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  • gretchenrubin 10:00:36 on 2017/04/27 Permalink
    Tags: Amy Blankson, , Happiness Books, inerview,   

    “It’s Easier to Let Myself Down Rather than to Let Other People Down.” 

    Amy Blankson

    Interview: Amy Blankson.

    Amy Blankson is a person who knows a lot about happiness and good habits. Remarkably, she’s the only person to be named as a “Point of Light” by two presidents (President Bush and President Clinton). What a credential — a two-time Point-of-Light! I get a big kick out of that.

    Her new book just hit the shelves, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies to Balance Productivity and Well-being in the Digital Era.

    I was eager to hear what she had to say about happiness and habits.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded on the subject of habits?

    Amy: I’ve learned that, despite being highly sophisticated human beings, we regularly make irrational decisions that move us further from our goals.

    We have just enough information at our fingertips to think that we have thought through an idea well; however, on closer examination, there are major gaps in our thought processes (called illusory knowledge). For example, as you look at each of these pictures below, your brain begins to add shapes and lines that are hinted at but don’t actually exist.

    1pix

    The brain does the same thing each time we are faced with a decision, whether big or small. The brain fills in the gaps with illusory knowledge—that may or may not be accurate—to draw conclusions and make decisions. It turns out that, most of the time, we are at-out wrong. In fact, roughly 50 percent to 80 percent wrong!

    This phenomenon explains why we so often talk ourselves out of making choices that we know are good for us, like practicing gratitudes or journaling or exercising.

    To truly create sustainable positive change, we have to learn to recognize the illusory knowledge in our environment that causes limiting beliefs about our potential (i.e., I want to lose weight, but I don’t really think I can because I know lots of people that struggle with it—even if I have never tried). Only then can we begin to reframe our thought processes so we can mindfully begin to fill in the gaps where we might need more facts and information so that we can make empowered choices.

    Or for a more personal example, let me tell you a story: Two years ago, a group of girlfriends invited me to walk a half marathon with them in the Outer Banks. Now, mind you, I have always hated running, but I thought walking wouldn’t be too bad. Plus, I was really craving a girls’ weekend away, so I signed up on a whim. About one week into training, my “friends” decided we should run the race instead. What?! I panicked. I had never run longer than one mile before. In elementary school when I was five years old, they asked me to run a mile. About a quarter of the way in, I almost collapsed because I couldn’t breathe. Since then, I had resisted running at all costs.

    But, as I now understand, I had a limiting belief based upon a single data point: my loss of breath at age five. I didn’t know whether that was an asthma attack, or if I had been born with one lung (a condition somehow undetected by every doctor in my life), or if I was just perhaps not in the practice of running. So I set out to log and quantify a renewed attempt at running, using the MapMyRun App, which geo-tagged my location as I ran my first five minutes. During my first training session, I noted that my breathing began to get difficult at exactly .39 of a mile (at the four-minute mark). I also logged how long it took me to get my breath back (six minutes), how my legs felt, what my heart rate was, and in what kind of weather conditions I was running. Two days later I tried again. I made it the same amount of time before my breathing became labored. I logged that information. Then over the next few runs, my run duration began to increase, my speed got faster, and my breathing recovered sooner. I suddenly had real knowledge: I could run at least four minutes without breathing hard—but my full potential was still unknown.

    Six weeks later (the halfway point in my training), picture me running five miles in the mountains on vacation. Yup, that was me. This transformation did not happen overnight but was rather a series of little battles and choices along the way that required me to rethink what I thought I knew about myself. By the end of my training, I found myself sprinting to the finish line of the half marathon, having run the whole 13.1 miles without stopping.

    This feat continues to be one of the proudest moments in my life, not just because I finished the race, but even more so because I overcame limiting beliefs that I had struggled with for years. Quantifying my behavioral patterns and having more than one or two data points changed everything.

    Illusory knowledge threatens to derail our decision-making about behavior change by skewing our perception of reality. These traitorous ideas are often hidden in the smallest, quietest thoughts in our heads, whispering falsehoods, spreading seeds of doubt, and holding us back from achieving our full potential. The key to making better decisions is taking the time to look thoughtfully at the details that shape our larger environment. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.” It’s worth stopping to realize that there would be no forest without trees.

