Blog Posts by Gretchen Rubin

  • Surprise! Surprise parties don't always make people feel happy.

    I was talking with some friends the other night, and we got in a very interesting conversation about the fall-out from various surprise parties. Turns out that surprise parties are more perilous than I'd thought.

    One friend threw a lavish party for her husband. "He loved it, but for months after," she recalled, "he was very suspicious. He kept asking me what I was doing, whom I was calling. I think it truly unnerved him to realize that I could organize something that big without him knowing. What else was I up to?"

    "I went to a party where the wife was absolutely flabbergasted that her husband could pull off the surprise party," observed another friend. "It really shook her concept of her marriage. She thought of herself as the organized, logistically-minded one who had to take care of everyone. But it turned out her husband could do that stuff, too. So maybe she wasn't so essential."

    "Yes," added someone else, who had been at the same party, "plus I think she was a bit

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  • Ten tips for having more fun on a family vacation

    Was it Jerry Seinfeld who said, "There's no such thing as fun for the whole family?"

    I disagree-but I've hit on certain tips that do help keep things fun. I'm not sure they're universally helpful, but they've helped me.

    As always, the first step is to follow the Eighth Commandment, "Identify the problem." I didn't understand why I was so crabby until I zeroed in on my gnawing hunger. If you're feeling crabby instead of playful, push yourself to put your finger on what's bugging you. Just because you're on "vacation" doesn't mean that everything is automatically fun. Pay attention to when you're having fun, or not, and adjust accordingly.

    Everyone will have more fun when everyone is having fun, so this isn't selfish!

    1. I posted about my epiphany about making sure that I don't allow myself to get too hungry. Never again will I travel without a bag of almonds, dried cherries, etc. I anticipate my next challenge will be: how do I stop myself from eating the entire bag

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  • 9 tips for making yourself feel better in a crisis

    When something bad happens, how do you make yourself feel better? Maybe you've lost your job. Maybe you've been crushed in a relationship. What can you do to lift your spirits?

    1. Remind yourself, "It could be worse." Making a downward comparison by comparing your situation to people with worse troubles puts your problems into perspective. Because I live in New York City, I know a lot of people who have lost their jobs. When talking about it, they often say things like, "We have two healthy children, and that's what's important" or "We almost moved to London a few months ago, we're so glad we didn't, and so we're here near our family and friends now." They're reminding themselves that, in many ways, they're fortunate.

    2. Remember your body. Take a twenty-minute walk outside to boost your energy and dissolve stress. Don't let yourself get too hungry. Get enough sleep. When you're anxious, it's easy to stay up late cruising the Internet and eating ice cream -- and that's going

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  • 8 tools for boosting your happiness -- today

    This is an exciting month for me! First, my book became available for pre-order. For the first time, the book feels real.

    Second, and even more thrilling, the Happiness Project Toolbox is finally ready for prime time. Yes, it's ready! I've been working on this companion site for so long; it's hard to believe it's actually going out in the world at last.

    What is the Happiness Project Toolbox? As I was working on my happiness project, I invented several methods that helped me to boost my happiness. My One-Sentence Journal, my Personal Commandments, my Secrets of Adulthood, and of course - most important of all - my Resolutions Chart.

    I remember exactly where I was when I got the idea for the Toolbox. I was walking up Lexington Avenue, between 77th Street and 78th Street, when I thought, "Wow, it would be great to have a site where people could chart their resolutions." About ten steps later, I thought, "But a site like that should also allow people to keep their

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  • 6 tips for keeping school-day mornings calm and cheery

    Unbelievable, but school is starting up again. And that means that the dreaded early-morning scramble is starting, too.

    I had a major insight about the challenge of keeping our school-day mornings moving along smoothly and peacefully.

    Here's the insight: I was focused on chivvying my children along. Wrong! I needed to worry about ME. When I work on my own habits, mornings are much easier.

    Here are some tips for keeping the mornings calm:

    1. Get enough sleep yourself. I'm good at putting my kids to sleep at a decent hour, but not so good about doing it myself. It's tempting to stay up late, to enjoy the peace and quiet, but 6:30 a.m. comes fast, and being overtired makes the morning much tougher.

    2. Sing. As goofy as it sounds, I try to sing in the morning. It's hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone-particularly in my case, because I'm tone deaf, and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.

