief after watching my TED talk, because she had so often been judged as childish for her vibrant home and whimsical outfits. My hope is that as awareness rises of the role that environment plays in emotional wellbeing, more people will feel permission to seek out joy in their surroundings, and as a society we will recognize that mental health is a function of both what’s in us, and what’s around us.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) 

    Ingrid: It’s not a motto, exactly, but I do have a phrase that I come back to again and again: “Remember what you love.” When I get overwhelmed by everything I need to do, or feel anxious about what I’m trying to say or how people might receive it, this phrase helps remind me that everything I do at root stems from the love I feel for this beautiful, diverse world, for the people in it and the extraordinary joy that can be found in even its ordinary corners. I do what I do because I want to share that love with others. When there’s a task I really don’t want to do, “remembering what I love” helps me see the bigger picture. An email or errand that normally might feel like a chore becomes an extension of that love; it enables it and is connected to it .

    This phrase also helps me conquer some of the anxiety I feel about speaking in public. If I focus on the idea that I have to stand on a stage and talk about my work, I get nervous. But if I "remember what I love," that feeling cuts through the anxiety and helps me see getting on the stage as an opportunity to share my excitement and joy with others. I think this phrase is one of the things that kept me working on Joyful for ten years, even during times when I was really unsure if I’d be able to finish it. Every time I felt lost, “remembering what I love” brought me back to the fundamental reasons why I wanted to write the book, and reinvigorated my desire to see it through.

    “Remember what you love” is also really helpful in relationships. In the day-to-day of a marriage, a work partnership, or a friendship, it’s easy to let small disagreements or annoyances take over. When you remember what you love about the other person, it reconnects you to the reasons you chose to be in this relationship, and it becomes easy to let some of the small things go. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but this also applies to one’s relationship to oneself. As someone who can be quite hard on myself, I think it’s not a bad idea to occasionally balance out the critical voices by “remembering what you love” about yourself too.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Ingrid: It’s not a habit exactly, but as a city dweller I’ve found that getting out into nature regularly is important to my sanity and wellbeing. When I’m in the city, this means taking a walk to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, an old pier that was converted a few years ago into a meadow. I sometimes bring a notebook and spend an hour there working on an essay or a talk. But I also enjoy getting out of the city as often as possible, to the beach or for a hike, or to go snowshoeing in the winter!

    Having houseplants brings a little of that nature into the house, and creates a new habit by necessity: watering once or twice a week. I find I really enjoy this task — checking on them all, dusting their leaves and removing spent flowers, and seeing what new growth has appeared. Even if I have a million other things to do, the plants need me, and that brings me back into connection with the natural world.

    Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:37 on 2018/08/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    What I Read This Month: August 2018. 

    For more than two 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 completed. It gives me the same satisfaction that I felt in grade school when we kept track of all the books we’d read on an “I’m a BookWorm” sheet.

    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 now 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.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, you can read my post here.

    As an enthusiastic reader, I’m always trying to get ideas for new great books to try. For instance, I read the delightful British quarterly Slightly Foxed. Readers with the same challenge have asked me to create a list of the books I post, so that they can more easily read the titles and get ideas for books they may want to read.

    So, I'm trying this out. Let me know what you think. You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read—however, I must confess, I’m a bit scattershot about leaving specific comments there. You’ll also see that I have very eclectic tastes!

    If you want to see what I read in July 2018, the full list is here.

    August 2018 Reading

    My Several Worlds - Pearl S. Buck -- I'm on a bit of a Pearl S. Buck kick (see below)

    Sempre Susan - Sigrid Nunez -- I want to read more about Susan Sontag. From reading this memoir, I'm confident that she's a Rebel.

    Lord of Light - Robert Zelazny -- how had I never read this book before? Just my kind of thing.

    Letter from Peking - Pearl S. Buck -- more Buck!

    Spinning Silver - Naomi Novik -- Raced through this book. And if you haven't read Novik's novel His Majesty's Dragon, run don't walk; it's one of my very favorites. Speaking of the Four Tendencies, in His Majesty's Dragon the main character Captain Will Laurence is an Upholder, and the dragon Temeraire is a Questioner.

    Ranger's Apprentice: The Icebound Land - John Flanagan -- working my way through the whole "Ranger's Apprentice" series. A friend just gave me a Brotherband book as well.