    At GoodThink, we define optimism as the belief that our behavior matters. And when we latch on to this idea, we begin to take ownership of these small moments, recognizing that they are not just fleeting thoughts but critical choices that shape our future. Until you believe that your behavior matters, change is virtually impossible. Every day, you have the opportunity to make an active choice that your behavior does matter, both for your success and happiness—not in some distant future, but right now, right here in your life.

    What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

    Saying gratitudes every day consistently boosts my happiness level. When I’m having a hard day, this practice reminds me that there are multiple ways to perceive the same scenario. In fact, psychologist Sonja Lubyamirsky writes in her book, The How of Happiness, that 90% of our happiness is up to our perception of the world, which explains why so many people reading the same book or listening to the same talk can perceive that event in entirely different ways.

    In 2008, my husband Bobo and I were stationed with the Air Force in Biloxi, Mississippi. I can honestly say that Biloxi was not on my top 1000 places to live in my life, but I genuinely tried to make the best of the experience. We bought our first home, got our first dog, and starting making friends in the community. However, three months later, Hurricane Katrina hit and I lost my house, my dog, and my community. Anxiety began creeping into my life as I felt like the world was out of my control, but practicing gratitudes really helped me to climb out of that dark place and anchor myself in what I could control.

    Today, I teach my three young daughters to say gratitudes at bedtime, and I’m proud to say that they have become incredibly good at coming up with long lists of gratitudes (either that, or they are professional stallers at bedtime; either way, I feel like I’m winning).

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

    First, habits are a work ethic. This sounds obvious, but at 18 I thought I could simply conceive of a new habit and it would magically happen. Now that I’m 3x older, I realize the importance of habit sustainability. I understand that there are seasons in our life, where habits ebb and flow.  When I was a young mother, I was pretty excited to just get a morning shower and remember to brush my hair; now that my kids are older, my habits are much more focused on being a positive role model (reading in front of my children, saying my gratitudes around them, doing acts of kindness, etc.).

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

    Absolutely! I actually have a t-shirt that says, “I’ve had my morning coffee. Now you may speak.” Coffee has become a bit of an addiction for me, not because of volume but because of ritual. I love waking up to making a steaming mug of coffee and sipping on it while I launch into my work; but if I don’t get my coffee, I turn into a whiney version of Jekyll and Hide that can’t think straight and isn’t on her game. As a naturally anxious person, I know caffeine is not good for my long-term happiness, but this is most definitely a work-in-progress in my life.

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

    A few years ago, I realized that my husband has certain habits that make him tick…I call them the four F’s: family, friends, faith, and fitness. But for me, my list is a bit different.  Acts of service, the arts, meditation, and exercise are my keys to feeling like my optimal self. When I take the time to do community service or play piano or just stare at the clouds and think, I feel the greatest sense of alignment internally and externally. I try to maintain a growth mindset about striving towards my potential (which is how the ancient Greeks defined happiness). For instance, I recently decided to pick up the cello at age 37 because I crave learning and growing with intention. I also regularly try out new wearables like posture trainers to give me new insight into mind and body.

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

    This past January, I tried something called The Daniel Fast, which was an incredibly restrictive diet that is based on the book of Daniel from the Bible.  No meat, no dairy, no sugar! For some people, this would be no big deal (evidently you, Gretchen, are one of these!); but for me, no sugar was a serious challenge.

    However, I had a couple of factors that propelled me to successfully maintain the diet for 21 days: first and foremost, I knew deep down that I needed to change my sugar habit because I was addicted. It was time to do something, so I was mentally ready. Second, I had a number of friends trying the diet at the same time; I know from positive psychology that social support is the single greatest predictor of long-term success and happiness, so I leaned on my friends to help me stick to the plan. There was a LOT of whining involved, but after about 5 days, the cravings began to subside and I became a nicer person. And third, I knew that this habit change was for a defined period of time, which enabled me to feel like the task was do-able and also not permanent.

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

    I’m an Obliger. I wish I weren’t, but I am. Because I’m an optimist, I attribute my tendency to meet outer expectations rather than inner expectations to my strong sense of empathy.  But even as I write this, I know it’s a cop out. I don’t like conflict, and it’s easier to let myself down rather than to let other people down. However, as I’m growing older, I’m beginning to realize that other people’s opinions don’t matter as much as my own; in fact, other people are watching me to shape their own behavior.  As a thought-leader in the digital well-being space, I need to lead the way, even if I make mistakes along the way. I receive letters on a daily basis from readers who remark how my authenticity and transparency is inspiring to them. So if my story helps inspire one other person, it’s all worth it.