    3.

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  • User Post: 5 happiness boosters that actually do more harm than good

    Everyone has a few tricks for beating the blues - things you do when you're feeling down to try to boost your mood. It turns out, however, that several of the most popular strategies don't actually work very well in the long term. Beware if you are tempted to try any of the following:

    1. Comforting yourself with a "treat." Often, the things we choose as "treats" aren't good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day. So when you find yourself thinking, "I'll feel better after I have a few beers…a pint of ice cream…a cigarette…a new pair of jeans," ask yourself - will it REALLY make you feel better? It might make you feel worse. In particular, beware of…

    2. Letting yourself off the hook. I've found that I sometimes get a real happiness boost from giving something up, quitting something, or breaking a bad habit. For example, I feel very happy about having given up fake

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  • User Post: 6 tips for enjoying a vacation more

    One of my goals for my Happiness Project is to do a better job of learning from experience. How can I do things better, next time? One of my Twelve Commandments is to Identify the problem, so I'm trying to be more mindful as I have experiences, so I can take steps to make myself happier, in the moment.

    Here are some tips from a recent family trip:

    1. Start packing early. I made the odious task of packing for myself and my two daughters easier by starting a week in advance (my husband packed at 10 pm the night before we left). I brought the big suitcase into my bedroom, and whenever I thought of something (sunscreen, passports, adapter) I put it in. However, if you start packing early, you must…

    2. Keep a list. I didn't, and that was a mistake. Because I was packing over the course of the week, by the end, I'd forgotten what I'd already put in. Had I packed the bathing suits, or not? In the end, I forgot to pack any socks for myself. I'd thought about doing it so many

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  • Seven tips to avoid annoying other people.

    Most of us would like to get along well with others -- whether friends or strangers. One thing to keep in mind is that certain habits tend to get on other people's nerves. Now you might say, "If someone's annoyed when I talk on my phone in the grocery store, I don't care, because that's ridiculous!" The fact is, whether or not you think it's ridiculous, some people will be very annoyed. Just know that. Here are some common aggravations to keep in mind:

    1. As I say to my four-year-old just about every day, "Don't use a whiny voice." Some people make a habit of talking in a whine, even when they're making a perfectly innocuous comment. Some people whine ALL THE TIME. Once I started paying attention, I realized that I do this far too often, myself, and I try to remember to say things like, "Have you seen my keys?" in a nice tone, not in a whiny tone.

    2. Watch your cell phone use. You may think it's acceptable to talk in a store, or on a bus, or wherever, but remember that many

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  • Quiz: are you at risk for being an exercise drop-out?

    I discovered THE KEY to my happiness project. What is it? Resolutions. It has been the ability to make and keep my resolutions that has allowed me make real changes in my life, and therefore in my happiness.

    One resolution that many people make and break is the resolution to EXERCISE. Exercise is a key to good health, and for me, has always been essential to feeling calm and cheerful. In fact, when I'm feeling blue, one of the best ways to shake the mood is to exercise. My husband is exactly the same way. On Sunday, he was feeling low, and a trip to the gym chirked him up considerably. (If you need tips for sticking to a schedule of a regular exercise, look here.)

    And even if I don't feel better, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I exercised.

    I'm fascinated by the question of why sometimes people are able to stick to resolutions, and some people aren't - and what steps people can take to help themselves stick to their resolutions. There are a lot of

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  • 8 tips for liking someone better (or disliking that person less)

    Some people are part of your life, whether you want them there or not. What if you don't have the warmest of feelings for your boss? Your mother-in-law? Your next-door neighbor?

    It's easy to come up with a mental catalog of all the ways in which that person could change to be less annoying, domineering, passive-aggressive, arrogant, etc.-but fact is, you can't change anyone but yourself.

    Here are some tips about how to help yourself cultivate more friendly feelings. It's quite a strain to hide feelings of dislike; if you can manage to change your feelings, you'll be much happier. It's hard, but not impossible.

    1. Seek contact. You may feel like avoiding that person, but because of the psychological phenomenon known as the "mere exposure effect," we tend to like people better the more we see them.

    2. Do nice things for that person. "We prefer to see those to whom we do good than those who do good to us." La Rochefoucauld.

    3. Give that person a brief touch. "Subliminal

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