Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • Why "Twilight" Inspired Me to Do Better with My Resolutions


    Play-chessPlay-chess

    Assay: I'm a huge fan of Twilight (books and movies)-a fact about myself that continues to fascinate and puzzle me. Last night, I went to see the fourth movie in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, which inspired me to look back at a post I wrote two years ago. I really love that post, so here it is again.

    *
    Following my resolution to Enter into other people's interests, last week I watched the movie Twilight with my older daughter. This wasn't a sacrifice for me; I love Stephenie Meyer's books (oh, how I love children's and young-adult literature), so I was curious to see the movie.

    I found the movie interesting for many reasons not relevant here (other than to say I'm thinking about Jung generally, Frazier's The Golden Bough, and George Orwell's discussion of "good bad poetry" in his essay, "Rudyard Kipling"), but in particular, I loved the depiction of wordless, instantaneous, passionate love.

    Many of my happiness-project resolutions are meant to help me be more

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  • Tips for Starting a Family Holiday Tradition

    Starting a family tradition sounds like an oxymoron, right? But traditions have to start somewhere.

    Studies show that traditions are quite important to family happiness. In fact, family rituals encourage children's social development and boost feelings of family cohesiveness by 17%. They help provide connection and predictability, which people--especially children--crave. Without traditions, holidays don't feel much different from ordinary life. And they're a lot of fun.

    So how do you start a family holiday tradition?

    1. As with all things in life, GET ENOUGH SLEEP and EXERCISE REGULARLY. Traditions take energy. They commit you to mailing out those Valentine's cards or making homemade ice cream for the Fourth of July. If you're exhausted all the time, these tasks will be a burden instead of a joy.

    2. Don't fight your natural inclinations. Although participating in the annual Thanksgiving cancer walk-a-thon sounds like a great yearly tradition, if you're a family of

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  • Forget a Name? 6 Tips for Faking It


    Nametag2Nametag2

    I have a lot of trouble remembering people's names. (My husband, on other hand, is freakily good at remembering names and faces -- a very handy virtue in a spouse.)

    Also, I often have trouble remembering why someone looks familiar. Several years ago, while at crowded birthday party for a three-year-old, I was on the brink of going over to some little kid's father to say, "I think we went to college together." Turns out it was Dylan McDermott!

    So I've developed some strategies for coping with the fact that I'm not able to pull up a person's name right away. Of course, you can always just say politely, "I'm sorry, I don't recall your name," but if you'd rather try to disguise your forgetfulness, give these a try:

    1. The "I know your name, but I'm blocked" dodge:
    "I keep wanting to call you 'David,' but I know that's not right."

    2. The "Of course I know you -- in fact, I want all your information" dodge:
    "Hey, I'd love to get your card."

    3. The "The tip

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  • Do You Dread to Go Home?

    Assay: In a novel, a mark of greatness is that a reader can return, over and over, and find something new. I've read Anna Karenina four times, and each time, it has been a different experience. As I am able to bring more to the novel, I take more from it.

    This is a mark of greatness even in children's books. You might think that a book written for children would be so simple that it couldn't provide that depth of experience, but that's not true at all.

    For instance, over the weekend, I re-read Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie. And although I've read that book dozens of times, I loved it just as much as ever, and appreciated it in new ways, yet again.

    For instance, I was struck by a line that I'd never particularly noticed before. The awful Miss Wilder has just sent Laura and Carrie home from school -- a terrible disgrace. As they're walking home to tell their parents what happened, Laura tells Carrie that she's not sorry for the way she behaved, because

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  • Isn't Love the Only Thing We Can Expect to Make Us Happy?


    Deborah needlemanDeborah needlemanHappiness interview: Deborah Needleman.

    I've been preoccupied with the subject of home for a long time now, as I've been working away on my next book, Happier At Home.

    So, naturally, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Deborah Needleman's new book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well. Deborah, now editor-in-chief at WSJ. Magazine and creator of the Wall Street Journal's "Off Duty" section, was also one of the founding editors of the famous home style magazine, Domino, so it's no surprise that the book is crammed with ideas about making your home more beautiful.

    But the parts that I appreciated even more were about how to make your home more comfortable, more serene, and more cozy. Or, as Gertrude Stein might have said, exciting and peaceful.

