A Little Happier: During the Holidays, Say “Yes” If We Can.

A Little Happier: During busy holiday time, it’s tempting to say “no” to try to make life easier, but in the end, we’re usually happier if we say “yes”—to the office party, the school show, or the holiday gathering.

So the hack is: say “yes”if you can. Don’t do anything contrary to your nature or your values, but if you can, say “yes.” In the end, showing up strengthens relationships and boosts happiness.

Here’s the video that I mention: The days are long, but the years are short. Of everything I’ve ever written or created, I think this one-minute video is the thing that has resonated most with people.

Have you learned any great hacks for figuring out how to make the holidays happier?

Check out LOFT.com — it’s a great go-to spot to pull together modern,  feminine outfits for all your holiday adventures.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Happier listening!

Are We the Same Person Throughout Our Lives? Agatha Christie Thought So.

Do you agree? It’s a difficult question.

“We are all the same people as we were at three, six, ten or twenty years old. More noticeably so, perhaps, at six or seven, because we were not pretending so much then, whereas at twenty we put on a show of being someone else, of being in the mode of the moment. If there is an intellectual fashion, you become an intellectual–if girls are fluffy and frivolous, you are fluffy and frivolous. As life goes on, however, it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself every day. This is sometimes disconcerting for those around you, but a great relief to the person concerned.”

–Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Self-knowledge! In the end, any discussion of happiness always returns to the question of self-knowledge.

Relatedly, what’s your favorite Agatha Christie mystery? I don’t read mysteries, but I loved her autobiography, so want to try the mysteries. She wrote sixty-eight novels, where to start!

Why Am I Obsessed with the Subject of Beautiful Colors?

Periodically, I get obsessed with subjects.  And nothing makes me happier than a new obsession! It’s energizing and exciting.

Sometimes, this obsession leads to a book — like The Happiness Project or Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill. Sometimes it stays a private obsession — like my obsession with beautiful scents.

Sometimes the subject is a big, obvious subject, like the subject of habits in Better Than Before, or sometimes it’s more obscure, like my long obsession with the question “Why do people destroy their own possessions?” which became the book Profane Waste.

It’s a wonderful, mysterious feeling to become wildly interested in something new. A new part of the world lights up for me, a previously ignored section of my beloved library becomes familiar, I have a new way to connect with people, and my bookshelves start to fill up (which is a mixed blessing).

Now, why am I so intrigued with the subject of color? No idea.

I know the minute my obsession started. On our podcast Happier, in episode 71, Elizabeth and I suggested the try-this-at-home of “Choose a signature color,” which sparked so much response that in episode 75, we did a deep dive into color. I got hooked.

However, despite my fascination with the subject of color — or perhaps because of it — I haven’t been able to choose a signature color (though I think if I did, it would be purple).

I love reading about color, taking notes on color, looking at color. It’s so much fun, it’s a great treat.

Oddly, it’s a treat that also feels like more work. I spend time doing research and taking notes, which is “fun” but is also a busman’s holiday. I also feel obligated to do my reading, so instead of picking up a novel I’m dying to read, say, I think “I really need to spend some time this afternoon reading about color.”

Of course this sense of obligation is completely self-imposed. As George Orwell wrote in the brilliant book The Road to Wigan Pier, “But what is work and what is not work?  Is it work to dig, to carpenter, to plant trees, to fell trees, to ride, to fish, to hunt, to feed chickens, to play the piano, to take photographs, to build a house, to cook, to sew, to trim hats, to mend motor bicycles?  All of these things are work to somebody, and all of them are play to somebody.  There are in fact very few activities which cannot be classed either as work or play according as you choose to regard them.”

Or as Tom Sawyer put it more succinctly, in Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and…Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

But why is color my Play? I’m extremely un-visual, so perhaps part of my pleasure comes from tapping into an underused aspect of my existence –as I did with the sense of smell.

And the writing about it! Much of it is extremely dry, but some of it is beautiful and thought-provoking. In the end, no matter how tied something may be to the physical senses, I still can only appreciate things through reading.

“All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’—they have no idea what I’m talking about. About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance portrait.” — Diana Vreeland

“If you cover a surface in red; where is the surface now? Under the red? Over it? The red itself?” –Bernard Cohen

“Colors must have a mystical capacity for spiritual expression, without being tied to objects.” –Johannes Itten

“The fact is, that, of all God’s gifts to the sigh of man, colour is the holiest, the most divine, the most solemn…the purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.”  –John Ruskin (a bit self-congratulatory on my part!)

“I knew a wise guy who used to make fun of my painting, but he didn’t like the Abstract Expressionists either. He said they would be good painters if they could only keep the paint as good as it is in the can. And that’s what I tried to do. I tried to keep the paint as good as it was in the can.” — Frank Stella

I’ve learned new words, like “ombre.”  I have a much greater appreciation for painting.  I’ve learned some odd history — like the existence of killer wallpaper. My love of color has given me an excuse to buy giant sets of fine colored markers and pencils. It has given me something new in common with a few of my friends whom I’ve discovered, to my surprise, are also color-obsessed.

I realize that just as a romance usually fades out or ends in marriage, probably my love of color will abruptly burn itself out or turn into a book (I already have a title picked out: “My Color Pilgrimage.”). Who knows? I’m just trying to enjoy this beautiful, beautiful obsession for as long as it lasts.

If you have any suggestions for books I should read, paintings I should look at, movies I should watch, websites to follow, articles to read, or anything else, I’d love to hear them. I’ve received so many great tips from readers.

Have you ever become intensely interested in a subject? Why? Have you stayed interested for a long time, or have you moved on to other subjects?

Revealed! Three Book Club Choices for December. Happy Reading!

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

— one outstanding book about happiness or habits

— one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

— one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.  Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

Podcast 93: Find Something to Admire, Consider Your Activity Level, and Getting Over a Break-Up.

It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Quick note: If you’re going to give one of my books as a holiday gift, and you’d like to request a personalized, signed bookplate or signature card to make the present more special, request it here — U.S. and Canada only, sorry, mailing costs. But hurry! Time is short!

Listener Question: Andrea Silenzi, host of the great podcast about relationships called Why Oh Why, asks “I just broke up with my boyfriend. Any advice about how to be happier?” (If you know your Friends plot-lines, please note my extremely apt choice of image for Andrea’s question.)

Try This at Home: When you’re feeling blue, find something to admire — an idea we lifted from my daughter Eliza’s podcast, Eliza Starting at 16.

Here’s the Boethius quotation I mention: “Contemplate the extent and stability of the heavens, and then at last cease to admire worthless things.”

If you’d like to sign up for my daily “Moment of Happiness” newsletter, where I send out a quote about happiness or human nature, sign up here.

Happiness Hack: “Wash your face as soon as you put your kids to bed.”

Know Yourself Better: What’s your activity level? Some people like a faster pace, some people like a slower pace.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth hasn’t been able to get rid of a cold, because she’s been pushing herself too hard.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Project Cicero is a terrific organization that collects new and gently used children’s books and distributes them to under-resourced New York City public schools.

Announcement! I’ve launched an app, the Better app, to help people learn about the Four Tendencies — and also to help people form Accountability Groups (Obligers, I’m thinking about you!). Learn all about it here. Don’t know about the Four Tendencies — about whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Learn about the framework and take the quiz here.

Here’s the link to the Happier 911 playlist on Spotify.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

And check out Olive and Cocoa. Surprise someone you love with a meaningful gift today. Go to OliveandCocoa.com/happier to see gift options specifically chosen for our listeners — and for a limited time, you’ll get 10% off your purchase.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #93

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