Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • Eight tips for making yourself happier IN THE NEXT HOUR.

    You can make yourself happier - and this doesn't have to be a long-term ambition.
    Over the long term, habits like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and making time for friends and family make a huge difference to your happiness. But if you're experiencing a blues emergency, you can lift your spirits right now by using some of the following strategies. The more items you tackle, the bigger the boost you'll receive.

    When you're feeling blue, it can be hard to muster up the physical and mental energy to do the things that make you happier. Plunking down in front of the TV or digging into a tub of ice cream seems like an easier fix.

    However, research shows (and you know it's true) that these aren't the routes to feeling better. In the next hour, check off as many of the following items as possible. Each of these accomplishments will lift your mood, as will the mere fact that you've tackled and achieved some concrete goals.

    1. Boost your energy: stand up and

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  • Fourteen tips to avoid nagging.

    In marriage, or any partnership, chores are a huge source of conflict. How do you get your sweetheart to hold up his or her end, without nagging?

    One of my best friends from college has a very radical solution: she and her husband don't assign. That's right. They never say, "Get me a diaper," "The trash needs to go out," etc. This only works because neither one of them is a slacker, but still - what a tactic! And they have three children!

    This is something to strive for. But even if we can't reach that point, most of us could cut back on the nagging. Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

    1. It's annoying to hear a hectoring voice, so suggest tasks without words. When the Big Man needs a prescription filled, he puts his empty medicine bottle on the bathroom counter. Then I know to get it re-filled.

    2. If you need to voice a reminder, limit yourself to one word. Instead of barking out, "Now remember, I've told you a dozen times, stop off at the grocery

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  • Eleven tips for broaching difficult subjects.

    We've all had to start conversations that we dreaded having - everything from asking for a raise to asking for a divorce to asking for help with the laundry. These strategies help the conversation go more smoothly -- at least, that's the hope.

    1. Don't stall. Let's say you need to call an acquaintance whom you haven't seen in a few years to ask for a favor. Don't chat and chat, then casually mention the favor at the end. You're not going to fool him about why you called. It's better to say something like, "It's so great to talk to you. I really want to catch up and hear everything that's been going on for the last few years, but first, I have to tell you the reason I called." Otherwise, the person on the other end tends to feel wary and distracted.

    2. Don't start off angry. If you have to make some sort of charge, of dishonesty or bad service or a screw-up, work yourself into a mild state of mind. Anger inspires anger; accusations inspire defensiveness. Explain the situation

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  • Tips for talking to someone about an impending divorce: dos and don'ts.

    A while back, I read a New York magazine article by Katie Roiphe, The Great Escape, in which Roiphe discusses her friends' reaction to the news of her divorce. Bottom line: she's annoyed that they're acting as though she's going through some terrible tragedy, when in fact, she feels fine -- if anything, she feels freed and relieved.

    It's an interesting article on many levels, but the thing that struck me was - zoikes! If I were her friend, I'm sure I'd be saying all the wrong things, too.

    So what's the right thing to say?

    I asked some people I know who are divorced, or who are getting divorced, about what kinds of comments are helpful or, more important, unhelpful. How should a thoughtful friend react?

    It's clear that there aren't many hard and fast rules. One friend was reassured when people told him he'd be dating in no time, another friend felt angry at the suggestion that a fifteen-year marriage could be brushed aside so easily. Here's what I learned:

    Helpful

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  • Personal Productivity: 9 helpful yet REALISTIC tips

    I confess: I can't touch each piece of paper just one time. I can't return every email within 24 hours. I can't maintain a clear desk at all times. I can't go paperless. Nevertheless, I've found some realistic strategies for getting things done that have helped me a lot.

    One thing I know about myself is that an accumulation of tiny tasks, even if they aren't particularly irksome in themselves, combine to make me feel overwhelmed and drained. If I can keep little chores from piling up, I feel much more capable of tackling bigger, more difficult tasks.

    For that reason, many of my most important daily personal productivity rules are very low-tech and simple - they're aimed to help me accomplish the most basic tasks of my day.

    1. Follow the "one-minute rule." I don't postpone any task that can be done in less than one minute. I put away my umbrella; I glance at a letter and toss it; I put the newspapers in the recycling bin; I close the cabinet door. Because the tasks are so

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  • 5 tips for giving good praise.

