Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • When I’m Blue, a Depressing Book Reminds Just How Good I’ve Really Got It

    Will-SchwalbeHappiness interview: Will Schwalbe.

    I met Will Schwalbe a few years ago at a big conference called SXSW. We share an intense passion for reading and writing, and when I heard he'd written a book, The End of Your Life Book Club, I couldn't wait to read it. It's about the books that he and his mother read together during the last two years of her life.

    A book like Will's raises many questions about happiness, so I was eager to interview him about his thoughts on the subject.

    Gretchen: What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Will: Reading books makes me happier. Having coffee on Sunday morning with my partner and watching CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood makes me happier. Having a nap makes me happier.

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

    It's something I learned from Stumbling on Happiness, a wonderful book by Daniel Gilbert, and it's this: Experiences make me happier than

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  • 13 Tips for Being Happy in Your New Home

    PlayFamilyHouseornamentI've heard that a lot of people are giving Happier at Home as a gift to someone with a new home-recent grad, new roommate, newlywed, newly divorced, empty nester, downsizer, upsizer, new baby, new city. At times of transition like these, we give special thought to what we want from "home." So, to make such a gift a little more special, I'm creating a card about "Tips for being happy in your new home" that I can sign and mail to anyone who wants it.

    Here's what I've written. What should I add?

    Remember to take advantage of the features that you drew you to your home. Take time to light a fire in the fireplace, have coffee on the patio, take a bath in the beautiful tub.

    Make your bed.

    Be a tourist without leaving home. A tourist reads and studies, a tourist shows up, a tourist looks at things with fresh eyes.

    Someplace, keep an empty shelf; someplace, keep a junk drawer.

    Enjoy the good smells of home. Take a moment to appreciate the fragrance of a grapefruit or

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  • Do You Share the Compulsion to Take Notes?

    pen-and-paper-writingAssay: One of my Secrets of Adulthood is: People are more alike than we think, and we're less alike than we think.

    For instance, for years, I thought that my habit of constant note-taking was quite peculiar. But since I've written about my love of note-taking I've discovered that many people share this passion.

    In her essay "On Keeping a Notebook," in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion describes this drive:

    The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.

    She's right to use the word "compulsion." I don't have to push myself to take notes, I have to stop myself from taking too many notes.

    I use a very loose method of organization. For my major topics, such as "happiness" or "Churchill," I keep a single, giant, dedicated document. I add all relevant notes there, along with subject tags so that I

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  • It is Only Possible to Live Happily Ever After on a Daily Basis

    DaniHappiness Interview: Dani DiPirro.

    I can't even remember how I made a connection with Dani and her site, Positively Present-"positive personal development, with a focus on seeking out positivity and living in the present moment." So many of the things she writes about are the same things that interest me. I was interested to see how she'd answer some happiness questions.

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

    Dani: When I was 18, I had no idea I could choose happiness by choosing to have a positive attitude.

    I used to think a positive attitude-and happiness in general-was naïve, uncool, and boring. Once I finally opened my mind to looking for the good in life, everything in my life changed. I started seeing a guy who was wonderful and supportive. I started spending time with people who were uplifting and encouraging. I created a website that has not only helped me improve my own life, but has also

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  • Does Waiting in a Line Drive You Crazy? Here’s Why

    waiting-in-lineI'm a very impatient person, and standing in a slow-moving line is one of those very small, maddening aspects of life that drives me crazy. As often happens, however, when I learned more about the experience, it became more interesting to me.

    I happened to read a paper by David Maister, The Psychology of Waiting Lines. The piece is aimed at people who operate stores, restaurants, doctors' offices, and other places where people fuss about being kept waiting. Of course, most of us are the ones standing in line, not the ones controlling the line, but I was fascinated by getting this insight into my own psychology.

    Maister's main point is that the actual time we're waiting may have little relationship to how long that wait feels. Here are eight factors that make waits seem longer:

    1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. When you have something to distract yourself, time passes more quickly. Some hotels put mirrors by the elevators, because people like to look at

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  • One Thing I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self

    SanFranciscoApartmentLast week, as part of my book tour, I visited San Francisco. I had a free afternoon, so I walked from my hotel to my old apartment (pictured), where I lived for about a year before I went to law school.

