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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Randi: Laughter is the best medicine.

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

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

    Aroused by Randi Hutter Epstein

     
  • gretchenrubin 17:27:35 on 2017/09/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Science,   

    Exciting: Scientific Research and Experiments Underway to Understand the Four Tendencies Better. 


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    When I talk to people about the Four Tendencies, one issue that often comes up  is, “Has your framework been scientifically validated?” People want to know about the research that supports the Four Tendencies.

    As I describe in my book The Four Tendencies, as part of my work on these personality profiles, I ran a study among a nationally representative sample, to examine a geographically dispersed group of U.S. adults with a mix of gender, age, and household income. I learned a lot from that study.

    I’m excited, too, to announce that a team of researchers has published a scientific article about using the Four Tendencies in health-care. This is particularly gratifying, because one of my main goals for writing the book was to help health-care providers find more effective ways of supporting patients in following their treatment plans.

    Why don’t people take their medication, do their exercises, manage their blood sugar, follow doctor’s orders — when it seems clear that they’d be healthier and happier if they did? I believe the Four Tendencies sheds a lot of light on this question of “adherence” — and how to solve it.

    Here’s the conclusion:

    “Increasing adherence to treatment is critical for improving outcomes and minimising healthcare resource waste. In general, several of the interventions available today are complex, resource intensive, expensive, and lack a firm focus on the patient. We need an effective method to target the specific interventions that provide the most benefit to individual patients, and it is crucial that this method be easy and inexpensive to administer, and widely applicable, as part of everyday practice. Rubin’s Four Tendencies model provides an opportunity to test such a targeted, patient-specific strategy. Such a tool is only useful if the interventions that are most effective for patients with a specific Rubin Tendency exist and can be implemented easily. In an environment with already stretched resources where the factors influencing adherence are complex and varied, the ability to tailor interventions to the patient is an important component of a wider problem.”

    Read the full article here.

    I asked Paul Lavender, who kicked off the process of getting this article written, about why he thought it was worth undertaking this research. He explained:

    I think this model makes a huge contribution to the topic of personality and treatment adherence.

    I’m generalizing somewhat, but it is fair to say that ‘personality’ is regarded as fairly unimportant in ensuring adherence. Why? Well, there are factors such as education, financial status, access to treatment, severity of disease, patient-doctor relationship, etc. that are shown to have a far greater impact than personality on adherence in well-controlled trials.

    So why does the Four Tendencies add something valuable? I would say three reasons:

    1. It does not focus on ‘personality’ as a whole, but on the most important aspect of personality from a treatment adherence perspective: typical response to expectations. To give a personal anecdote, my wife, my best friend and I have all taken a well-established personality test and got the same personality ‘type’ – even though this ‘type’ only comprises 5% of the population. So you would think we are pretty similar? Well, on the big issues, yes – but she is 100% ‘Questioner’, he is 100% ‘Rebel,’ and I’m 100% ‘Obliger,’ so if we ever had to take a course of treatment, we would be very different – and a detailed personality test did not pick that up.
    2. It does not postulate that a personality type is indicative of poor adherence, but that a Tendency is indicative of poor adherence only in a certain environment. To my mind, this is absolutely crucial, and to my knowledge unique to the Four Tendencies. Knowing someone’s Tendency (with the exception of ‘Upholder’) will not allow you to predict their level of treatment adherence. For example, Questioners may be non-adherent in an environment where they are given little information on their condition and treatment, but absolutely adherent in the opposite environment. Consider that patient-doctor relationship is a large predictor of non-adherence (but treated as a separate factor from ‘personality’). If we hypothesize that poor patient-doctor relationships are often a ‘misalignment’ of Tendencies between the patient and the doctor, then the Four Tendencies model has the potential to have a huge impact on treatment adherence. In short, the Four Tendencies model postulates that 80% of patients are more likely to be non-adherent in a particular treatment environment. It is relatively easy and inexpensive for health care practitioners to change the treatment environment.
    3. It is easy to understand. One problem with many psychological models is that they can only be understood by psychologists. Rubin’s Four Tendencies is simple to pick up for all health-care practitioners, from all disciplines.