    Anybody Can Do Anything - Betty MacDonald -- yes, this is the Betty MacDonald who wrote the brilliant Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books! Her adult memoirs are terrific, too; she's best known for The Egg and I. This is a fascinating, funny account of what it was like for her, as a woman, to look for work during the Depression.

    The River - Rumer Godden -- how I love Rumer Godden. This was shelved in my library in Adult Fiction, but now that I've read it, I think it's more YA.

    Hourglass - Dani Shapiro -- this was actually a re-read; I read the memoir when it was first published. So thought-provoking. (Yes, I include re-reads in my weekly lists.)

    My Ex-Life - Stephen McCauley -- can't wait to read more by McCauley. I loved this novel.

    How it All Began - Penelope Lively -- a very compelling novel. It was perfect for an airplane ride, and that's one of the highest compliments I can pay a book.

    What are you reading this month?

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:21 on 2018/08/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , Mallika Chopra, ,   

    “I Realized I Was Being a Hypocrite: Talking About Being Present, While Being Completely Distracted.” 

    Interview: Mallika Chopra.

    I can't remember when or where I first met Mallika Chopra. At a conference, through a friend? I can't remember anything anymore. It was many years ago, I know that.

    Mallika Chopra is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur who has a new book for children that's hit the shelves: Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More.

    I was eager to hear what she had to say about happiness, good habits, and human nature.

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

    Mallika: I meditate for about 20 minutes a day. My parents taught me to meditate when I was 9 years old and it was the greatest gift that I ever received. [Note: Mallika's father is Deepak Chopra, quite a teacher.] My meditation practice has been irregular over the last 35 years of my life -- I have gone through phases when I do it twice a day and years when I haven’t practiced at all. But, when I am meditating, I feel more calm, am able to focus more, naturally chose habits that make me feel healthier and more energetic, and feel more rested. I am also more creative as I step out of the automatic responses and daily grind of everyday.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Mallika: For many years, particularly when I was in college and then when I first had my kids (in my 30s), I thought I was too busy to take time for myself mentally and physically to be happier and healthier. But, when I meditate, I am a better mom, spouse, and friend. And I feel more connected to who I am, what I want, and how I can serve.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Mallika: My habits include drinking my tea every morning (which anchors me for my day), going for walks outdoors with my friend (to process life), and having dinner with my family (to connect). Recently, my husband and I began yoga twice a week, and I am eager to incorporate yoga into my daily routines, even if it is just a few sun salutations each day. When I am writing, I try to take walks in my neighborhood to give my mind some open space outside of staring at a computer!

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

    Mallika: I am a lifelong sugar addict. Over the last few years, I have made a conscious effort to notice how my body feels after I overindulge in sugary sweets. My body has more aches and I feel more on edge. Being more aware of the after effects of a sugar binge, instead of just feeling guilty while I am quickly eating what I am not supposed to be eating, has helped me to more naturally resist that chocolate chip cookie.

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

    Mallika: It is easy for me to come up with excuses about why I don’t exercise or meditate - most of the time I justify it by being too busy. But, exercise always makes me feel better, and with my meditation, even if I do it for 5 minutes a day, I feel better. So, now I  really try - I've started to meditate while in the carpool line!

    Gretchen: 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.?

    Mallika: One day I was speaking to an audience about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation when I realized that I was having a parallel conversation in my head that went like this: “I have to pick up the dry cleaning, buy dog food, and write that note for my investors.” On stage, I realized I was being a hypocrite - talking about the power of being present, while being completely distracted by thinking about other things. This was a turning point for me to return to my meditation practice and mindfulness habits and seek to understand what balance, happiness, and living with purpose truly means for me.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?

    Mallika: “Don’t take life too seriously” is the motto that my father, Deepak Chopra, taught my brother and me as young kids. It helped us laugh at ourselves, not hold onto criticism, and to generally seek out joy in our lives.

    Gretchen: You've just come out with a fascinating new book about mindfulness and meditation that's targeted for young people.

    Mallika: Yes, I am so excited to share my new book, Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement and More. It’s an illustrated guide for kids, ages 8-12 years old, with simple techniques to help them find calm, be more focused, and be happier. Teaching me meditation was a precious gift my parents gave me when I was a child, and I have seen how simple mindfulness and motivational practices have positively impacted my daughters and their friends.