    [For those particularly interested in The Four Tendencies: Note that this is an accountability strategy that works for many Obligers: thinking of their duty to be a role model for others.]

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

    Travel certainly throws me off of my healthy habits, but I recognize that I tend to baby myself a bit more when I’m traveling (more coffee, more chocolate…) to deal with the stress and uncertainty. I’m actively trying to fight these temptations by indulging myself in other ways. I recently found a bag of Biena Honey Chickpeas in an airport store. I indulged on those instead, knowing I was loading up on protein and fiber instead of just sugar and caffeine—and I felt so much better afterwards!

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

    In my line of work, I test out hundreds of gadgets and apps designed to increase well-being. I’ve been shocked by posture trainers, pricked by blood testers, and had my skin ripped off by Velcro adhesive. I’ve literally got my skin in the game! That being said, I was particularly shocked to have a lightning bolt experience with a wearable called the Spire Stone last summer.

    As back story: the Spire Stone is a small lava-shaped rock with a clip that attaches to your waistband or bra strap; it uses your breathing patterns to determine if you are feeling calm or focused or tense. As a naturally anxious person, I found this feedback loop useful to remind me to breathe more often; however, about five days into my trial period with the Spire, this device went from fascinating to fundamentally transformative for me.

    Through an unfortunate series of circumstances, my eight-year old daughter Ana broke her neck last summer in our backyard pool. Fortunately, she is fine now and doing back handsprings all over the house; but at the time, I remember driving Ana to the hospital to get X-rays while wearing my Spire stone, and it surprisingly said that I was feeling quite calm…it wasn’t until we were walking out of the hospital, with Ana in a giant neck brace, that the Spire stone began to vibrate, indicating that I was feeling tense. And I thought, yeah I know–my daughter just broke her neck!! But the vibration caused me to pause and think about why I was feeling tense, and I realized… “I was worried about what other people would think about me, as the mom of a child with a broken neck…rather than being present with Ana, supporting her as she wrestled with her new reality—a summer of no gymnastics, no lacrosse, no swimming. This 30-second feedback loop from the Spire stone was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts and mindfully pivot to be more of the mother I wanted to be.

    For me, this is technology at its finest—helping to raise our consciousness and to fuel well-being through science-backed solutions. And I was incredibly grateful to have this lightning-bolt moment to help me align my intentions with my actions.

    Do you embrace habits or resist them?

    I embrace habits whole-heartedly!  I maintain a chart on my bathroom mirror called “My Journey to Health and Happiness” to help me keep track of my daily habits; rather than by tracking my habits by the day of the week, I focus on trying to maximize my “win-streak.” Speaking to another gold star junkie, I know you’ll appreciate this—I literally give myself a gold star if I complete a task, which helps me get back on the horse if I miss a day or two.

    Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

    My brother Shawn Achor (author of The Happiness Advantage) has had a big influence on my habits. He was the one who introduced me to the science of positive psychology, and taught me how “the twenty second rule” could help me stick to my positive habits better (i.e., make positive habits twenty seconds easier, and make negative habits twenty seconds harder).

    The post “It’s Easier to Let Myself Down Rather than to Let Other People Down.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • gretchenrubin 17:55:57 on 2017/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , coloring book, Happiness Books, , , , , ,   

    Announcing My New Happiness Project Coloring Book! Do You Love to Color? 

    Coloring book by Gretchen Rubin

    As I may have mentioned once or twice, I’ve become obsessed with the subject of color — and I’m also a big fan of coloring.

    So I was thrilled to get the chance to design my own coloring book, which goes on sale today: The Happiness Project Mini Posters: A Coloring Book of 20 Hand-Lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame.

    Click here to get a peek inside the pages and learn about a special giveaway from my publisher. (Winner will be chosen April 4.)

    I had so much fun working with the artist on the design for the pages, and choosing the quotations to include.

    I’m not the only grown-up who still enjoys coloring — more and more adults are returning to the coloring books they loved as children. Great idea! Coloring boosts happiness for many reasons.

    Coloring is calming, even meditative. The activity of coloring helps to focus the mind and rest the body in a constructive, creative way. In my coloring book, I hope that the quotations, too, will inspire quiet reflection.

    Coloring is very satisfying, because there’s a special pleasure in doing things with our hands. Very often these days, we’re sitting behind screens and living in our heads. Like activities such as knitting or tying flies or walking, coloring allows us to connect with the physical world, in the present moment. And there’s something about the repetitive, wordless nature of the work that boosts creativity and energy.