    Research and experiments are also being done by Judson Brewer, MD PhD, is one of the leading minds in the field of habit change, addiction, and the “science of self-mastery.”  I recently did an interview with Dr. Brewer about how he’s using the Four Tendencies to help people have a better relationship to food and eating. Stay tuned for that transcript — I’ll post it soon.

    I’m very pleased to see the scientific community engage on the Four Tendencies — exciting to see other people grappling with the framework.

    The post Exciting: Scientific Research and Experiments Underway to Understand the Four Tendencies Better. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:39:18 on 2017/03/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , Quiet, , Science, , Susan Cain,   

    Podcast 107: Plan a Secret Date, a Conversation with “Quiet” Author Susan Cain, and Discover New Podcasts. 


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    Susan Cain

    It’s time for the next installment of Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

    Update: Elizabeth got great advice from listeners about how to organize her jewelry.

    Try This at Home: Our listener Kelly suggested “planning a secret date.”

    We mention the discussion we had way back in episode 3, about the “evil donut-bringer.”

    Happiness Hack: Listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed to get more listening done — or if it’s going too fast, you can slow it down. Not sure how to change your settings? Instructions here.

    Interview: The brilliant Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and the founder of the “Quiet Revolution.” She also did a podcast series that focused on giving parents and teachers tools to help quiet kids.

    If you want to watch Susan’s super-popular TED talk, it’s here. More than sixteen million people have watched it.

    For her Try-This-at-Home, Susan’s suggestion ties back to the Strategies of Convenience and Pairing: she helped herself form the habit of writing by associating it with her love of sitting in cafes.

    Demerit: When I got a new laptop, instead of taking the time to work with it for a few minutes while I had an expert there to help me, I didn’t do it. And now everything on my screen is too small, and I don’t know how to fix it.

    Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to nature, because of all the rain recently in L.A.

    Bonus Gold Star for listeners, I’d be curious to hear: What are you doing when you listen to our podcast?

     

    As I mentioned, I have a coloring book coming out soon (!); you can check out The Happiness Project Mini Posters: 20 Hand-Lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame.

    If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

    I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Check out  Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and free in-home or on-phone design consultations and free professional measuring.

    Also check out ThirdLove, the lingerie brand that uses real women’s measurements to design better-fitting bras. Try one of their bestselling bras for free, for 30 days, by visiting ThirdLove.com/happier.

    Also check out Diane James Home. Buy gorgeous faux floral arrangements online. Go to DianeJamesHome.com, and enter promo code “happier” at check-out to get 15% off your entire order.

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

    Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” The first shows are Side Hustle School and Radical Candor. Elizabeth’s show with her writing partner, Sarah Fain, will be Happier in Hollywood, so stay tuned for that.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 107: Plan a Secret Date, a Conversation with “Quiet” Author Susan Cain, and Discover New Podcasts. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • gretchenrubin 00:19:31 on 2017/03/03 Permalink
    Tags: Alan Burdick, , , , , , , , Science, ,   

    “My Laptop Is My Friend and My Enemy.” 


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    Alan Burdick

    Interview: Alan Burdick.

    I’m fascinated by time, and our perception of time. Of everything I’ve ever written, I think this one-minute video, “The days are long, but the years are short,” is the thing that resonates most with people.

    So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Alan Burdick’s new book, Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation. It’s a fascinating, mind-blowing look at the curious qualities of time — how we understand it, how it affects our bodies, how it’s both an objective measurement and a subjective experience.

    I just started this book yesterday, and I’m racing through it — it’s just my kind of book. What happens when a person lives in a cave, cut off from any light? Why does time seem to pass more quickly, the older we get? How is it possible that many people (like Alan himself) often wake up at exactly the same minute every morning? How can the years seem so short, and the days feel so long? And so on.

    Alan is a staff writer and former senior editor at The New Yorker, and his writing has appeared in magazines from Discover to Harper’s to GQ. His book Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion was a National Book Award finalist. So he’s a great writer to tackle such an immense and thought-provoking subject.