    Just Breathe by Mallika Chopra

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:32 on 2018/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Stephen McCauley,   

    Have You Invoked Any of These Loopholes to Let Yourself Off the Hook? 

    I've very happy: I've discovered a new novelist whose work I love. I just finished Stephen McCauley's new book My Ex-Life, and I plan to work my way through all his novels. It's such a treat to discover a new writer.

    One of the many things that interested me in My Ex-Life was the depiction of the main character Julie's thoughts about smoking marijuana.

    Julie is getting a divorce from Henry, renting out rooms in her house on Airbnb, and the parent of a teenager. She smokes more pot than she should.

    As part of my work for Better Than Before, my book on how we make or break habits, I became very interested in the Strategy of Loophole-Spottinghow do we spot the loopholes that we invoke to let ourselves off the hook, when we want to indulge in a habit that we know we shouldn't?

    Julie is a master of loopholes. Do any of these justifications sound familiar?

    "She pulled out a joint. Anxiously awaiting for Henry to berate her wasn't doing anyone any good, and since she'd stopped smoking pot, it mattered less if she occasionally got stoned. Her slips were meaningless, parenthetical."

    "Rain was predicted for tomorrow, so why not enjoy the lovely evening in a calm frame of mind? Weather was a useful excuse for so many things in life."

    "She sat in the chair next to him...and pulled out a joint. 'Don't judge me,' she said. 'I stopped smoking a while ago, but I keep a little around to prove to myself I don't need it.'"

    The tricky thing about loopholes is that we often invoke them without even realizing it—we let ourselves off the hook so fast and with such confidence that we don't feel the pain of breaking our word to ourselves.

    By contrast, when we consciously realize that we're invoking a loophole, we're more able to resist.

    Eventually, Julie stops smoking pot.

    There are ten categories of loopholes, and most of us have a few favorites that we deploy most frequently.

    I most often invoke the false-choice loophole and the one-coin loophole. How about you?

    If you'd like to learn more about loophole-spotting, and about habit-formation in general, check out my book Better Than Before, where I describe the twenty-one strategies we can use to make or break our habits. (Can't resist mentioning: it was a New York Times bestseller.) You can learn more about the book here.

     
  • gretchenrubin 14:37:32 on 2018/08/07 Permalink
    Tags: aims, , , , Labor Day, , ,   

    Try Using Labor Day as a Catalyst to Think About Your Work Life. #HappierLaborDay 

    If you listen to the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, you've heard me mention the idea of "Happier Labor Day."

    In the United States, Labor Day falls on September 3 this year.

    Labor Day celebrates the contributions and achievements of workers to the strength and prosperity of the country. It also unofficially marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new year (as I write about in Happier at Home, September is the other January).

    This year, just as Valentine’s Day is a day to think about your romantic relationship, and New Year’s Day is a day to think about what you want to achieve in the upcoming year, try using Labor Day as a day to think about your own labor – your own work life.

    How could you be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative in your work life?

    What do you want to accomplish in your upcoming year of work?

    We can think about this issue at any time during the year of course – yes, Questioners, this is arbitrary – but I've found that something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.

    We can think about what we could do better, what we might want to change, how we could grow, whether that’s to do a side hustle, write a spec script, go to a networking event, avoid the vending machines, update a resume and start looking for a new job.

    It could be something as big as switching careers or something as mundane as cleaning out your desk.

    For example, do you want to choose a one-word theme for your work aims? Last year, my theme was “Re-Purpose.”

    If you could magically achieve one aim in your work life over the next year, what would it be? Would you magically learn a new software program, get a new boss, or switch careers?

    In your work life, do you use a piece of technology or equipment that’s obsolete, but you haven’t pushed yourself to deal with the hassle of replacement? Want to check it off the list? Excellent tools make work so much easier and more pleasant.

    Post your ideas, questions, reflections about using “Labor Day” as a catalyst here in the comments, or post to #HappierLaborDay, or leave a message at (774)277-9336 (77 HAPPY 336), or send an email or voice memo to podcast@gretchenrubin.

    We’re doing this across the Onward Project podcasts. Side Hustle School is going to talk about this issue, and so is Happier in Hollywood. We all come to it from a different perspective.