    I'm a praise junkie. I really, really need those gold stars. I know I've got to get over it. One of my most important happiness-project resolutions is "Don't expect praise or appreciation." I think about that resolution every day. But boy, it's hard to keep.

    For example, we just went through a major household project - and I mean MAJOR - that took a lot of time and effort on my part. Which, I admit, I accomplished with a minimum of grace. I tried, oh how I tried, but I just couldn't muster it.

    As I've done before, I begged the Big Man to manipulate me with praise! I urged him to sucker me into doing this project cheerfully by heaping gold stars on me! But he wouldn't.

    I know the way to happiness is to be FREE of the craving for praise, not to need someone to pat me on the back. I know that. I should be the source of my own sense of satisfaction, of happiness; I should know that I've done a job well and not depend on someone else's opinion.

    I'm sure that one reason

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  • Six tips for designing your happiness commandments.

    I have a happiness project, and I think everyone else should have one, too. Everyone's project will look different, but we can all benefit.

    One very useful - and also challenging - thing I've done as part of my happiness project is to formulate my own commandments, i.e., the precepts that I want to guide my actions and thoughts. Here are my Twelve Commandments:

    1. Be Gretchen.
    2. Let it go.
    3. Act as I want to feel.
    4. Do it now.
    5. Be polite and be fair.
    6. Enjoy the process.
    7. Spend out. (this is my most cryptic commandment; here's an explanation)
    8. Identify the problem.
    9. Lighten up.
    10. Do what ought to be done.
    11. No calculation.
    12. There is only love.

    In my experience, designing your list of personal commandments is extraordinarily helpful in working for happiness, so think about what your list might be. Here are some tips to help you get started:

    First:
    Five of my Twelve Commandments are

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  • 19 tips for cheering yourself up -- from 200 years ago

    While reading a biography of English writer Sydney Smith, Hesketh Pearson's The Smith of Smiths, I stumbled across this letter. In 1820, Smith wrote a letter to an unhappy friend, Lady Morpeth, in which he offered her tips for cheering up.

    I have my own variety of tips lists for cheering up, and I was interested to hear what someone from two centuries ago would recommend. Most of Smith's suggestions are as sound now as they were almost 200 years ago - though a few are amusingly odd, and it might be tougher today to work "good blazing fires" into everyday life.

    "1st. Live as well as you dare.
    2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75 or 80 degrees.
    3rd. Amusing books.
    4th. Short views of human life-not further than dinner or tea.
    5th. Be as busy as you can.
    6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
    7th. And of those acquaintances

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  • 8 tips for preparing for a real (or virtual) move

    Knowing my preoccupation with clutter-clearing, a friend emailed me awhile ago: "I am starting the great purge of our belongings in preparation for moving. What mantras should I be using?

    Good question! Moving is a fantastic opportunity to tackle clutter. And even if you're not thinking about moving, you might want to try the "virtual move" - you look at what you have, and ask yourself, "If I were moving, would I bother to wrap this in bubblewrap and stick it in a box? Or would I chuck it or give it away?"

    Whether you're really moving, or virtually moving, here are some questions to ask yourself, as you consider whether some particular piece of stuff is worth keeping. Remember, you have to be HONEST!

    1. Do I actually use this?

    2. If I get rid of this, and it turns out I need it, how hard will it be to replace?

    3. How many of this object do I really need? E.g., how many coffee mugs do you actually use? Beware of what's called the "maximum-use imperative" -- the

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  • Nine tips for staying motivated to exercise.

    Everyone knows that exercise is a KEY element to good health. The trick is keeping yourself motivated to exercise, if you're a person who naturally relapses into the couch-potato pose.

    It took me years of prodding, but I've finally managed to turn myself into a dedicated exerciser. I never push myself very hard (at all), but I do manage to stick with a routine.

    Personally, I find it more motivating to think about short-term gratification like "I'll sleep better" than long-term considerations like "I'll live longer" or "If I have surgery, I'll recover quicker."

    Here are some things to keep in mind, if you're trying to keep yourself motivated to exercise:

    1. Exercise boosts energy. It took me a long time to notice that I'd drag myself to the gym, work out for forty minutes, and leave feeling far more energetic than when I went in.

    2. Exercise provides an outlet for feelings of pent-up hostility, irritation, and anger. I always find that I'm far calmer and more

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