    Coloring is a great activity to do with other people. Research shows that a secret—probably the secret—to happiness is strong connections with other people. Coloring is fun to do with other people. It’s companionable, and allows for conversation, and at the same time, gives a sense of shared purpose.

    With my sister Elizabeth Craft, I host a podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Many people have written to tell me that they like to color as they listen to the latest episode—the two activities are highly compatible.

    On a less lofty note, coloring helps to curb snacking! Coloring keeps hands busy, which diminishes the urge to snack; plus, after carefully working on a beautiful design, who wants to risk getting a grease stain or smudge on the page?

    Finally, one of my own favorite things about coloring is that It gives me a reason to buy and use beautiful supplies—gorgeous colored markers and pens, as well as lovely books of designs and paper. Well-made tools make work a joy. And I love to feast my eyes on beautiful, brilliant colors.

    Do you love to color? If so, I hope the The Happiness Project Mini Posters makes you happier.

    The post Announcing My New Happiness Project Coloring Book! Do You Love to Color? appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:38:10 on 2016/10/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , ghosts, Happiness Books, Karl Ove Knausguaard, , , , Patricia Clapp, read, ,   

    Revealed! Three Book Club Choices for October. Happy Reading! 

    bookclubchoicesoct16

    Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

    • one outstanding book about happiness or habits
    • one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit
    • one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

     

    Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

    For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.  Drumroll…

    A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

    My Antonia by Willa Cather

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    An outstanding children’s book:

    Jane-Emily by Patricial Clapp

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    An eccentric pick:

    My Struggle, Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

    Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

    Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

    The post Revealed! Three Book Club Choices for October. Happy Reading! appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:20:37 on 2016/07/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , cartoon, , , Happiness Books, , , , , Richard and Florence Atwater, Roz Chast,   

    Revealed! Book Club Choices for July. Such Great Books. 

    Gretchen Rubin Book Club Picks - July 2016

    Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

    • one outstanding book about happiness or habits
    • one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit
    • one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

     

    Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

    For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.  Drumroll…

    A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

    Heartburn by Nora Ephron

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    An outstanding children’s book:

    Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    An eccentric pick:

    Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

    Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

    If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

    The post Revealed! Book Club Choices for July. Such Great Books. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:22:35 on 2016/06/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , generosity, Happiness Books, , , , , , , story-telling,   

    A Little Happier: Bill Clinton and Rob Lowe’s Son Give a Lesson in Happiness. 

    Rob Lowe

    I don’t often read celebrity memoirs, but my sister Elizabeth and others told me that actor Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends was terrific, so I decided to read it myself.

    They’re right — it’s a great book. This episode, in particular, really stuck in my mind. Rob Lowe recounts:

    On my last visit to the Clinton White House, I’m standing on the South Lawn with [my wife] Sheryl and the boys talking to the president before he hops onto Marine One. My youngest son, Johnowen, is holding his stuffed frog, Gwee Gwee, which he never lets out of his sight, under any circumstances. It has been his security blanket since he was an infant. But now, he takes it out of his mouth and hands his old, tattered from to the president.

    “Well, look at this!” says the president. “Is this for me?” he asks.

    Johnowen nods shyly. “For you,” he says in a small voice.

    Sheryl and I look at each other in shock.

    “Wow, Johnowen!” exclaims Matthew.

    “Well, thank you, young man. I bet you didn’t know, but I collect frogs. Have since I was a boy like you….I’ll keep him nice and safe. You can come visit him at the Clinton Library someday.”

    How about you? Have you ever been in a situation where you realized that the generous thing to do was to take?

    I must admit I’m a little obsessed with this theme. I collect examples. It’s a paradox that fascinates me.

    Thanks to my terrific sponsor: Squarespace. Start building your website and get your free trial today.  Go to Squarespace.com, and enter the offer code “happier” to get 10% off your first purchase.

    Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

     

    Happier listening!

    The post A Little Happier: Bill Clinton and Rob Lowe’s Son Give a Lesson in Happiness. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:00:56 on 2016/06/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Felice Cohen, , Happiness Books, , interior design, , , organizing, , , , ,   

    “Just Like It’s Not Easy to Lose Weight, It’s Not Easy for People to Let Go of Their Past.” 

    felicecohen

    Interview: Felice Cohen.1pix

    I learned about Felice Cohen when I, like twelve million other people, watched a short video where she showed of her 90-square-foot Manhattan studio. (90 square feet is about the size of a Honda Accord, if that helps you visualize how small this space is.)