    The book is full of beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and helpful, realistic ideas (plus lots of quotations, which I always love). Some of my favorites:
    -- the importance of "jollifiers"
    --

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  • 8 Writing Tips from Flannery O'Connor

    Peacock2Peacock2November is National Novel Writing Month. I've never participated in the official month, but I did follow the excellent system proposed by Chris Baty in his book No Plot? No Problem! to write a novel in a month. I'm a big believer in creativity boot camp as a way to spur ideas and to get things done, and it turns out it is possible, and quite exhilarating, to write a novel in a month.

    So, in honor of NaNoWriMo, I'm posting these eight writing tips from one of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor. Her work isn't for everyone, but I love it. In fact, I love it so much I can hardly bear to read it -- does that ever happen to you?

    O'Connor's collected letters have been published in The Habit of Being. These letters are fascinating, and among other thing, include some interesting advice and observations about writing. O'Connor was a very idiosyncratic person, and this advice is idiosyncratic, which makes it more interesting than a lot of writing tips that I see collected.

    1.

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  • Make the Positive Argument

    2011 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2011 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2011 a happier year -- and even if you haven't officially signed up for the challenge -- welcome! This month's theme is Gratitude, and last week's resolution was to Follow a threshold ritual. Did you try that resolution? Did it boost your happiness?

    This week's resolution is to Make the positive argument.

    Make the positive argument.


    If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
    Feeling angry, resentful, or self-critical? Make the positive argument.
    Why a hurricane filled me with gratitude.
    Why I try not to do things for others, but instead, do them for myself.

    How about you? Have you managed to make yourself take the opposite view, by making the positive argument? Or what are other ways you help yourself adopt an "attitude of gratitude"?

    If you're new, here's information on the 2011 Happiness Challenge. It's never too late to start! You're not behind,

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  • 9 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives Over the Holidays.

    Thanksgiving-dinnerThanksgiving-dinner

    For many people, the holidays are a joyous time; other people dread them. If you anticipate that you might have to spend time with difficult relatives, here are some strategies for keeping family dinners pleasant:

    1. Before you walk into the situation, spend a few minutes thinking about how you want to behave. Don't just react in the moment; consider how you want to act. If you've had unpleasant experiences in the past, think about why they were unpleasant and what you could do to change the dynamics of the situation. You may just need to be more careful about getting enough sleep or giving yourself more travel time. If you want a peaceful dinner, think about how to contribute to a harmonious atmosphere. In particular…

    2. Think about how topics that seem innocuous to you might upset someone else. You may think you're showing a polite interest, but some questions will rub a person the wrong way: "So do you have a boyfriend yet?" "When are you two going to get married/start a

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  • Test Yourself: Do You Have Clutter Mentality?

    JarsJars

    One thing I've noticed about happiness: for me, and for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More than it should. In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find -- and I hear from other people that they agree -- that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness.

    If having a home, office, garage, car, or yard filled with clutter is such a drag on our happiness, why do we put up with it? There are many reasons, and having a clearer understanding of why you have clutter helps show you how to attack it.

    Test yourself. Do you find yourself repeating these phrases, to justify keeping something that you don't use or don't even particularly like?

    • Someday, I might need this
    • This thing is so useful that someday I'll find a way to use it
    • This thing is so useful that I can't just throw it away, but I don't know how to get it into the hands of someone who would want it
    • This
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  • Follow a Threshold Ritual

    2011 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2011 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2011 a happier year -- and even if you haven't officially signed up for the challenge -- welcome! Last month's theme was the Five Senses, and last week's resolution was to Hug more, kiss more. Did you try that resolution? Did it boost your happiness?

    This month's theme is Gratitude, and this week's resolution is to Follow the threshold ritual.

    Follow the threshold ritual.


    How about you? Have you found ways to remind yourself to be grateful, as you go about your ordinary day? (The most common happiness advice seems to be to keep a gratitude journal, but I have to confess, that didn't work for me.)

    If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
    Follow a threshold ritual.
    Can you curse during a gratitude meditation?
    Why a hurricane filled me with gratitude.

    If you're new, here's information on the 2011 Happiness Challenge. It's never too late to

    Read More »from Follow a Threshold Ritual

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