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

    Alan: Until I began working on Why Time Flies, I hadn’t realized how deeply time is embedded in us. Each of our cells is basically a clock that beats out a firm twenty-four-hour rhythm; together these form bigger clocks — the liver, the kidneys — that also keep a twenty-four rhythm, and as group they’re responsible for running our physiology. Basically, the sum of me, and you, is a clock, and respecting its rhythm is essential to one’s health. So, for instance, I’ve stopped eating late at night, as that’s the least efficient time of day to metabolize food. And I try to get outside for at least a few minutes every morning, because exposure to daylight at that time of day ultimately helps me sleep better. It’s a matter of listening to the clock that is me.

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

    Running — it’s good exercise, of course, but it also clears my mind. I’ve been a runner since forever, and now that my kids are old enough, we can all go to the track in the afternoon or on a weekend and run around it together, I love it.

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

    That having and keeping a schedule can be liberating. I used to hate the idea of planning out my day, with certain hours set aside for writing, errands, and whatever else; it felt confining. But that sort of planning actually relieves me of the stress of deciding what to do next – which, in my case, can fill up way more time than it should. So once I’ve blocked out my day, I can actually relax into each block of time a little more, because I don’t have to spend any of that time thinking about what needs to happen in the next period.

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

    Procrastination; I put stuff off, although I’m much better than I used to be. Some years ago I read Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit, and that made a difference. I realized that, for me at least, procrastination is often a way of avoiding making a decision – and simply acknowledging that is the first step toward actually making whatever decision needs to be made. I also make a lot of lists now; by writing down all the things I need to do, I remove the distraction of trying to juggle all that stuff in my head. Plus I have the satisfaction of crossing something off a list.

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

    One of the healthiest things I can do for myself is to wake up early, at maybe 5 a.m., and put in a couple of hours of writing before our kids get up. That’s the most productive window of my day. But I’m just not a natural early-riser; it’s so hard to get out of bed at that hour! Often, instead, I do the opposite: stay up really late and write until 1 or 2 a.m. That’s also a productive window for me – but it’s exhausting and it makes my next day start late. The key to my establishing the habit of getting up early is to avoid the temptation to go back to work at night after the kids have gone to bed. Like me, my wife is a journalist and writer, and it can be hard for us to unplug from the world, so I always keep a good book by the bed to help me turn off my work-brain.

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

    An Obliger, definitely; I’m much better with a deadline set by someone else than with one I set myself.

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

    My laptop is my friend and my enemy. It’s where I do my writing, and I’d be lost without it, but I also struggle constantly against getting sucked into its many distractions and wonders – email, Twitter, Facebook, the news, Wikipedia entries about anteaters, and the rest. So I try to block out a couple of hours during my workday when I literally turn off the Internet; the software app Freedom is great for that. Even then, though, I’ll start rooting around in my computer files, looking at old photos, cleaning out the hard-drive, anything to avoid the blank page. That’s the point at which I turn off my laptop, put a notebook and pen in my pocket, and go for a walk.

    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.?

    One night at dinner, when our kids were maybe 6 years old – we have twin boys, they’re now 10 – one of them said for the zillionth time, “Dad, hey dad …” and it suddenly hit me: I’m their dad. Obviously, I knew for years that I was a parent and a dad. But I still thought of me as just me: Alan, writer, editor at various magazines, ran track in high school, traveled after college in Central America, and all of the other memories. That was my identity, and it matched pretty well with the way that Susan, my wife, sees me. But suddenly I realized that here were two people very close to me who knew none of that: to them, my identity was dad.

    That made me sit up straight. In the book I write about how, as I grew into the role of parent, I sometimes felt like I was dismantling a ship and using the planks to build a ship for someone else. The story of my self wasn’t just mine any more. It also meant that my habits, weren’t just mine anymore either, so I needed to work harder at developing some good ones — regular exercise, getting my full dose of sleep, writing at the same time every day. I’d gotten bogged down in the book, but that exchange with the kids pushed me to get reorganize, double-down, and finish. Also, by then, the boys were old enough to say things like, “I bet J. K. Rowling writes faster than you,” and that prodding helped, too.

    Do you embrace habits or resist them?

    I’m very good with habits once I start them – it’s the starting-them part that I resist!