    In the tumult of everyday life, it can be hard to find an occasion to step back and ask ourselves the big questions. Labor Day can be an opportunity to reflect.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:35:04 on 2018/07/31 Permalink
    Tags: , Best of, , Elizabeth Craft, , Happier Podcast, , podcast episodes, , Try This at Home   

    Want to Start Listening to the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” Podcast? Consider These Episodes. 

    Of course, I love every episode of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast—but if I had to choose just a few, here are some episodes that have resonated most with listeners, Elizabeth, and me.

    My personal favorites will always include the two sisterly clutter-clearing episodes. In episode 10, we did a recording live from Elizabeth’s messy closet, as I helped her clear clothes clutter. In episode 160, we tackled her messy home office. I love to clear clutter, and much to my delight, Elizabeth is very messy. If you’re interested in clutter-clearing, stay tuned for my book Outer Order, Inner Calm, which is coming out in March 2019.

    Listeners (and we) loved the idea of creating a list of "18 for 2018." We introduce the idea in episodes 147 and 149, do a deep dive in episode 152, and in Very Special Episode 170, Elizabeth and I each give a personal update of how we’re doing on our own lists.

    In episode 154, Elizabeth and I challenged ourselves to wear "clothes" for a month. We thought this was our private problem, so we were very encouraged to find that many people struggle with this issue.

    People responded to the Try This at Home to "Create a 'ta-da' list" as discussed in episode 134. Here's a post where I talk about the to-do list, why a to-do list doesn’t work for everyone, and alternatives, such as the "to-day list," "could-do list," "might-could list."

    If you want something a little wacky, we had a great time doing our "unplugged" episode 150. We recorded an ordinary phone conversation between the two of us.

    In episode 130, we discussed the seven myths of happiness: Happy people are annoying and stupid; A "treat" will cheer you up; It’s selfish to try to be happier; and four others. In my book The Happiness Project, I address these myths as part of my exploration of making my life happier.

    In episode 122, I asked for advice from kids and parents about how to deal with my daughter Eliza’s imminent departure for college. In episode 125, we did a deep dive on the great advice and insights that listeners gave us. Fast forward: Eliza had a great freshman year in college, in part because of all great suggestions we got.

    If you’re intrigued with the "Four Tendencies"—my personality framework that divides people into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels—check out episode 120, where we discussed listener questions about the Four Tendencies. (Don’t know your Tendency? You can take the short free quiz here.) If you still want to learn still more after listening to our discussions, check out my book The Four Tendencies.

    A common and serious happiness stumbling block is loneliness. We devote episode 110 to the question, "Are you lonely?" and return to do a deep dive into the subject in episode 115.

    Some very popular Try This at Home suggestions include episode 79’s "Revive a dormant friendship" and episode 26’s "Pick a one-word theme for the year."

    My imagination was fired by listeners’ enthusiastic response to episode 71’s "Choose a signature color." We followed up with a deep dive into color in episode 75. In fact, I’ve become so interested in color that I’m writing a little book, My Color Pilgrimage. I can’t learn enough about color.

    In episode 39, Elizabeth talks about the experience of getting fired. She’s been fired more than once! If you enjoy hearing her talk about her crazy experiences in Hollywood, check out Happier in Hollywood, the weekly podcast she does with her writing partner Sarah Fain.

    Speaking of Hollywood, in episode 137, I went with Elizabeth at her office on the Disney lot, and in episode 60, I visited a sound stage where she was working. Lots of fabulousness.

    In episode 24, I talk about how my family really wanted a dog, but I couldn’t decide whether or not we should get one—so I ask listeners for advice. In episode 27, all is revealed.

    Way back in episode 3, we talk about two issues that struck a chord with listeners: the Try This at Home of "Make Your Bed" and the Happiness Stumbling Block of "Resisting the Evil Donut-Bringer." This last idea proved to be very controversial. We talk about the evil donut-bringer in many subsequent episodes.

    In episode 2, we talk about our family "update," an idea from our mother which people have loved.

    Well, I could keep going, but I’ll stop here.

    It’s been thrilling to get such a warm response from listeners. Each week I’m fascinated to see how people respond to the ideas and suggestions from the most recent episode. If you’re a long-time listener, you may have noticed how over time, we’ve started incorporating more and more ideas from the audience. That’s because people have such brilliant, insightful, thought-provoking commentary, we can’t resist including it.

