Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • Happiness Without a Good Work Ethic is Pretty Impossible

    hughmacleodHappiness interview: Hugh MacLeod.

    Hugh is a cartoonist with a wildly popular blog, gapingvoid. He is the master of capturing a large idea in a single drawing, and a great deal of his work focuses on happiness: how to find happiness in work; how to have the courage to be yourself, do what you love, and take risks; how to build a life around your own values, interests, and temperament.

    He has a new book, Freedom Is Blogging in Your Underwear, where he explores how blogging, and the intellectual and creative freedom it gives him, changed his life.

    Having a blog isn't the right route to happiness for everyone, of course. But zoikes, it's a thrilling tool. And his book is really about how to think big for yourself and the possibilities that the internet offers.

    Gretchen: What's a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
    Hugh: Besides being with my loved ones, the most important and happiest part of my daily routine is finding that quiet, solitary one- or

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  • Pigeon of Discontent: "I Say Yes; I Want to Say No"

    Each week, I post a video about some Pigeon of Discontent raised by a reader. Because, as much as we try to find the Bluebird of Happiness, we're also plagued by the Pigeons of Discontent.

    This week's Pigeon of Discontent, suggested by a reader, is: "I say 'yes'; I want to say 'no'."

    I Say Yes; I Want To Say No.

    If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…

    Why you shouldn't let that dreaded call go to voicemail.

    Looking for a way to make your emails more efficient?

    Why Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder, and the fundamental attribution error are relevant to happiness.

    How about you? Have you found ways to keep yourself from getting over-committed or agreeing to do things that, in the end, you realize that you don't want to be doing? One good personal commandment is "Just say yes"'; another good personal commandment is "Just say no."

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  • Secrets Revealed: A Simple (Lazy?) Way to Solve a Difficult Problem

    treeroots Over the weekend, I re-read Bertrand Russell's The Conquest of Happiness. It's all about happiness (no surprise), but in an aside, Russell explains how he solves difficult intellectual issues.

    I think I've followed this strategy myself-not because I cleverly realized it was a good strategy, but because I was stumped, so put aside a question out of sheer desperation. Here's his method:

    "I have found…that, if I have to write upon some rather difficult topic, the best plan is to think about it with very great intensity-the greatest intensity of which I am capable-for a few hours or days, and at the end of that time give orders, so to speak, that the work is to proceed underground. After some months I return consciously to the topic and find that the work has been done. Before I had discovered this technique, I used to spend the intervening months worrying because I was making no progress; I arrived at the solution none the sooner for this worry, and the intervening months

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  • "Happiness Shouldn't Be Associated with Guilt"

    jenny lawsonHappiness interview: Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess.

    Last week, amid a lot of buzz, Jenny Lawson's new book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) hit the shelves. I couldn't wait to read it, because I'm a big fan of her wildly popular blog, and the book made me laugh out loud. (If you've read it, I will just say "whimsy" was my favorite scene--you know the part I mean.)

    Jenny's book is very funny, but it's also very serious, and the theme of happiness runs through it.

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

    Jenny: Drinking? That's probably not a good answer though so let's change it to "watching Anchorman so many times I can say the lines before the actors do."

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

    When I was 18 my severe anxiety disorder was still undiagnosed, so I guess what I didn't know then was that one day I would be happy. I wish I

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  • Quiz: Are You an "Abstainer" or a "Moderator"?

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    I've posted this quiz before, but because I think it's such a very helpful thing to know about yourself, I'm posting it 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.

    A piece of advice I often see is, "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 try to make moderate changes, when they avoid absolutes and bright lines.

    For a long time, I kept trying this strategy of moderation-and failing. Then I read a line from Samuel Johnson, who said, when someone offered him wine: "Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult."

    Ah ha! Like Dr. Johnson, I'm

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  • Pigeon of Discontent: "No One Appreciates Me

    Each week, I post a video about some Pigeon of Discontent raised by a reader. Because, as much as we try to find the Bluebird of Happiness, we're also plagued by the Pigeons of Discontent.

    This week's Pigeon of Discontent, suggested by a reader, is: "No one appreciates me."

    No One Appreciates Me.

    If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…

    Taken for granted? 5 tips for dealing with feeling unappreciated.

    5 mistakes I continue to make in my marriage.

    Why I try not to do things for others, but instead, do them for myself.

    How about you? Do you often feel unappreciated or unacknowledged? How do you deal with it? Gold stars! I crave them.

    You can post your own Pigeon of Discontent at any time; also, from time to time, I'll make a special call for suggestions.

    You can check out the archives of videos here.


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  • What Are the Small Treats You Give Yourself?

    dog-treatAssay: 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 be enjoyed in an instant, with no cost. My latest favorite "treat," which I save for moments when I need a bit of extra comfort or reassurance,

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  • Proposed Resolution: Do Something Every Day

    CalendarOne of my Secrets of Adulthood--perhaps counter-intuitively--is "It's often easier to do something every day than to do it some days." I post to my blog six days a week. I take 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; etc. And that's exhausting.

    If I do something every day, I tend to fall into a routine, and routine has a bad reputation. It's true that 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 some routine activities also bring happiness. The pleasure of doing the same thing, in the same way, every day, shouldn't be overlooked. By re-framing, you can find happiness in activities

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  • 5 Tips for Resisting Impulse Shopping

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    I just finished re-reading Paco Underhill's fascinating book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. (Note: the book has been updated, but I read the first edition, so that's what I'm discussing here.) Underhill invented the "science of shopping," and he details many ways that retailers can create environments that encourage people to buy.

    As I read, I realized that much of his advice could be flipped on its head, to help people resist buying. So often, we operate on habit and impulse; by recognizing the subtle factors that promote shopping, we can turn that information to our advantage, if we're trying to shop wisely.

    Many of these tips are very obvious, but as one of my Secrets of Adulthood holds: It's very important, and surprisingly difficult, to grasp the obvious.

    1. Don't take a basket or cart. People who shop with a basket buy much more than those who don't use a basket.

    2. Don't linger. How much time you spend in a store is one of the most important

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  • Resolution: Cross a Finish Line

    6a00d8341c5aa953ef0168ea754b1d970c.jpgA common happiness hurdle is the arrival fallacy. We think that we'll be happy once we arrive at some destination: a new job, a new apartment, a promotion, whatever. But often, arriving doesn't make us as happy as we expect.

    That's very true, and I struggle to remember it, and also to remind myself of what my father says so often: "Enjoy the process." But this week I've also been reminding myself of one of my Secrets of Adulthood: the opposite of a profound truth is also true. Just as I should enjoy the process, and not wait for the happiness of crossing the finish line, I should also do the opposite, and revel in the happiness of crossing a finish line.

    Too often, I don't take the time to experience the satisfaction that comes from finishing. I turn immediately to the next thing I need to do, or the next finish line I need to cross, without pausing for a little moment of triumph.

    For instance, if all goes according to plan, next Monday will mark a giant finish line for

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Pagination

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