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  • gretchenrubin 10:00:27 on 2019/02/19 Permalink
    Tags: audio-book, , Books, , , ,   

    I’ve Recorded the Audio-Book of “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    Do you like to listen to books?

    I've recorded the audio-book for Outer Order, Inner Calm. Yes, in case you're wondering, I am the voice of the book. (I won't make that mistake again!)

    I always enjoy the recording process. It’s interesting to go back through the book I’ve written and read every word aloud. One time, I got to sit in the studio recently occupied by the legendary Jim Dale when he’d been recording (under heavy security) one of the Harry Potter books.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm was a fun and relatively quick book to record. As you'll see if you flip through it, it's written in snappy, concise paragraphs, so it didn't take me many hours to get through it.

    Nevertheless, I'm always astonished by how physically demanding it is to record a book. My voice gets tired, which isn't surprising, but just sitting up straight in a chair all day gets very draining.

    Usually, I hold a pillow in front of my stomach the entire time, to muffle "stomach noises" (to which I'm prone.) This time, however, the only pillow available was very stiff, and it made rustling noise that interfered with the sound, so I couldn't use it. My stomach, fortunately, stayed quiet.

    As happens every time I record an audio-book, I learned that I’ve been unknowingly mispronouncing a lot of words.

    For this book, I discovered that I mispronounced "template." With "Keurig" and "preparatory" I wasn't wrong, but I had trouble getting the words out properly.

    My excellent director May Wuthrich and I debated the proper pronunciation of "vice versa" and "coupon," and in each case, it turned out that we were both right. (I pronounce them "vice versa" and "kyupon.")

    We found one missing word and one un-artfully repeated word; fortunately, my editor said that we still had time to fix the final version. Phew!

    Want to know more about Outer Order, Inner Calm?

    You can read a description of the book here.

    You can read a sample chapter here.

    And of course you can listen to a sample of the audio-book here:

    You can read this post about the jacket design, and this one about the illustrations.

    My hope for Outer Order, Inner Calm is that you'll start reading or listening to the book, and before long, you'll spring to your feet, unable to resist the siren call of clearing clutter. It feels so good to get rid of things we don't need, don't use, or don't love! This book is meant to make that process as easy and as pleasant as possible.

    Because that's my aim for the book, I was very pleased that the day after we finished recording, my director May emailed me a photo of the clutter she'd just cleared out of her office. Listening to me read the book aloud got her inspired.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:27 on 2019/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, , Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World, , , Isabel Gillies, ,   

    “Making One’s Bed In My Mind Is the Most Direct Road to a Happier Life.” 


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    Interview: Isabel Gillies

    Now, how do I know Isabel Gillies? The answer is lost in the sands of time. We have several mutual friends, perhaps that's how.

    She has had a very interesting, varied career. She is an actor who appeared, among other places, on the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and in the movie Metropolitan.

    She's also a highly successful writer. Her bestselling memoir Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story recounts the story of how her first marriage broke up, while A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story is about the challenge of getting on with her life after the divorce; her young-adult novel Starry Night is about the passion of first love.

    Now in her latest book, she's tackled a different kind of subject: Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World.

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

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

    Isabel: Making one's bed in my mind is the most direct road to a happier life. It's manageable, satisfying and cozy.

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

    As I edge closer to 50, I find that happiness comes from trying the best you can to stay right in the very moment you are in. Don't worry about the past or future, just be in the moment. Noticing the light, or a smell, or the sound of the dog breathing will help you just be right where you are.

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

    I did a lot of research for Cozy, and what tickled me the most was that when I asked people what makes them cozy, everyone smiled.

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

    YES! I quit smoking. I used a nicotine patch. Right before I turned 25 I thought, "It's kind of sexy to see a young woman smoking, it's really not sexy to see an older woman smoking." I marched to the drug store, got the patch and never smoked again. It was about making up my mind, and committing.

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

    Upholder (just took the quiz).

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

    TEENAGERS! No, it's not them per se, it's my inability to stay in the moment, and put everything in its right place. Someone once told me that teenagers are on a roller coaster and as a parent your job is NOT to get on the roller coaster with them—just stand on the side. Sometimes I get on.

    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.?

    Even though I'm healthy (knock on wood), recently my doctor told me I had gained 12 pounds in 2 years. I have always eaten anything I wanted, whenever I wanted—but I guess when I hit menopause that all got turned on its ear. I walked out of his office and decided I would think more about calories in, calories out, and act on it daily—I got an app! I'm having radical acceptance about it. We change—what is there to do but deal with it?

    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?

    "Radical Acceptance."

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

    Stephen King's On Writing. When I decided to become a writer, I read his book and followed his lead. I'm dyslexic and was an actress. I never had any expectation of becoming a writer so I never took a class or workshop. King was my teacher.

