Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • I’m Very Happy. Today My Book Hits the Shelves, and It’s My Anniversary

    HAHwithbirdhouseSheriSilverI can't quite believe this, but today is the publication day for my book. As of today, Happier at Home out in the world, available for sale at bookstores near you.

    I vividly remember the moments when I've had the idea to write each one of my books. I can tell you exactly where I was, whom I was with, the quality of the light, how I got the idea.

    For this book, I was unloading the dishwasher on a Sunday afternoon. My husband was watching golf in the next room; my daughters were playing Restaurant.

    Suddenly, I was hit by an intense wave of homesickness. I felt the way I did when I went to summer camp for the first time. Homesick-but why? I was standing in my own kitchen! I was homesick, I realized, for here and now-a kind of prospective nostalgia for this time of life.

    That emotion was so puzzling, and so strong, that I began to think seriously, for the first time, about the idea of "home" and its relationship to happiness. Before long, I'd vowed to do another

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  • You Know What Detracts from Happiness? Rushing

    leahodzeepsteinHappiness interview: Leah Odze Epstein.

    I know the delightful Leah because Becky, one of her close friends growing up, was one of my college roommates. From time to time, Leah would come to stay with us-which was always a great treat, because she's so much fun.

    I lost track of her for years, but then we connected again here in New York. One thing that makes me happy is when a person from the past reappears…it makes me feel that the past isn't lost. (The days are long, but the years are short, etc.)

    Leah, with Caren Osten Gerszberg, has the blog Drinking Diaries-a blog about "women and drinking, from celebration to revelation." Leah and Caren also-just this week-published Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up, an anthology of essays by women about their experiences with alcohol. The book is very thought-provoking, and covers a wide range of stories about drinking, not drinking, and the role that alcohol plays in life.

    I was very interested to hear

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  • Question: What Small Treats Do You Give Yourself?

    tinypresentskeyboardBy some odd coincidence, two readers emailed me to ask for the link to this post, an Assay about "small treats," so I decided to re-post it today:

    I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of small treats, small pleasures. They're fun to experience, of course, and I think they also have a very important role to play in happiness.

    When we feel depleted and drained, and when we have no time or energy devoted to the things that give us pleasure, we start to feel exhausted, resentful, and angry. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

    But it can be surprisingly hard to think of what little treats you want to give yourself. So many pleasures come at a cost: cookies cost calories, movies and books take time and focus, a museum costs the price of a ticket. It's good to have a list of treats and pleasures that have a very low cost in time, energy, or money.

    For instance, I've become obsessed with the sense of smell, and I love the fact that a good smell can

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  • Fill in the Blank: _____ is a Good Servant but a Bad Master

    chainrustyI love to collect variations on phrases, such as the "X is the new Y." "Orange is the new black," "Breakfast is the new lunch," "Forties are the new thirties," "Halloween is the new Christmas," or-and I was inspired by this one for Happier at Home-"September is the new January." (I started this happiness project in September, instead of January, because September also seems like a good time for a fresh start.)

    I came up with my own fill-in-the-blank phrase, "___ is a good servant but a bad master." I've been thinking about different ways to fill in the blank, and I've asked people for their suggestions. It's a very thought-provoking list.

    Money is a good servant but a bad master

    Technology (includes Facebook, Twitter, email…)

    Alcohol

    Caffeine

    Habit

    Television

    Anger

    Food

    Ambition

    Planning

    The flesh

    Ego

    Leisure

    Productivity

    What would you add? I don't know why I get such a big kick out of lists like this, but I do.

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  • 7 Ways to Be Happier at Home

    PlayFamilyHouseornamentIn my new one-minute video book trailer, I list "Ten ways to be happier at home." Some of those suggestions are serious, and some are goofy (to my surprise, my suggestion regarding purple has turned out to be fairly controversial). Here's another list of ways to be happier at home-or, at least, they've made me happier at home.

    One of these items is important enough to be listed in both places. Can you guess which one?

    1. Get enough sleep.

    2. Embrace good smells. No cost, no calories, no energy, no time-a quick hit of pleasure.

    3. Cultivate a shrine.

    4. Accept yourself, and expect more from yourself.

    5. Give warm greetings and farewells. I was surprised by how much this resolution changed the atmosphere of my home.

    6. Abandon your self-control. Well, this one really works for for my fellow abstainers, not moderators.

    7. Remember the Sixth Splendid Truth: The only person you can change is yourself.

    What else would you add to the list?