    As I walked there, I tried to remember the details of my life in San Francisco. I have no recollection whatsoever of going to a grocery store, or a restaurant, or a book store.

    I have odd patches of memory. The big hill I had to climb on my running route, and the bagel store I went every morning, and a long walk that I took with my roommate one day, and the salads we loved so much that we would go to Berkeley to get them.

    One of my more poignant Secrets of Adulthood is: Never forget how easy it is to forget.

    I wish I could tell my younger self: Make a photo diary before you leave this place! You think you won't forget, but you will! Instead of taking photos of unusual sights, take a photo of the most usual sights. In the future, you'll be a lot more interested in

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  • Why I Try to Do Some Things Every Day, Without Exception

    sunrisewindowsA few days ago, I posted the quiz, Are you an abstainer or a moderator? As one reader pointed out in the comments, the abstainer/moderator split seems related to another tendency, at least in me-that I find it's easier to do something every day than to do it some days. I post to my blog six days a week. I take reading notes every day. I write in my one-sentence journal every day. Many people have told me that they find it easier to exercise when they exercise every day.

    If I try to do something four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day, or tomorrow, or the next day; did the week start on Sunday or Monday; do I deserve a break, did yesterday "count," etc.

    True, if you do something every day, you tend to fall into a routine, and routine has a bad reputation. Novelty and challenge bring happiness, and that people who break their routines, try new things, and go new places are happier, but I think that routine activities also

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  • Back by Popular Demand: Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator?

    hand-in-cookie-jarFor the last week and a half, I've been traveling on my book tour for Happier at Home. I love getting the chance to talk to so many people about happiness.

    When I gave my talks, the issue of abstainers and moderators came up several times, so I thought it might be helpful to post this quiz yet again. Recognizing this distinction has been one of the most important insights that I've had into my own nature-more helpful, say, than understanding that I'm an under-buyer, not an over-buyer.

    When dealing with temptation, I often see the advice, "Be moderate. Don't have ice cream every night, but if you try to deny yourself altogether, you'll fall off the wagon. Allow yourself to have the occasional treat, it will help you stick to your plan."

    I've come to believe that this is good advice for some people: the "moderators." They do better when they avoid absolutes and strict rules.

    For a long time, I kept trying this strategy of moderation-and failing. Then I read a line from

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  • Have You Ever Known that You Were Happy Without Feeling Happy?

    pride-and-prejudice-photoReading about J. K. Rowling's new book The Casual Vacancy put me in the mood to re-read-for probably the eighth time-Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Oh, how I love to re-read.

    I enjoyed re-reading it tremendously, and I was particularly struck by a passage that I'd never noticed before.

    When, after much pride and prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth agree to be married, Austen writes of the two characters:

    "Darcy was not of a disposition in which happiness overflows in mirth; and Elizabeth, agitated and confused, rather knew that she was happy, than felt herself to be so."

    One of my Secrets of Adulthood is: Happiness doesn't always make me feel happy. Sometimes, I know that I'm happy, but I wouldn't exactly say that I feel happy.

    For instance, many people say that the happiest moments of their lives were when their children were born. I exerienced intense emotion when my daughters were born, but I wouldn't describe it exactly as happy. And yet, I was happy.

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  • Instead of Feeling that Nothing is Ever Enough, You’re Grateful for the Tiniest Thing

    heather-kingHappiness interview: Heather King.

    A few weeks ago, I wrote about Heather King's new book, Shirt of Flame: A Year With Saint Therese of Lisieux. I'm fascinated with anything about St. Therese; she's my spiritual master and I'm always trying to find new material to read, so Heather King's book was just my kind of thing.

    I was also very interested to hear what Heather King had to say specifically on the subject of happiness.

    What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Prayer. "Simple," yet it requires my whole mind, strength, body, heart, soul. For me, prayer is not so much an activity as a way of being; a stance toward life-and death.

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

    That happiness, such as it is, consists in self-forgetting. In having an all-consuming goal that you are never, in this life, going to fully attain. For me, that's getting close to Christ. Writing is my vocation, so

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Pagination

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