    In the area you’re writing about, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    I'm writing about being cozy. I think people believe coziness is about fires, hot chocolate and cashmere sweaters. I'm making the case that coziness comes from the truth of who you are. You can be cozy on the subway; I always am. If you know what you like, your beat, your point of view, you can carry that anywhere you find yourself and call upon it to find coziness, even challenging circumstances like a hospital.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:34 on 2019/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, illustration, , ,   

    Revealed! Some of My Favorite Illustrations from the Book “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    With each book I write, I think, "I'll never have as much fun writing a book again." And then I love the next book project even more.

    Many aspects of writing Outer Order, Inner Calm made it particularly enjoyable.

    In it, I use a very accessible, concise approach. This book is meant to be read quickly, to get you fired up to clear clutter. I was inspired by a book whose structure I've always admired: Michael Pollan's Food Rules. I'd always wanted to write a book like that—and I did!

    I also loved the opportunity to include illustrations. The strange, dreamlike book Profane Waste is my writing presented with the photographs of artist Dana Hoey. In my book Happier at Home, I included some of my own photographs of my home. I've always wanted to explore visual possibilities again.

    For Outer Order, Inner Calm, illustrations seemed right. I love the beautiful, highly distinctive work of British cartoonist and illustrator Jon McNaught, and he did a terrific job of adding an additional layer of visual interest and engagement to the book.

    I was really lucky that Jon was interested in taking on this project. He's got a real cult following and is a very successful graphic novelist, and he often creates the covers for the London Review of Books. You can see his work on Instagram here.

    For instance, I got a huge kick out of this illustration—can you guess why? Jon decorated the mug with the bluebird featured on the cover of The Happiness Project. I often incorporate that bird into various designs, and the bluebird of happiness is my personal symbol. I'm not sure how many readers will notice this insider reference, but I enjoy it!

    Some illustrations proved to be a challenge. For instance, one tip suggests that you might "Create a seasonal photo gallery" with a collection of themed photos that are displayed only for a short season. In my family, we have a Halloween display (Halloween costumes over the years) and a Valentine's Day display (our annual Valentine's Day cards).

    The first version of the illustration showed an array of many different kinds of photos. And the photos were hung on the wall. It took a couple of iterations to get to a visual representation of a "seasonal photo gallery."

    It also took us a few tries to get the right illustration for the "travel tidy-up." The first attempt showed an unpacked overnight carry-on bag, but I meant that you'd go through your backpack, purse, or briefcase while you were waiting to board.

    I was particularly focused on the final illustration—both because it came at the end of the body of the book, and because the last tip is my very favorite. I won't reveal it here—spoiler!—but it makes me choke up with emotion every time I read it.

    The idea is powerful, but...how to convey it in an illustration? Without being overly mawkish or clichéd? It was a very tough challenge. When you look at the book, see what you think. I think Jon hit exactly the right note.

    As a writer, I want to push myself with every book: to write more clearly and more beautifully, to think more deeply, and to take advantage of all the possibilities of the form.

    This playful little book taught me a lot.

    Thank you to everyone who has preordered the book. Be sure to claim your pre-order bonus here.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:19 on 2019/02/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, Brave Not Perfect, Girls Who Code, , Reshma Saujani   

    “Sometimes I Have to Remind Myself that Being the Best Me Doesn’t Mean Saying ‘Yes’ to Every Meeting.” 


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    Interview: Reshma Saujani

    Reshma Saujani founded a tech organization called Girls Who Code, and she served as the Deputy Public Advocate in the Office of the Public Advocate here in New York City.

    In addition to that, she's just written a new book: Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder.

    So many of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood are observations along these lines. Don't get it perfect, get it started. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If I'm not failing, I'm not trying hard enough. Enjoy the fun of failure. The best time to start is now. Wherever I am, and whenever it is, I'm in the right place to begin. Etc.

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

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

    Reshma: Getting in my morning workout! I know that I feel my best and I do my best when I’ve spent an hour sweating it out and showering before sitting down at my desk in the morning. And my favorite part? I schedule it to be inconvenient to others! Sure, my dog Stan needs to go for a walk and my son Shaan wants to play Rescue Bots with me, but I take that hour for me—and I’m a better mom, a better thinker, and a better boss for it.

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

    Reshma: When I was 18, I thought I had it all figured out—I was going to change the world, and that meant hitting every checkpoint along the way perfectly. I had to be the perfect immigrant daughter—I was going to go to Yale Law School like so many other politicians and I was going to get 100% in every class and do everything just right. And even though it took a few tries, I did that. I got into Yale and graduated with a law degree, but I still wasn’t happy. It wasn’t until I did something that totally terrified me—quitting my cushy job and running for office—that I realized that bravery (and sometimes failing!) really was the secret to living my best life.