    Several people emailed me about the video, both because it was about dealing with possessions and home, which is a subject that I love, and also because — you can see that she’s reading my book The Happiness Project! Which was so fun.

    To see the cameo of The Happiness Project, go to minute 1:01.

    Now Felice Cohen has a new book about living in a tiny space. In 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (or More), she talks about de-cluttering, organizing, and issues about how to live large in a small space.

    I wanted to ask Felice for her thoughts on happiness, habits, and home.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

    Felice: Writing out a new To Do list. Seeing the tasks I’ve already crossed out makes me feel accomplished, while writing out new goals inspires me. A To Do list also adds structure to my day and frees up mental space I’d otherwise spend trying to remember all that I need to do. Best of all, these lists capture life’s moments. When I was the Chief of Staff to the president at Hunter College, I kept one large notebook and wrote down everything I had to do, often filling one or two entire pages a day. With each completed task, I would put one line through it and write the date. On occasion I would be asked days or weeks later if something ever got done. Looking back through pages to confirm, I would always be amazed by what I had succeeded at doing.

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

    Healthy habits are cumulative. Eating right, exercising, working towards your goals and believing in yourself are investments for your long-term health and happiness. I now go into every situation with an open mind thinking it will have a positive outcome. And why not? Life is full of surprises and while things may not always go your way, having a positive attitude can at least reduce the sting when they don’t. Best of all, I know there’s always next time.

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

    Exercise. While I also make sure to eat right and get enough sleep, exercise is crucial to my being able to write and organize a client’s home or office. I suffer from occasional bouts of lower back pain and when that happens I can barely stand up, let alone get anything done. As long as I exercise (cycle, walk, yoga, stand up paddle board) everyday, I’m okay. Plus, the endorphins are great and who doesn’t want to feel strong? It’s also part of my long-term goal to keep my body resilient to aging, so I can continue to do the things I love. Many people ask how I find the time. Simple. I don’t have a lot of stuff and I’m organized and efficient with my time. When you spend less time looking for stuff, cleaning stuff or working to pay off stuff, you’ll find you have a lot more time to do the things you love.

    I also make my bed first thing every morning. It sets a productive intention to the day.

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

    When I lived in the 90-square-foot NYC studio, I didn’t have a kitchen and only a mini fridge. At first I went out to dinner or got take out every night. I was living on the Upper West Side where there are endless restaurants. I soon realized I was spending a lot of money, plus you don’t always know what’s going into the food. I had a toaster oven (where I made my Shrinky Dinks art), so I decided to put that to good use. I soon got really good at making meals in the toaster, plus got accustomed to making salads in the airplane-sized bathroom sink! I also gave myself an incentive. The money I saved from going out to eat, I put towards a new bicycle.

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

    Upholder. All. Day. Long. I look at life as an endless road of possibilities. I grew up thinking I could achieve anything I wanted. (My mom was always taking me to the library and my favorite book was Girls Can Be Anything by Norma Klein. I was also a varsity athlete and was recruited to play two Division 1 sports. I loved competing, but more so, I loved the camaraderie of being part of a team. If we lost a game, I wouldn’t brood like some other teammates. Sure, winning was fun, but at that age, I knew that either outcome didn’t really matter. It was only a game. Life to me sometimes feels like a game. We can either enjoy it or be defensive all the time. I choose to be on the Enjoy It Team.

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

    December. There’s a holiday craft fair in Manhattan that sells enormous gingerbread cookies from a farm upstate. Those cookies are my kryptonite. (Okay, that and Nutella.) The key I found to battling things that interfere with healthy habits is to give in to them once in a while. (In my case, a few weeks out of the year.) It’s something I look forward to and enjoy. I mean, what else am I going to live for? Kale? Be real.

    Do you embrace habits or resist them?

    Embrace. Habits to me signify change and change represents new possibilities. I’ve met many people whose first reaction is to resist change. “But I’ve always done it this way.”  I think they fear it will make their lives harder. Many of my clients have a hard time getting rid of stuff. “I might need that one day!” We get attached to things and don’t think we’ll be able to live without it. But there is not one person who I’ve helped get rid of bags and bags (and for many, more bags!) of stuff who didn’t feel happy and free when I was done. Just like it’s not easy to lose weight, it’s not easy for people to let go of their past. Once I explain getting rid of stuff does not mean they’re forgetting their past, but making room for their future with new experiences, they’re more able to part with things they no longer have use for but are keeping out of habit.

    Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

    A boss at my alma mater: the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I helped run orientation for 4,500 new students every summer for seven years. My boss had many rules, but her most important – “Better 10 minutes early than one minute late,” was etched into our brains, ensuring that we’d be where we needed to be and on time. That maxim has benefited me numerous times ever since. Whether I was catching a flight, working with a client or even meeting a friend, being early not only keeps my stress level down, but I have also met new people and seen sights I would otherwise have missed.

    The post “Just Like It’s Not Easy to Lose Weight, It’s Not Easy for People to Let Go of Their Past.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:23:54 on 2016/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Happiness Books, , personal commandments, , ,   

    Have You Ever Been Made Happier by a “Modest Splurge?” Of What? For Me, Magic Markers. 

    magicmarkersmyset

    I’m an under-buyer, and for the most part, I dislike shopping, errands, and buying stuff.

    In fact, one of my happiness-project resolutions is to “Indulge in a modest splurge.” I remind myself that sometimes, it makes me happy to indulge in a modest splurge — to buy something that I don’t absolutely need, but that makes my day brighter in some way.

    I indulged in a modest splurge a few days ago.

    I was early for a meeting (I’m always early), so I decided to spend the time wandering around an art store. I love just looking at the things in art stores. This store, sadly, was going out of business, so prices were slashed.

    As a result, the shelves were fairly bare, but I happened to notice a giant box of beautiful, high-quality, double-ended magic markers.

    These particular markers hold special memories for me, because when I was in college, my roommate had twelve of these markers, and she prized them highly. She never let anyone borrow them, and we could use them only under her supervision. (Very wisely–she knew that we’d lose them, or leave the caps loose.) We had so much fun with those markers.

    I looked at the price. For a box of markers, it was still expensive. At the same time, it was an extraordinary bargain. But I didn’t really need the markers–we have lots of good markers already. But this was a really good set of markers. It would make me very happy to use them, and my daughters would also use them. But couldn’t we use the markers we already had? Well-made tools make work a joy; having these terrific markers might boost my creativity. Looking at the markers brought back happy memories. But if we didn’t make good use of the markers, I would feel guilty.  Etc., etc., etc.

    I bet the other customers thought I was a very odd person — I stood stock still, gazing at the box, as these questions played out in my head, for several minutes.

    At last, I remembered my resolution to “Indulge in a modest splurge.” And I thought, well, I’m going to get them! I love them.

    I got them home, my daughters were delighted with the markers, we all tried them out — and my older daughter asked, “Can I take some to school tomorrow?”

    First, I said “No way.” I was thinking–I want to keep the set nice, I don’t want to risk losing or spoiling one, I want to “save” them to keep them nice, etc.

    Then I remembered #7 of my Twelve Personal Commandments. Spend out. I tend to hold things back, so I have to remind myself to spend out. Use things up! Put them into circulation, put them to work! Better to use the markers all the time, and risk losing them, than to save them on the shelf, and never use them at all. (Plus my daughter is fairly responsible.)

    Have you ever made a “modest splurge,” where a purchase made you happier? What did you splurge on?

    The post Have You Ever Been Made Happier by a “Modest Splurge?” Of What? For Me, Magic Markers. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:28:15 on 2016/05/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , Happiness Books,   

    Want to Read about Happiness or Habits? Check Out These 15 Outstanding Books. 

    Books about Happiness and habits

    15 Books about happiness and habitsMy favorite thing to do, by a long shot, is to read books — and then to try to persuade other people to read the books I love. So I get great joy from my monthly book club, where I recommend three books: one book about happiness, habits, or human nature; one outstanding work of children’s literature; and one eccentric pick.

    People often ask me for various lists, so here’s a list of some of my favorite books about happiness, habits, and human nature.

    As you’ll see, there’s a big range here. Non-fiction, fiction, essays, journals, serious, light…but in one way or another, these books shed light on some big questions:

    • How do we build a happy life?
    • What do we owe other people?
    • How can we change?
    • What habits will tend to make us happier?
    • How do we learn about ourselves?

     

    Oh, how I love all these books.

    15 Books About Happiness, Habits, and Human Nature

    1. The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    2.  Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired by Till Roenneberg

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    3. Here Is New York by E. B. White

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    4. The Journal of Jules Renard

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    6. Pack of Two: the Intricate Bonds Between People and Dogs by Caroline Knapp

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    7. The Diary of Anne Frank

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    8. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon

    9. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo and William Patrick.

    Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

    10. How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton

    Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

    11. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

    Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

    12. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes

    Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

    13. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

    Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

    14. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Fankl

    Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon

    15. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

    Buy from WORD ; BN.com; Amazon

    Have you read any of these? What books would you add?

    The post Want to Read about Happiness or Habits? Check Out These 15 Outstanding Books. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:47:40 on 2016/04/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Happiness Books, , , Joshua Becker, , ,   

    “I Was Drawn to the Notion of Freeing Up Time and Space and Energy for the Things that Matter Most.” 

    joshua-becker

    Interview: Joshua Becker.

    Joshua Becker and I met during a conference in Portland, Oregon — I was very interested to meet him, because I’d read posts on his site, Becoming Minimalist.

    Within the larger subject of happiness, one of the most complex, and emotionally charged, is the role of possessions and happiness.

    I write a lot about this issue in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. And in Better Than Before, I write about the distinction between simplicity-lovers and abundance-lovers. I think it’s safe to say that Joshua is a simplicity lover! (Now, some simplicity-lovers say that simplicity is the true abundance…but there’s a difference between simplicity-abundance and abundance-abundance.)

    Joshua has a book that’s just about to hit the shelves. He describes  The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own as “a book about owning less, but it’s more than that. It’s a book about generosity and intentionality and learning to pursue happiness in more fulfilling places than the acquisition of money or possessions.”

    I was intrigued to hear what he’d have to say on the subject of habits, happiness, and minimalism.

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

    Joshua: Absolutely! In fact, the work I do today is based on a lightning bolt moment. Eight years ago, while cleaning out my garage, I was introduced to the idea of intentionally owning fewer possessions during a short conversation with my neighbor. At the time, this was counter-intuitive to me. I’d spent most of my life pursuing and accumulating as many material possessions as I could afford. But when my neighbor introduced me to the idea of minimalism, I was immediately drawn to the notion of freeing up time and space and energy for the things that matter most. Ever since then, I’ve worked to keep my possessions at a minimum and help others discover there is more joy to be found in owning less than we can ever discover pursuing more.

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

    It is important for me to clear distractions—both at work and at home. Distractions can come from any number of places, but I often find that removing physical distractions (clutter) from my environment provides me both calm and focus. For me, this means something simple: clearing my desk at the end of the workday and cleaning my kitchen at the end of the evening so each day begins fresh. Recently, somebody advised that I do the same with my computer (shutting browser tabs, saving and closing documents at the end of the day)—I have been enjoying that routine for the past few weeks.

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

    I’m not sure I’d classify it as a habit—I usually think of it as more of a temptation that often gets the best of me. But internally, I’ve struggled with jealousy as long as I can remember. For example, I often find myself becoming envious of the skill and success of other writers or of those who are younger but have seemingly accomplished more. Sometimes I find motivation in this envy, but most of the time it is crippling and burdensome.

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

    One important realization that I made recently in life is that my predisposition does not determine my future. For the longest time, I would excuse negative habits as “just the way I am.” Often times, with an almost defeatist attitude, we make excuses for our negative behaviors or unhealthy habits by appealing to an unchangeable, internal force that makes decisions for us. And while our specific personalities certainly do make some habits more difficult to implement, it is important to realize the opportunity to create new ones is always available to us.

    Do you embrace habits or resist them?

    Minimalism served as a catalyst to embrace greater intentionality in all areas of my life. Eight years ago, I would never have responded to this question by saying I embrace habits. But today, I do. In fact, I see them as essential to living my fullest life possible.

    Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

    Leo Babauta’s writing on habit creation has been very influential in my life (Zen Habits). I recommend his work to everyone. His approach is practical, helpful, positive, and encouraging.

    The post “I Was Drawn to the Notion of Freeing Up Time and Space and Energy for the Things that Matter Most.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:13:08 on 2016/04/14 Permalink
    Tags: Allison Gilbert, , , , , Happiness Books, , , , , , ,   

    What’s a Critical Habit for Happiness? “Remembering the People We Miss Most.” 

    allisongilbert

    Interview: Allison Gilbert.

    I don’t even remember when or how I met Allison Gilbert. We keep banging into each other in the world of New York area writers, and it’s always thought-provoking and fun to talk to her.