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

    For the first couple of years after our twins were born, our life was chaos; we were learning to be parents, twice over; both of us were trying to work; and we’d just bought our first house and were discovering how much work that entails. Somewhere in there my mother-in-law gave us some priceless advice: make your bed every morning. It seems like such a small thing, which is exactly why it’s so worthwhile. We start the day having accomplished one small task of self-improvement, so subsequent ones feel easier to achieve. And at the end of the day, if life is still chaotic, we have a well-made bed to crawl into. All these years later we still make our bed every morning, often together — it’s a like a gift to our future selves.

    The post “My Laptop Is My Friend and My Enemy.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:02:49 on 2017/02/10 Permalink
    Tags: , Florence Williams, , , , , , Science, The Nature Fix   

    “Humans Are Primed to Love the Natural World, But We Still Have to Cultivate It.” 


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    Interview: Florence Williams.

    One of my happiness-project resolutions is toGo outside.” I get energy and mood boost from the light, the fresh air, the exercise –and from being around nature.

    I’m very lucky, as a New Yorker, because I live near Central Park, which is a beautiful, beautiful place.

    A new book by Florence Williams makes me all the more certain that my resolution to “go outside” is a good idea. Her fascinating new book is The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier and More Creative.

    In addition to writing The Nature Fix, Florence is also a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and a freelance writer for the New York TimesNew York Times MagazineNational Geographic, among other places, and she’s a fellow podcaster — she’s the writer and host of the Audible Original series, Breasts Unbound. A fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University, her work focuses on the environment, health and science.

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

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

    Florence: The big takeaway is that spending time is a necessity, and not just a luxury, in order for humans to be our best selves. We’ve become disconnected from the natural world by accident – we’re busy, we need to live in cities, we’re increasingly tempted by fun and addicting technology. Now we need to put some intention into regaining the connection, for ourselves and our families, because it will help us be happier, healthier and sharper, and it will, ironically, help us build stronger bonds with each other.

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

    I make it a priority to walk outside at least 30 minutes a day. If it has to be on a street, I try to pick the route with the most trees. And while I’m out there, I remind myself to notice the beauty around me – to hear the birds, look at the pattern of branches against the sky, watch the buds coming in. This boosts my mood and helps my attention span for the whole day.

    You say that short walks in nature cause measurable changes in our physiology. Have you found that different natural environments yield different benefits?

    Definitely. Humans are primed to love the natural world, but we still have to cultivate it, and cultivate it early. Because of how and where we do this, I think there’s a lot of variation in what people respond to emotionally. For some, it’s the ocean. For others, the ocean freaks them out and it’s a sunset over a city skyline. Because I grew up in New York City, my heart starts to sing when I enter Central Park. I also love the desert and a big river rolling through it. Think about where you were happiest outside as a child, and chances are you will feel joy in landscapes that are similar.

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

    In addition to the 30 minutes minimum of walking, I have another one that I’ve become very attached to, and that’s walking again,  a little bit, with the dog, in the dark before bedtime. It’s quiet and dark, and I look for the moon and say hello. I’m convinced this helps me sleep better (recent studies suggest darkness before bed resets your circadian rhythm and titrates the proper release of melatonin from your brain), and it certainly makes my dog happy.

    Do you embrace habits or resist them?

    Ah, I have to admit, I’m a bit of resister. I embrace intuition rather than proscription, and then feel a bit smug about it, but that’s probably self-delusion. Fortunately, my intuition is to take good care of myself, and that means embracing healthy habits. But I allow myself wiggle room and I’m not hard on myself for messing up. Sometimes I think there’s a reason for not keeping a promise, and it’s worthwhile to dig around for that.

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

    Yes, My dear sister-in-law, Lisa Jones, who lives in bucolic Boulder, Colorado and who hikes literally hours every day when she’s not writing brilliant books. Lisa inspires me to take bigger, longer, more bad-ass hikes, and she convinces me this will help my creativity and problem-solving in the long run. Plus she passes along cool dietary advice, like: Eat Rye!

    America has a long tradition of people writing about walking in nature, from Thoreau to Bill Bryson. Where do you see yourself within this spectrum of American nature writing?

    I don’t really consider my work nature writing, which can lean a bit too romantic for my taste. I have a journalist’s eye, and I like finding connections that are sometimes obscure. I’ve always been interested in the intersection of humans and the environment. I like putting people into the equation, and I like to think I bring a balance of humor and serious science and social questions about why we feel and think the way we do.