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

    Reshma: I did a ton of research when writing Brave, Not Perfect, and one story that I can’t get out of my head right now is how deeply ingrained that impulse to please really is. One study from ABC News, with the help of psychologist Campbell Leaper from the University of California, is especially powerful—and the video is even better! The researchers gave groups of boys and girls a glass of lemonade that was objectively awful (they added salt instead of sugar) and asked how they liked it. The boys immediately said, “Eeech . . . this tastes disgusting!” All the girls, however, politely drank it, even choked it down. Only when the researchers pushed and asked the girls why they hadn’t told them the lemonade was terrible did the girls admit that they hadn’t wanted to make the researchers feel bad.

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

    Reshma: I think I’m an Obliger! [Gretchen: Yes, that certainly seems correct.] I’ve always struggled with perfectionism, and trying to do everything that was expected of me, but a lot of the times, I’ll give up on listening to myself. I’ve definitely been working on that, and I’m a lot better at doing things for me than I used to be.

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

    Reshma: If anything, I’m usually the one standing in the way of my own happiness! I’m a notorious vacation email-checker, and sometimes I have to remind myself that being the best me doesn’t mean saying yes to every meeting. There are definitely times where I’ve taken a look at my calendar and had to put on my brave face and email people to change my RSVP to no! It’s always a balance—and I’m still working on getting that right.

    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.?

    Reshma: My lightning bulb moment came in 2008. I was in a job that I hated, miles away from the life I thought I would be living and definitely not changing the world. I’d done everything “right”—gone to the “right” schools, met the “right” people, and taken the “right” jobs. But I was crying myself to sleep every night and dreading work every morning. When I heard Hillary Clinton giving her concession speech after the losing the primary, something she said struck me: that just because she failed doesn’t mean that the rest of us should give up on our goals and dreams. And I realized that there was no reason not to do exactly what I had always wanted to do: run for office! I called my dad, and I was so afraid to disappoint him, since there’s such a big pressure as a child of immigrant parents to have this perfect life. And what did he say when I said I was quitting my job? “It’s about time!” We’re our own harshest critics and so much of our perfectionism is actually self-imposed. The people in our lives, we think we are doing it all for them—but really they just want us to be happy.

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

    Reshma: One small thing that has totally been a game-changer for me is the word “yet.” Sometimes I get stuck in a rut of negativity, thinking “I’m not good at building my son’s toys,” “I can’t fix the broken setting on my computer,” or even “I’m just not good at saying no.” Tack on the word yet—and it’s a whole new mindset. Psychologist and motivational pioneer Carol Dweck referred to this as embracing the “power of yet” as opposed to “the tyranny of now.” It’s one of my favorite strategies for getting a little braver in my everyday life—I might not be there yet, but I will be one day.

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

    Reshma: First: I think we mistake perfection for excellence—and they are two different things. Excellence is a way of being, not a target you hit or miss. It allows you to take pride in the effort, regardless of the outcome. The irony is that perfectionism can actually impede excellence because the anxiety about screwing up that comes with perfectionism can actually be crippling.

    Second: there’s also a difference between striving for success and striving for perfection. So many women today are ambitious. But being a go-getter doesn’t make you gutsy. Perfectionism leads us to following the “expected path” without questioning if it’s genuinely right for us.

    brave not perfect

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:15 on 2019/02/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, January, What I read   

    What I Read This Month: January 2019 


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    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 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 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, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in December 2018, the full list is here. And if you're interested in seeing my year in books, check out this list on Goodreads.

    January 2019 Reading:

    The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai -- many bookish people told me that this is one of their favorite new novels, and I loved it too.

    Wise Child by Monica Furlong -- a terrific children's book with a "witch," an apprentice, a mysterious religion.

    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders -- many bookish people told me this is one of their favorite recent novels. It was very different from what I expected, very interesting.

    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin -- if you knew the date you'd die, how would that knowledge affect your life? Haunting question.

    I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott -- I love essays. If you're curious, these essays reveal that Philpott is an Obliger who shows Obliger-rebellion.

    And This is Laura by Ellen Conford -- I bought this book for nostalgic reasons; I remember reading it in middle school. A charming book about a girl who develops the ability to see the future.

    In My Mind's Eye by Jan Morris -- A "thought diary" is a fascinating idea for a structure of a book. I'm a big fan of Morris's work.

    Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver -- I read this book because at an event, someone told me that it changed her life. I can't resist a life-changing book!

    The Elephant in the Room by Tommy Tomlinson -- as someone interested in habit change, I was very interested to read this account of journalist Tomlinson's battle with his weight.

    Apples and Oranges by Marie Brenner -- I met Marie Brenner, and whenever I meet someone who has written a memoir, I run out and read it. This is a fascinating account of a difficult but loving relationship between an adult sister and brother, a subject that interests me greatly but isn't often written about.