    The photo

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  • Find it Hard to Wake Up in the Morning? Try Stretching

    rubberbandsEvery morning, first thing, to help myself wake up (it is 6:00 a.m., after all), I spend a minute or so stretching. This isn't a rigorous or carefully designed set of stretches - more the kind of desultory stretches that we did in my seventh-grade P.E. class before running laps around the gym.

    I touch my toes, I do some straddle stretches, I twist left and right, etc. I do this not for any scientifically based reason (in fact, from what I read, it seems that this kind of stretching may not always be a good idea), but because it helps me feel awake and energetic. This easy, simple habit makes me feel much more alert and comfortable in my body.

    I pay particular attention to my neck, because I have a history of pulled muscles in my neck. I actually think to myself, "Wake up, neck!" as I turn my head from one side to the other, then move my head forward and back. Again, for very unscientific reasons. A friend told me that he'd heard (note: high probability of urban legend) that

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  • For Your Consideration: 7 Reasons to Read "Happier at Home."

    HAHfinishedbookmineWarning: blatant self-promotion to follow! You've been warned!

    My new book, Happier at Home, comes out in a few weeks-on my wedding anniversary, which seems auspicious for a book about happiness at home. If you read this blog, I hope you'll consider reading it. "Um, why should I buy your book," some people have asked nicely, "when I can read the blog for free?" Other people have asked, "I read The Happiness Project; is this book more of the same?" Here are some reasons to read Happier at Home:

    1. One smart friend who has read both said she thought the blog was process, the book was conclusion. The ideas in the book are presented in a more distilled, thoughtful way, and the book framework allows me to tell longer stories and explain more complicated ideas.

    2. On the blog, I write about whatever subject interests me that day, so it skips from topic to topic. The book is organized by subject matter: Time, Possessions, Parenthood, Body, Marriage, Neighborhood, etc. If you're

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  • No Time for Something Important to You? Try Getting Up Earlier

    dawnnewyorkOf all the changes in my daily routine wrought by my happiness project, one of the most fundamental is that I get up at 6:00 a.m., every day. And I get up at 6:00 a.m. every day, even on weekends and vacation, because I love it. I get an hour to myself, at my computer, before my family wakes up for the day. It's quiet, the light is dim, and the world feels very serene.

    I love this time so much that I would get up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m., but that would mean that I'd have to go to bed at 8:00 p.m., and I just can't live life that way. I'm fuddy-duddy enough as it is.

    From what I hear, one of the most common happiness challenges is lack of time for something important. People want to exercise, or work on a novel, or meditate, or read for pleasure, and they just can't fit it into their day. I absolutely know the feeling.

    But here's what I've noticed. For many people, the end of the day is a pleasant interlude of free time, when work is done, the office isn't e-mailing, the

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  • What's Your Favorite Line from a Children's Picture Book?

    BlueberriesForSalRecently, I made a list of some of my favorite lines from classic children's picture books. This is my favorite kind of thing to do. I love quotes, and I love picture books. In fact, my children's literature reading groups once had a splinter-group meeting to discuss picture books, and I'm going to suggest that we do it again.

    Truly great picture books are engaging at any age, beautiful and beautifully written, and yet we don't think of them as something we would seek out as adults. And when we think of enjoying "art," it's easy to imagine going to a museum-but the pleasure of art comes in many forms, and the art of picture books is a delight. Also, at least for me, reading picture books brings back many happy memories, and that's a happiness-booster, as well.

    *

    "My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia." - Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

    *

    "The moon is high. The sea is deep. They rock and rock and rock to

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  • Why the Internet Makes Me Happy. Also Drives Me Crazy, but Makes Me Happy

    InternetLibraryPeople talk a lot about the happiness risks of the internet, such as how online shopping or celebrity news can suck away our time, or how Facebook can foster comparison with other people.

    The internet amplifies aspects of human nature, so I try to watch out for its bad effects. But I also remind myself of how happy the internet makes me! I try never to take it for granted.

    For instance, I'm often haunted by some quotation or anecdote I read somewhere, someplace, in the past. When I read it, it didn't strike me as important, but now for some reason I desperately want to re-read it. So often, with just a few bits of information, the internet locates what I'm looking for, to my immense relief.

    For instance, when I was doing my research for Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, I came across an anecdote in a diary related to World War II. I loved it - but I lost it.

    I'd read so many wartime diaries - from where did this story come? I was sure that I'd copied the

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Pagination

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