    She has a new book that just hit the shelves. Passed and President: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive is all about how to keep alive our memories of the people we love, after they’re gone — in a way that’s about happiness and remembering, not sadness and grieving. The book is crammed with specific, manageable, creative ideas for holding onto precious memories. (What a brilliant title for this subject, right?)

    Given her subject, I was eager to talk to her about habits and happiness.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

    Allison: Being proactive about remembering loved ones I’ve lost.  Honoring past relationships has significant restorative power.  Celebrating what our family and friends still mean to us — even if they’ve been gone one year, fifteen years, or more — makes us happier.  This is because grief, especially when new, tends to make individuals feel out of control. Taking steps to remember leads to empowerment, and feeling empowered is what enables us regain our footing and charge forward.  Absence and presence can coexist.  Moving forward doesn’t have to mean leaving your loved ones behind.

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

    Getting up early to write.  My alarm is set every day for 5:30am, before my husband and our two teenagers begin to stir.   I use this time to think and type without interruption.  Spending these concentrated moments on my writing puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.  I’ve focused on myself — the work I enjoy and need to do — and then I can be more giving to my family.  Getting up early to write it a lot like putting my oxygen mask on first.

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

    Without hesitation, I am an Upholder.   I’m very good at setting deadlines for myself and meeting them.  I also LOVE to-do lists!

    Have you ever changed a habit over a prolonged period of time, after years of struggle?

    Yes, over a decade, after several family members died in rapid succession, including my parents. Immediately following each of their funerals, I never had to look far to share a story or hear one.  But a few months later, outside the holidays and other special occasions, I hesitated to bring them up in conversation.  Anecdotes I told my children seemed heavy or forced, and I didn’t want to make my friends uncomfortable. I also had so many questions most of my well-meaning friends couldn’t answer. What should I do with all their belongings— the random collections of loose papers, official documents, silverware, dishes, gardening tools, photo albums, VHS tapes, film reels, and 35mm slides? What should I keep? Where do I even start?  In some respects, because techniques for honoring and celebrating loved ones are seldom discussed, I felt lonelier at that later time than when my parents and other family members died.

    Over time, I came to an important conclusion.  Nobody is responsible for keeping my family’s memory alive except me.  For my parents and other loved ones to continue enriching my life—and for my children to get to know their relatives—it would be up to me to develop the habit of integrating them into our already full and busy routines.  So the more I explored ways to celebrate their memory — cooking reminiscent foods, using technology and social media to frame their memory in a contemporary context — the happier I felt.  I embraced the idea that I could move forward, live and rich and joyful life, while keeping the memory of my loved ones alive.  This new habit has been a game changer.  It’s brought immeasurable joy and grace to my life.  In fact, as I was researching and writing Passed and Present I learned something quite astounding:  Taking steps to appropriately remember loved ones has been proven to be essential for healing.  Individuals who keep their loved one’s memory alive almost always fare better emotionally than those who don’t.  Who knew?! A critical habit for happiness is remembering the people we miss most.

    Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

    My mother.   My mother was a top executive recruiter and was often interviewed for magazines and books.  She was an expert source in Dr. Joyce Brothers’ book, The Successful Woman: How You Can Have a Career, a Husband and a Family — and Not Feel Guilty About It.  The book wasn’t relevant to me when it was published (it came out when I was in high school), but now that my mom is gone, I cherish the perspective she offered on habits.  She often used small pockets of time for guilt-free pleasure.  The best such nugget is on Page 113.  In this passage, my mother was asked how she finds time to take care of herself, even go clothes shopping, when she was also running an international enterprise.  Here’s what she said:

    “The only time I spend any time going shopping is when I’m traveling on business.  If I’m in Dallas and have an appointment at nine and the next one isn’t until three, there is nothing I can do in between.  I can’t talk with my daughter.  I can’t write a business proposal.  So I go shopping.  It’s the only time I can shop without guilt.”  

    This reads a little dated, of course.  My mother offered her point of view before laptops and cell phones. But her thinking still rings very true for me.  And if I’m being honest, the Passed and Present Memory Bash Book Tour might provide just these kind of guilt-free shopping opportunities for me.  I can’t wait to get on the road — meet readers — and also find windows of time to buy some new clothes.  I’ll be enthusiastically celebrating my mother’s memory with every dress I find. (To learn more about the #MemoryBash Movement, read more here.)

    The post What’s a Critical Habit for Happiness? “Remembering the People We Miss Most.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
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