    The Blue Hawk by Peter Dickinson -- More Peter Dickinson. I LOVED THIS BOOK. I plan to re-read it quite soon. I may have loved it as much as Tulku.

    Bad Blood by John Carreyrou -- An outstanding account of the crazy story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. A real page-turner. Just about everyone I know has read it, or like my sister Elizabeth, listened to the audio-book. I also just started listening to The Dropout, a 6-part podcast by ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis about this subject.

    The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty -- an absorbing story by the beloved writer Moriarity. When I checked this novel out of the library, the librarian told me how much she'd enjoyed it, too.

    Swimming in a Sea of Death by David Rieff -- A fascinating account by David Rieff, Susan Sontag's son, about the last year of her life and how she faced death. For some reason, I've suddenly become interested in Susan Sontag.

    Hindsight by Peter Dickinson -- More Peter Dickinson. I love his children's literature so much, I decided to read one of his adult books (of which, I'm excited to report, there are many). This crime novel had a very different flavor, but I really enjoyed it as well. Very interesting structure.

    The Golden Name Day by Jennie D. Lindquist -- How I love this book! I've read it many times. It's on my list of my 81 favorites works of children's and young-adult literature. I also love the two books that follow. Cozy, Swedish traditions, apple blossoms.

    What have you read recently that you'd recommend?

    I'm really in the mood for essays, so am particularly on the look-out for suggestions in that category. And did I mention that I'm a fan of Peter Dickinson?

    Announcement! We decided to launch the Happier Podcast Book Club.

     

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 21:15:39 on 2019/01/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, , , Mollie West Duffy, No Hard Feelings,   

    “Caring Too Much About a Job Is Unhelpful and Unhealthy.” 


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    What is the role of emotions in the workplace? How do you stay happy when other people are grouchy or stressed out? How do you unplug from work concerns to enjoy true leisure?

    I think about questions like these all the time, so I was very interested to hear about a new book, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work.

    Liz Fosslien is a strategy and design consultant who has worked with companies including Salesforce, Ernst & Young, and the Stanford d.School.

    Mollie West Duffy is an organizational designer at IDEO New York. She has helped companies and start-ups such as Casper develop good workplace culture.

    If you love a great self-assessment quiz, you can take their quiz about "Emotions and You" to help you understand yourself, your team, and your organization better. Also, if you preorder their book, they have a special bonus for you here.

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

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

    Liz: I take photos of any design that I find interesting. I recently photographed: lotion packaging at Trader Joe’s, a tiny neon snail graffiti, some vibrant bricks, a sparkly Peet’s coffee cup, tangled white and gray wires, and a patch of floor dust. When I feel stuck in a creative rut, I scroll through my weird photos for inspiration.

    Mollie: Exercising first thing in the morning. It can be a run, barre class, or even reading my email and the news on my ipad while walking on the treadmill. Even if I only do it for 20 minutes, it gives me energy for the day, and no matter what else happens the rest of the day, at least I’ve accomplished that.

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

    Liz: I wish I knew that happiness doesn’t mean always being happy. I used to fall into I’m-going-feel-like-this-forever spirals, which only made my bad feelings feel worse (e.g. I would get anxious about feeling anxious). Now when I have a blue moment, I realize it’s ok, and that I’ll feel better again soon.

    Mollie: That we have control over our own thoughts and thought patterns. I love the quote by Deepak Chopra: “There are only two things we can put our imagination to: one is anxiety, which is a form of imagination, and one is creativity. And we have to choose creativity in order to transform the world.”

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

    Liz: I knew that interviews aren’t the best way of assessing job applicants, but I was still surprised by this study: Yale Professor Jason Dana and his colleagues asked two groups of students to predict their classmates’ GPAs. One group only had access to past grades and current course enrollment, while the other was also allowed to conduct interviews. The students who interviewed their classmates were significantly worse at predicting future GPA. Even scarier, most didn’t notice that some interviewees had been instructed to give random and sometimes nonsensical responses.

    Mollie: Our readers are surprised to learn that emotions can also go viral. Researchers at Baylor University found a nasty coworker not only makes you and your family grumpy but may have a ripple effect that extends as far as your partner’s workplace. It happens like this: I come home irritated because of my crabby colleague and snap at my husband. He catches my bad mood and goes to work the next day equally irritable. My colleague’s sour attitude might then spread to my husband’s coworkers.

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

    Mollie: I’m constantly working at being a better sleeper. I often have a hard time falling asleep, even though I go to bed early. I have created an elaborate bedtime ritual that usually helps. I watch 10-15 minutes of a slow British TV show (I highly recommend Escape to the Country on Netflix) in bed to unwind, and then listen to a boring audiobook on a 30-minute sleep timer. I also sleep with an eye mask, earplugs, and a white noise machine. My husband is a comedian, and he has worked this ritual into a joke he tells on stage.