    The post “Humans Are Primed to Love the Natural World, But We Still Have to Cultivate It.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:19:21 on 2017/01/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Science, The Craving Mind   

    “Zombie Mode Is Not Nearly as Delicious as Diving Deeply into Fully Living Life Every Day.” 


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    Interview: Judson Brewer.

    I was very pleased to get the chance to talk to Judson Brewer, because he and I are interested in so many of the same subjects.

    He’s a leading figure in the “science of self-mastery” — oh, self-mastery! How I love that subject; it so appeals to my Upholder side.

    He wears many hats and has many balls in the air (to mix metaphors horribly): Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and associate professor in Medicine and Psychiatry at UMass Medical School; adjunct faculty at Yale University; research affiliate at MIT.

    One of his specialties is using mindfulness programs to address addiction. He’s developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments (e.g. www.goeatrightnow.com, www.cravingtoquit.com). He has also studied the underlying neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI.  In 2012, he founded Claritas MindSciences to move his discoveries of clinical evidence behind mindfulness for eating, smoking and other behavior change into the marketplace.

    In just a few weeks, his new book will hit the shelves — The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love, Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits.

    I was so interested to hear what Jud had to say about habits.

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

    Jud: I’ve been blown away by how habits are the basis for so much of our lives – from smartphones to romantic love to getting caught up in our own thinking to even how we judge “right” and “wrong” in the world. Now I understand more where the phrase “we are creatures of…” comes from. And it’s amazing how much our modern scientific tools such as probing people in their natural environments via smartphone technology and detecting brain changes using fMRI machines have helped fill in the picture of what’s going on. All of these seem to repeatedly point to the same end: that we are tapping into a very evolutionarily conserved process that was set up for survival (trigger, behavior, reward).

    Perhaps the most fascinating part of my research and clinical work was a paradoxical discovery: that we can tap into this natural reward-based learning process and by simply paying careful attention to different habit loops, we can learn to step out of them (paying careful attention to the “reward” is critical here).

    In our clinical and brain studies, my lab has found that simple mindfulness trainings to help us pay attention and build awareness around our habits can have big effects on changing them (e.g. smoking, stress and emotional eating); our research has shown that these practices can not only help us quit smoking and change eating habits but literally change how our brains fire and wire.

    What are some simple habits that consistently make you happier?

    Practicing simple acts of kindness. Being curious. Smiling.

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

    That changing habits is less an act of force or will than focusing on seeing the “reward” more clearly. I’ve also learned that curiosity is a key ingredient here.

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

    Judgment (of myself and others).

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

    Being kind. Listening carefully and completely when in conversation with someone. Exercising (running, mountain biking).

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

    Eating healthfully. Looking back, I think the roots of this started to grow when I was racing BMX bikes in junior high school. I started noticing that when I ate donuts and drank soda before a race, I’d quickly run out of steam – which I later learned was probably due to getting a sugar rush and subsequent crash. As an adult, I’ve really started noticing how my body and mind feel after eating junk food (especially refined sugar) as compared to healthy food. It’s amazing how much wisdom comes from simply paying attention to the process! I couldn’t maintain a “don’t eat ice cream because it’s bad for you” mindset (which was totally cognitive/thinking in nature), but now when a craving comes on to pig out, can more easily remember what it felt like last time I ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. This helps me stop with a small serving, while at the same time enjoy what I’m eating even more because I’m not mentally leaning in for the next bite.

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

    Definitely a Questioner!

    Do you embrace habits or resist them?

    Both – it is wonderful that we don’t have to relearn how to tie our shoes every day, and also great to pay attention to how much of our lives we spend on “autopilot” so that we can step out of old habits that no longer serve us, or may get in the way of really embracing life. I know that sounds hokey, but its true. Zombie mode is not nearly as delicious as diving deeply into and fully living life every day, no matter what is happening.

    If you’d like to hear more from Jud Brewer, you can watch his TED talk, “A simple way to break a bad habit”:

    The post “Zombie Mode Is Not Nearly as Delicious as Diving Deeply into Fully Living Life Every Day.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:16:15 on 2017/01/19 Permalink
    Tags: , Cuba, , Science,   

    The Happiness Lesson about Travel that I Have to Keep Learning, Over and Over. 