    If you like the show, and if you have the time and the inclination, it really is a tremendous help to us if you subscribe to the show, and if you take the time to rate and review it. This kind of endorsement helps other listeners find the show. You can find instructions about subscribing, rating, and reviewing here.

    Making this podcast is one of the joys of my life, and I know Elizabeth feels the same way. Onward and upward!

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:45 on 2018/07/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    What I read this month: July 2018 

    For more than two 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 completed. It gives me the same satisfaction that I felt in grade school when we kept track of all the books we’d read on an “I’m a BookWorm” sheet.

    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 now 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.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, you can read my post here.

    As an enthusiastic reader, I’m always trying to get ideas for new great books to try. For instance, I read the delightful British quarterly Slightly Foxed. Readers with the same challenge have asked me to create a list of the books I post, so that they can more easily read the titles and get ideas for books they may want to read.

    So, I'm trying this out. Let me know what you think. You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read – however, I must confess, I’m a bit scattershot about leaving specific comments there. You’ll also see that I have very eclectic tastes!

     

    July 2018 Reading

    Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

    Hot Milk - Deborah Levy

    Johnson on Savage: The Life of Mr. Richard Savage - Richard Holmes and Samuel Johnson

    Line Color Form: The Language of Art and Design - Jesse Day

    The Heart's Invisible Furies - John Boyne

    Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner

    Shadows on the Rock - Willa Cather

    Less - Andrew Sean Greer

    The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End - Katie Roiphe

    The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User's Manual - Ward Farnsworth

    Second Nature: A Gardener's Education - Michael Pollan

    Accidental Icon: Musings of a Geriatric Starlet - Iris Apfel

    Peacock and Vine: On William Morris and Mariano FortunyA.S. Byatt

    Willa Cather on Writing: Critical Studies on Writing as an Art - Willa Cather

    Maxims - La Rochefoucauld

    Tuesdays at the Castle - Jessica Day George

    My Summer in a Garden - Charles Dudley Warner

    Searching for Caleb - Anne Tyler

    A Bridge for Passing: A Meditation on Love, Loss, and Faith - Pearl S. Buck

    What the Nose Knows - Avery Gilbert

    Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful - Amy Stewart

    From the Ground Up - Amy Stewart

    The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth Von Arnim

    Mr. Skeffington - Elizabeth Von Armin

    Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan - John Flanagan

    Back Home - Michelle Magorian

     

    What are you reading this month?

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:50 on 2018/07/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , knowledge,   

    25 Secrets of Adulthood that I’ve Learned the Hard Way. 

    With time and experience, life teaches us all lessons. I keep a running list of my "Secrets of Adulthood" -- the things I've learned, the hard way. (For instance, here are my Secrets of Adulthood for Habits.)

    I write about these in my books, I talk about them in my podcast "Happier," I think about them all the time. There's something about distilling an idea or observation into a proper "Secret of Adulthood" that makes it easier for me to remember.

    1. What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.
    2. For the most part, I'm very much like other people, but our differences are very important.
    3. Hell is other people; Heaven is other people.
    4. Every medicine can become poison. (Email, caffeine, social media, work, treats...)
    5. I manage what I monitor. So if something's important to me, I should figure out a way to monitor it.
    6. Never let myself get too hungry, too sleepy, or too cold. And never pass up the chance to use a bathroom.
    7. I bring my own weather to the picnic.
    8. Just because something is important to me doesn't mean that it's important to someone else.
    9. A stumble may prevent a fall. This relates to the Strategy of Safeguards in my book Better Than Before.
    10. One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself. This is one of my Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness.
    11. Outer order contributes to inner calm. I'm finishing up a little book with this title. Stay tuned.
    12. I can't expect to be motivated by motivation. This realization was a big inspiration for my forthcoming book The Four Tendencies.
    13. It's easier to change my circumstances than to change myself.
    14. Things often get harder before they get easier.
    15. The things that go wrong often make the best memories. My mother told me this, to calm me down before my wedding weekend.
    16. Choose the bigger life.
    17. Turning a computer on and off often fixes a glitch.
    18. When I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. This relates to the fun and helpful Strategy of Treats.
    19. What's fun for other people might not be fun for me--and vice versa.
    20. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Cribbed from Voltaire.
    21. Now is now. I write about this in the conclusion of my book Happier at Home -- which, I must say, is one of the best things I've written in my whole life.
    22. If I need to remember something, write it down. How many times have I regretted remembering this Secret of Adulthood?
    23. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.
    24. There is no wizard. (I will explain this in an upcoming episode of "A Little Happier.")
    25. The days are long, but the years are short.