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

    Liz: I am a Questioner—I find it hard to work on something when there isn't a clear goal. The upside is that I can use specific and sometimes overly ambitious goals to motivate myself. When I wanted to learn HTML, I sketched out a complicated website design, and with that vision in mind, was able to slog through a bunch of tutorials and documentation and actually build it.

    Mollie: I am definitely an Upholder. My mom has been telling me to “do less” since I was a small child. I am such a creature of habit, so the Upholder “discipline is my freedom” motto really resonates with me. Liz and I worked well together with this tendency combination. With the help of many Google Drive folders and documents, I made sure that we met all our deadlines (our editors were shocked when we handed our manuscript in ahead of schedule!), and Liz saw that our finished product was pithy and punchy by questioning until each section was necessary and helpful.

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

    Mollie: As an Upholder and an introvert, I can take on too much. There are daily habits like exercise, reading, and meditation, that I need to do for myself. But I also like to meet work, social, and book obligations. When I get overscheduled, I get overwhelmed.

    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?

    Liz: I’ve always loved this line by Toni Morrison: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.” It’s a good reminder to say no sometimes and to stop listening to the “you can’t do this” monster that lives in your brain.

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Liz: I started drawing comics because of Calvin & Hobbes. There is a storyline where Calvin finds an injured raccoon and tries to nurse it back to health, but the raccoon doesn’t make it. Calvin and Hobbes mourn the raccoon and confront what it means to die. The entire story is told in black-and-white drawings, but it made me cry. To me, Calvin & Hobbes is such a shining example that you don’t need anything fancy to create a thing that will stick in someone’s heart forever.

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

    Liz and Mollie: We’re so often told to “pursue our passion.” It’s easy to assume that means we have to love every aspect of our job, and that work should consume us. But caring too much about a job is unhelpful and unhealthy. It makes small problems seem exceptional and throwaway remarks feel appalling. One of our new rules of emotion at work is to be less passionate about your job. This doesn’t mean don’t care, it just means keep a little more emotional distance between your identity and your work. This offers a solution to a lot of anguish! You won’t hyperventilate before a big presentation. You won’t be frustrated to tears by incompetent teammates. You will actually put your phone away on date night and you won’t be haunted by work FOMO as you backpack through Machu Picchu.

     
  • gretchenrubin 11:00:34 on 2019/01/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, ,   

    We’re Launching the Happier Podcast Book Club! And Announced Our First Choice. 


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    Nothing makes me happier than reading a great book -- unless it's the chance to talk to other people who've loved that book as well.

    Elizabeth and I both love to read, and we know that the listeners of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast love to read, too. For instance, we noticed that "Read more" or "Read X number of books this year" appeared on a huge number of "18 for 2018" and "19 for 2019" lists.

    So...announcement! We decided to launch the Happier Podcast Book Club.

    Several times a year on the Happier podcast, we'll announce a book, and then some episodes later, we'll discuss it.

    If you choose to read along, you can post your questions and comments here on this blog post, on #happierpodcastbookclub or email us at podcast@gretchenrubin.com.

    If we can, we'll have the author as our guest.

    We're tremendously excited to announce our first pick. This choice was easy. It's a thought-provoking, beautifully written memoir that's so suspenseful, I read it in practically one sitting.

    It's Dani Shapiro's Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. This book is generating a tremendous amount of buzz and acclaim, and no surprise, it's a New York Times bestseller

    Here's the official description:

    What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?
    In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history--the life she had lived--crumbled beneath her.
    Inheritance is a book about secrets--secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman's urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in--a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

    It's particularly nice to have Dani as our first choice, because she was Elizabeth's first writing teacher! How crazy is that? And Dani and I have known each other for a long time, through mutual writerly friends. Plus Elizabeth and I both have read all her books -- in particular, I love Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage.

    So read along, and send us your questions and comments soon. Dani will join us for a discussion on the show for episode 212, which will go live on March 13.

    The book is fairly short.

    Some people ask, "Does it count if I listen to the audio-book?" Absolutely.

    Some people ask, "I want to read it, but how can I get more reading done?" Check out my one-pager "Reading Better Than Before" for some tips.

    Some people ask, "Do I have to read it? I've got so much going on right now, it stresses me out to think about adding something  to my to-do list." The motto of my children's literature reading groups is NO GUILT, and that motto applies to this "group," too. Sometimes, it's just not the right time for a book. Don't beat yourself up. You can enjoy the conversation, and when your life settles down, you can get back to reading. A book waits for you, always.

    We'd love to hear your suggestions for other books to consider. We already have a few that we're dying to discuss.

    How I love to read! It's my tree-house and my cubicle. More reading for all. Head to your favorite bookstore (maybe you have a favorite local indie?), go to the library, go e- or audio-, whatever works for you.

    The prospect of this book club is making Elizabeth and me very happy. Join the conversation!