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    Last weekend, I went to Havanna, Cuba, with some friends, to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

    It was a terrific trip. But it reminded me of a happiness lesson I have to remind myself of, over and over.

    Before I leave on a trip, I inevitably start to think, “It’s so much trouble to go, I dislike the hassle and the logistics, it would be so relaxing to have a staycation,” etc.

    Of course I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to travel (especially to Cuba). I never forget that.

    But I’m not a naturally travel-loving person; I tend to love familiarity and routine. I’m not very adventurous.

    Once a trip is underway however — every time — I’m so happy. Time seems rich and slow. I meet  interesting people and get to do interesting things. I learn about the world. Even the most common objects — items on a grocery store shelf, cars, signs — are intriguing.

    The happiness research shows that people who do novel and challenging things are happier than people who stick to their familiar ways. Even little things, like going to a new restaurant, give a boost.

    So now, each time I start to have those thoughts, “Wouldn’t it be easier to stay home?” I remind myself, “You’ll be so glad once you’re there.” But still, although I’ve been through this process many times, I have to repeat that process.

    I realize that a lot of people are scratching their heads, thinking, “Is she nuts? It’s so fun to travel! I love to travel! If only I had more time/money/energy to travel!”

    It took me a long time to admit to myself that I’m not a natural travel-lover; I wish I were, but I’m not. But even so, I can get a big happiness boost from the experience.

    How about you — do you love travel, or are you more like me?

    The post The Happiness Lesson about Travel that I Have to Keep Learning, Over and Over. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:00:49 on 2016/08/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , media, r research, , , Science, televisin, , ,   

    News Flash: Watching TV with Your Sweetheart May Boost Your Happiness. 


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    Watching TV Happiness

    I’m very interested in the role of TV-watching in our happiness. After all,  after sleeping and work, it’s the biggest consumer of the world’s time.

    So I was interested to see that new research suggests that for  couples who don’t have lots of mutual friends, watching the same TV show (or reading the same book or going to the same movie) can help both people feel that they inhabit in the same social world.

    It turns out that couples who have lots of mutual friends tend to have the strongest bonds, and for those who don’t have a lot of mutual friends, having “shared media experiences” helps them to feel connected.

    This rang true for me. My husband Jamie and I have some mutual friends, but our social worlds don’t overlap extensively. Years ago, we both worked at the Federal Communications Commission, and I remember how much fun it was when we knew so many people in common.

    We do have the habit of choosing shows to watch together, and it really is an activity that draws us closer. For instance, we’ve watched Transparent, Game of Thrones, The Wire, Lost, The Shield.

    I bet this finding is true for non-romantic relationships, too. With my daughters, I’ve watched The Office (American version), Friends (yes, questionable judgment on my part, it’s raunchier than I remembered), The Mindy Project, SuperStore. And I’ve heard of offices that have a specific “office show” that people watch and discuss. It gives everyone something to talk about — and a form of unhurtful gossip — apart from work.

    I love to read, and I like reading in a room where someone else is reading, but it’s true that this activity has never seemed as…companionable…as watching the same TV show or movie. We’re not inhabiting the same inner world, we’re not reacting to the same material at the same time.

    I always felt a bit guilty about watching these TV shows with my husband — shouldn’t we be doing something else? But now I recognize that it’s a valuable, relationship-strengthening activity.

    Do you have a TV show that you watch with your sweetheart? Do you feel as if it draws you closer?

    The post News Flash: Watching TV with Your Sweetheart May Boost Your Happiness. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:56:20 on 2016/06/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , Niels Bohr, , , Science, , ,   

    A Little Happier: A Lucky Charm That Works Even If You Don’t Believe In It. 


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    A Little Happier with Gretchen Rubin

    Back in episode 59 of our podcast, Elizabeth and I talked about the value of giving yourself a lucky charm.

    Relying on lucky charms is superstitious, but in fact, it actually works. Researchers have found that people who believe they have luck on their side feel greater “self-efficacy”—the belief that we’re capable of doing what we set out to do—and this belief actually boosts mental and physical performance. Many elite athletes, for instance, are deeply superstitious, and in one study, people who were told that a golf ball “has turned out to be a lucky ball” did  better putting than people who weren’t told that.