    What are your Secrets of Adulthood? I'd love to add many more to my list!

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:36 on 2018/07/19 Permalink
    Tags: , hormones, , Randi Epstein,   

    “It’s Important to Recharge My Inner Battery. To Be On-the-Go, I Need Down Time.” 

    Interview: Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., M.P.H.

    I've known Randi for a long time; we're both members of a writers' group that has been a joy to me over the years. I remember when she first started talking about the idea for her current book, so I'm thrilled that Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything is now hitting the shelves. Metabolism, behavior, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing, puberty, sex...so many aspects of our lives are controlled by hormones. It's a fascinating, important subject.

    She also wrote the terrific book Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

    When she's not writing books, Randi Epstein is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a lecturer at Yale University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Psychology Today blog, among others.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Randi about happiness, habits, and productivity.

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

    Randi: For years, I’ve been running in Central Park. What used to be fast-paced is now slow and contemplative. But either way, it’s time to think. I don’t do the “To-Do lists” but allow myself time to just think big picture things. No headphones, rarely with partners, just silence and nature. And one little trick (that I’m embarrassed to admit): Sometimes I’ll sing a few lines from Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” in my head. I don’t know all the words, so I’m singing the same few lines over and over. It’s very empowering. I really should learn a few more phrases.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Randi: It’s important to recharge my inner battery. In order to be on-the-go, I need down time, which can be a long bath or getting absorbed in a novel.

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

    Randi: I write about hormones, which is a relatively new field with huge advances. Think about this: When my grandmother was born in 1900, the word “hormone” didn’t exist. (We didn’t call hormones “hormones” until 1905.) By the time Grandma was diagnosed with her hormone ailment, doctors could spot her hormone defect and measure hormones down to the billionth of a gram. That’s an amazing leap in our understanding in a relatively short time span. (Grandma had Addison’s disease, same disease that John F. Kennedy had. It’s treatable with cortisone pills.)

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Randi: I’m a nibbler. So If I’m stressed (working on a chapter, etc.), I’ll keep crunchy foods around, but those calories and that feeling of being way too full adds up. I’m talking granola, nuts, chocolate, carrots.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Randi: Exercising outside. There’s something about being in nature, looking up at the trees. It’s moving meditation, to get away from the onslaught of news and just remember to, well, smell the roses. Or really in my case, it’s not roses but the enormous big trees in Central Park. I also like cooking. I’m not sure if there’s anything productive about it, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Food, particularly dinner parties, make people happy. I love cooking for my family and friends. I’m not a gourmet chef by any means, but I enjoy trying new recipes and tweaking old ones. It makes me happy to bring together friends in a homey atmosphere. I love baking fun desserts for the famil .

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

    Randi: My kids think I drink too much. Water, that is. I think it’s important to be hydrated so I make sure I always have a water bottle filled with water in my backpack. I’ve also cut out soda—and now I don’t even like that taste.

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

    Randi: I would not have known but I’m an Obliger. Maybe that’s from raising for children and focusing on them. All mothers do that—we put our children’s needs first. [Gretchen: Randi, you and I can talk more about this later!]

    Gretchen: 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.?

    Randi: This isn’t quite “health scare,” but a health glitch: I was diagnosed with “age-related knee degeneration,” a fancy name for saying my knees aren’t what they used to be—probably from years of long-distance running. So my knees are more like rusty hinges—and I want to avoid surgery or further deterioration. That’s forced me “listen” to my body. Exercise is more about quiet time than racing to a finish line.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Randi: Laughter is the best medicine.

    Gretchen: Tell us a bit more about your recent book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything.

    Randi: I’m so proud of this book, not just because it has fun stories in the history of medicine and current advances, but because I think there is so much confusion about what’s real and what’s hype. I hope that readers will grab my book and feel more informed about making healthy decisions. That they will be able to distinguish hucksters from heroes. And I’d love to get their feedback about anything that surprised them as they dove into it.

    Aroused by Randi Hutter Epstein

     
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