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:23 on 2019/01/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, , , Joy Enough, , Sarah McColl   

    “A Life of Contentment and Joy Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Experiences with Loss and Pain.” 


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    Interview: Sarah McColl

    Sarah McColl is a writer who has been published by a wide range of publications, and she also was founding editor-in-chief of Yahoo Foods.

    Her first book just hit the shelves, a memoir called Joy Enough.

    In it, she tackles her experience of simultaneously going through a divorce and losing her mother to cancer—a double blow.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Sarah about happiness, habits, and self-knowledge.

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

    Sarah: When I moved to Los Angeles a little less than a year ago, I started attending a boot camp at the nearby recreation center three mornings a week. There’s a core group of the same women every day. We don’t know the details of one another’s lives, and many of us don’t speak the same language, but I love our sense of community. I know that every morning, rain or shine, we’re going to groan together during glute work and then high-five when it’s over.

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

    Sarah: In my first job after college as an editorial assistant, my boss would walk into my cubicle in her low-heeled Ferragamos, drop off a manuscript, and offer some unsolicited advice. There are many I still rely on, but one that’s come up time and again is: People think relationships will make them happy, but you have to bring happiness to the relationship.

    I knew intellectually what she meant, but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I really got it. To have a sense of wholeness on your own—to have passions and friendships and desires and curiosities and ambitions that are all your own, that belong solely to you, and then to choose to be in relationship with someone, someone who you don’t need for those feelings of aliveness in your life, but who brings them all the same—not to mention support, affection, companionship, all the good stuff of loving—that brings so much life and air and, yes, happiness to the dynamic between two people.

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

    Sarah: A life of contentment and joy doesn’t mean avoiding experiences with loss and pain. Experiences with death, in fact, can heighten our awareness of and gratitude for living.

    In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky reports on a study in which 70 to 80 percent of people who had lost someone they love reported finding “benefit” to the experience. I don’t think we want a happy life so much as a meaningful one, and the meaning comes from the experience of feeling fully alive.

    Joseph Campbell said this pretty well: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

    I think death, loss, grief, and pain bring us in touch with the rapture of being alive as much as ecstatic happiness and joy.

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

    Sarah: Well, apparently I’m an Upholder! These results are interesting to me, and also a bit surprising. Sometimes my self-imposed deadlines and goals get in the way of doing what others want or expect from me, and I have a fear that I let people down as a result. But if something is important to me—like writing time, or alone time—I don’t have a problem creating those boundaries for myself.

    If I took this quiz and thought solely of health and exercise, I might turn out as an Obliger or a Rebel. If I say I will meet you for a 6 a.m. spin class, I’ll be there, but if the promise of an early morning exercise class is just to myself, I will hit snooze. Three times. The idea of a diet that tells me what to eat when makes me want to totally rebel. I definitely have a contrarian streak.

    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.?

    Sarah: My mother lived with Stage IV cancer for more than a year. It’s very clarifying when the stakes are life and death for someone you love. I moved home to be with her, to tend her garden and cook dinner, to talk about her fear of death and what I was going to do with my life. Everything became urgent, and if there was something I wanted to do, what was I waiting for? With her encouragement, I applied to graduate school to study writing, and quit my job as an editor-in-chief to attend school time full-time. This decision divided the people in my life into two categories: the people who thought this was brave, exciting, and wonderful and the people who thought I was crazy. But I knew I had to devote myself to what I had most wanted to do since I was a child, which was to write, and that I had to do it now.

    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?

    Sarah: You got this is one I turn to in times of trouble, large and small. Driving in scary rush hour traffic? You got this. Pitching a big magazine? You got this. Pushing out those last reps? You got this. (Actually, I say, “Light weight, baby. Light weight,” which I stole from a weight lifter friend.)

    But someone told me something recently that really struck me with its beauty: Feelings are powerful, and they pass.

    My mother used to say, “Feeling is living to me,” and that’s my experience, too. The world of my mind and my heart is the world to me. Everyone’s experience is filtered through consciousness, of course, but what I mean is that I trust my feelings. I’m invested in them. The guy next to me on the bus doesn’t and needn’t care about my inner life—he’s got his own—but I care a lot.

    There are obvious downfalls to this, one of which is that’s a lot of emotional labor to be doing all of the time. So learning how to navigate that intense emotional world is really part of my work as an adult. How do I live and experience and love deeply in ways that make me braver, more powerful, more resilient?

    Writing is a huge part of this for me. If I can investigate on the page why I feel the way I feel and what it means, whether in a poem or a story or an essay, then I’ve created something artful and made a discovery about what it means to be alive. Boom! Net positive. I think the very practice of being vulnerable to our emotional lives—allowing and experiencing our feelings, and knowing we have the strength to feel things deeply and still survive—that’s the practice. That’s the work I’m up to. (You got this.)