    Any discussion of superstition reminds me of this perhaps-apocryphal story, about physicist Niels Bohr. I love this story!

    Most of us aren’t superstitious—but most of us are a littlestitious.

    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:

     

    The post A Little Happier: A Lucky Charm That Works Even If You Don’t Believe In It. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:21:11 on 2016/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , gender, men, Netflix, , Science, , , women   

    Why It Doesn’t Matter Much Whether You’re a Man or a Woman, for Happiness and Good Habits. 


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    Happiness in Men and Women

    When it comes to figuring out happiness and good habits, I don’t think it matters much if you’re a man or a woman.

    It’s easy to assume that certain aspects of ourselves matter more than they do. For instance, birth order. People believe that birth order has a big influence on personality — but research has disproved this. Birth order just doesn’t matter for personality.

    Now, whether you’re a man or a woman matters in some situations, sure.

    But in general, in my observation, for any particular person, individual differences swamp gender differences.

    In my own work and research for The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, I came to believe this more and more strongly.

    In my experience, women, especially, often assume that they are the way they are because of being a woman. “I’m like this, and I’m like this because I’m a woman, and most women are like this.” But to me, it seems that this points to some aspect of their personality that’s not related to gender.

    My first and very strong clue about this came when I was devising the Four Tendencies framework. I’d noticed that many women said to me, “Why is it that busy moms like us can’t take time for ourselves?

    And I’d think, well, I consider myself a busy mom, but I don’t have trouble taking care of myself. So why am I different?

    Now I know: this feeling of “not being able to take time for myself” isn’t a female thing, it’s an Obliger thing. Obliger men feel this way, too, but they don’t ascribe it to gender.

    Because of my strong conclusion that gender matters a lot less than people assume, I was fascinated to read the two pieces: Wired’sNetflix’s Grand, Daring, Maybe Crazy Plan to Conquer the World” and Fortune‘s “Netflix Says Geography, Age, and Gender are ‘Garbage’ for Predicting Taste.”

    When Nexflix tries to figure out what will appeal to viewers, it ignores geography, age, and gender: “in general, the variation within any population group is much wider than the collective difference between any two groups.” So whether  a person is a man or a woman isn’t useful information for Netflix, when they’re trying to understand their customers.

    The fact is, people often make sweeping generalizations about what “women” and “men” are like — but research suggests that these assumptions aren’t correct. The article “Men Are from Mars Earth, Women Are from Venus Earth,” summed up research done at the University of Rochester:

    “From empathy to sexuality to science inclination to extroversion, statistical analysis of 122 different characteristics involving 13,301 individuals shows that men and women, by and large, do not fall into different groups. In other words, no matter how strange and inscrutable your partner may seem, their gender is probably only a small part of the problem.”

    This wrong belief matters to happiness and habits, I think, because it means that people often misunderstand their own experience, and for that reason, can’t tackle a challenge in the most effective way.

    If I think “I can’t take time for myself because I’m a woman,” I may not try to do anything about it. If I think “I can’t take time for myself because I’m an Obliger,” I may decide, “I need accountability to get myself to go to the gym, so I’d better sign up with a trainer/join a running group/take a class.”

    More and more, I see that it’s very, very hard to appreciate how other people might see the world in a different way.

    People often say things like, “Well, of course, sometimes all of us just need to throw all the rules out the window and just indulge ourselves.” “All teenagers rebel.” “If people would just read the report and understand the facts, they’d follow this program.”  “No one wants someone looking over their shoulder all the time.” “It’s not healthy to be too rigid.” “If something’s important to you, you should be able to do it without any reminders.”

    But these generalizations just aren’t universally true. They’re true for some people.

    I think it’s much more helpful to say, “What kind of person am I? What’s true about me?” than think “We women struggle with…” or “We men always…” Because when we’re trying to understand ourselves, gender doesn’t provide a very helpful guide.

    Agree, disagree?

    The post Why It Doesn’t Matter Much Whether You’re a Man or a Woman, for Happiness and Good Habits. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
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