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Sarah: Every book I love changes me. Reading is so intimate. We take someone else’s words inside our body. So reading something that fills me with awe and wonder, that opens my eyes to something I’ve never considered, or puts its finger on a thing I have always felt but have never articulated—I live for that! The poem “What the Living Do,” by Marie Howe; Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner; the poem “Meditation at Lagunitas” by Robert Hass; the poem "We Are Both Sure to Die" by Wendy Xu; the recently-released second volume of Sylvia Plath’s letters; Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am I Am I Am; Sheila Heti’s Motherhood; I Love Dick by Chris Kraus; The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. All I ever want to read about is what it all means, what other people are making of life. Or, as Miranda July writes in the also changed-me It Chooses You, “All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.”

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

    Sarah: Aside from marketing and sales reasons, I don’t understand a commitment to genre in writing or in reading. “I only read nonfiction,” I heard someone say recently. Or, “I expect more from novels than I do from memoirs.” Wait, what? Why, I wondered? I love when writers blur the lines or ignore them or invent something new: autobiographical fiction, lyric prose, prose poems. I love surprising structures and forms, like an essay in the form of Trivial Pursuit answers. Maybe it’s because I like variety or because I’m greedy, but I want all the beauty, all the insight, all the awe. Who cares what it’s called. So maybe I am a Rebel after all.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:20:15 on 2019/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, December,   

    What I Read This Month: December 2018 


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    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 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 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, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in November 2018, the full list is here. And if you're interested in seeing my year in books, check out this list on Goodreads.

    December 2018 Reading:

    The Pleasure Garden by Leon Garfield -- I heard about this book in Philip Pullman's book of essays, Daemon Voices. Very unusual, engaging, odd.

    Normal People by Sally Rooney -- I astonished my friends by getting my hands on this book before it was published in the United States. My library, New York Society Library, managed to get the U.K. version. Engrossing. Now I want to read her first book, Conversations with Friends.

    Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell -- Great, funny essays (I do love essays). Stay tuned for an episode of "A Little Happier" where I talk about Vowell's essay about goth.

    The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson -- HOW HAD I NEVER HEARD ABOUT PETER DICKINSON? I only learned about him from a Pullman essay (see above) and he's already a new favorite author of mine. Brilliant. And he's written so much! This is going to make 2019 a great reading year, I think. Along with Summer of Proust.

    A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos -- First novel in a young-adult series that was a huge hit in France. Terrific, but now I have to wait for the sequels to be translated into English.

    Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr -- A very interesting snapshot of a moment in time, place, and food.

    Queen Victoria's Stalker by Jan Bondeson -- My friend Amanda Foreman gave a lecture in which she mentioned that a boy had hid himself in Buckingham Palace during Queen Victoria's time, and I was so curious about this incidence that I read this book about the boy. A bit random, I know.

    The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban -- This was a choice for one of my children's literature reading groups. A sweet story. I do love Hoban's Frances books more, I must confess.

    Tulku by Peter Dickinson -- More Dickinson. I LOVE this book and keep thinking about it. Even better than The Ropemaker. A very unusual children's book. I'm going to suggest that my children's reading group choose it. Much to discuss. I'm tempted to re-read it already.

    The Hot Young Widows Club by Nora McInerny -- A fascinating consideration of the question: how do you survive grief? It inspired me to listen to her podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking.

    Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe -- So many people told me that they enjoyed this book, but it seemed like such a thin premise that I resisted it for a long time. I'm very glad I read it. Wonderful portraits, and genuinely funny in its writing.

    Staying Fat for Sara Byrne by Chris Crutcher -- Did I hear about this young-adult book from Pullman, too? Possibly. A great story about a challenging friendship.

    There's a Word for That by Sloane Tanen -- A gripping, hilarious novel about dysfunctional family dynamics set amid Hollywood and London fabulousness. I love a family story.

    What have you read that's been particularly terrific lately? I'm in the mood for essays, so send me any suggestions. Plus of course I am working my way through all of Peter Dickinson.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:35 on 2019/01/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, , , naturopathic medicine, Overcoming Overwhelm, Samantha Brody,   

    “I Realized I Was Expecting More from Myself Than the People I Treat and Counsel.” 


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    Interview: Samantha Brody

    Samantha Brody has spent more than twenty years in her practice addressing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of her patients’ health, to help them effectively address and achieve their health goals. Her new book Overcoming Overwhelm: Dismantle Your Stress from the Inside Out just hit the shelves.

    I couldn't wait to talk to her about happiness, habits, and productivity. For many people, stress is a big happiness stumbling block as they try to make their lives happier.

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

    Samantha: The thing that keeps me consistently making choices that make me feel my best is something I also recommend to each and every person I work with: to get clear about what is most important. Every month or quarter I revisit what my top 5 values are (using this values discovery exercise that I developed), as well as how I want to feel both emotionally and physically. Some of these things are static year over year, and some change as I evolve (and as my family and work life evolve!)

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

    Samantha: I was always very good at goal setting and habit building, even when I was a teenager. The problem was that I was choosing the wrong goals and habits. I thought happiness would come with succeeding in the ways that our culture so often dictates: being thin, popular, accomplished, degreed, and so on. The truth, though, was that even though I managed all of those things, they didn’t actually bring me happiness.

    What I know now is that in order to be truly happy I need to cozy up with the fact that I’m me. (Like your commandment to “Be Gretchen.”) I’m awkward and goofy, and sometimes say inappropriate things. I’m incredibly empathetic but sometimes not as sympathetic as I want to be. I’m a work in progress and there is no end-goal that is going to bring me happiness. It’s being clear about what is most important and how I want to feel so I can make choices every day that allow me to be in alignment with who I am and what I want my life to look like.

    Gretchen: Which habits do you think are most important for people to feel their best?

    Samantha: I wish there were one answer to this. In my book I help people identify specifically which things will have the biggest impact for them individually. What makes every person feel their best varies, but without a doubt, there are some areas that will have universal benefit.

    1. Sleep. 8 hours if possible, 7.5 at a bare minimum (this is for adults, kids need even more!). To feel our best without adequate, good quality sleep is an uphill battle. If people have trouble with sleep, it’s important to address that and get the help they need to fix it (ideally without medications if possible).
    2. Nature. Studies show that getting out into nature helps our mood, energy, focus, and health. This doesn’t necessarily mean camping (I thank my lucky stars for that…) but at least getting your “face in nature” as my old yoga teacher used to say. Breathe fresh air. Touch a tree. Even just sit on the ground for a few minutes.
    3. Strength Training. The more we learn about health, metabolism, aging, and energy, the more we are seeing that strength training for exercise is what helps our bodies the most. Sure, walking is good, and being able to run away from a wild pig is a plus, but the more muscle mass you have the better your hormones will work, the better your metabolism will function and the healthier your bones will be. You’ll be more sturdy, less susceptible to injury, and more likely to feel your best.

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

    Samantha: Questioner, hands down. Knowing this and using the advice from your books and blog around this has helped me so much with the work I do with clients and patients! Thank you!

    Gretchen: In your book Overcoming Overwhelm: Dismantle Your Stress from the Inside Out you talk about why you think stress management is just a Band-aid.

    Samantha: Stress management is important, but it’s not a solution. So often, even when we choose things to manage stress that are good for us—meditation, exercise, anything really—they are ultimately going to cause more stress because we are trying to add yet another thing to our ever-growing to-do lists.

    In order to really get out from under stress, we need to think about dismantling it rather than managing it. And in order to think about dismantling it we need to think about stress differently than we are used to doing. Not as just the big things, but as the accumulation of all of the things that pile up to overwhelm us on all levels, the good and the bad, the obvious and the next-to-invisible.

    Once we do that, we are able to identify countless small changes we can make to decrease our overall load, making room for the inevitable stresses that come up—because if there is one thing that is certain, it’s that there will always be challenges in life.

    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.?

    Samantha: I call these ‘pinnacle moments.’ The places in life where things pivot—for the better or for the worse, sometimes with awareness, but most often with a retrospective understanding.

    I experienced one of these as I was getting ready for the launch of Overcoming Overwhelm. It had been a rough few months. I had a family member who was having health problems. My book launch plan wasn’t following the map I had intended (when things don’t go as anticipated it’s hard emotional work for me). We had just moved home after living in an AirBnB for 3 weeks because we had rats in our home due to a neighborhood infestation I didn’t know about. Just as we were settling back in I started to get some back pain. Except there was nothing wrong with my back. It was shingles.

    My expertise as a naturopathic physician is in the areas of physical and emotional stress and overwhelm. And I walk my own talk in those areas. I’m conscious. I’m attentive. Yet, I still came down with a health condition that is literally triggered by stress.

    I was embarrassed and upset. I started questioning myself. It was almost impossible to sleep, or work. I sat with the crazy pain, and relentless itching. I had to stay in bed in one position because rolling over was excruciating. It hurt to talk. I cancelled a trip that I was really excited about. And as I curled up, trying to make sense of it all, I surrendered to the pain, and cried. Of course my body was stressed. I put three long years of my life into this book. The expenses to fix the rat situation were climbing and climbing. My kid had just started middle school. I did all the right things, and I still got sick.

    In that moment I realized I was expecting more from myself than the people I treat and counsel. I teach that we can only do our best. That sometimes life is hard and often there are things we can’t control. I was doing my best. Did I need to reassess and switch gears? Yes, obviously. But the big lesson was accepting that I, too, am human, and fallible, and vulnerable to getting a little off track.

     
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