5 Reasons Why Going to a Podcasting Conference Made Me Happier.

This weekend, my sister Elizabeth and I went to the Podcast Movement conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Now that we’re doing our weekly podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin,  how better to embrace our podcaster identity than to go to a conference?

We had a great time, and it made me happier, for several reasons.

1.  Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: relationships make people happy, so anything that widens our relationships tends to boost happiness. Elizabeth and I met a bunch of fun new people this weekend.

2. Likewise, anything that deepens relationships tends to boost our happiness. Having a fun sisterly weekend adventure brought me closer to Elizabeth, and we also got to spend time with the terrific Panoply team.

3. As the First Splendid Truth of Happiness explains, a key element of a happy life is a sense of growth — of learning, of fixing something, of helping someone, of creating something, of improving something. I learned a tremendous amount during the weekend, so I got the sense of growth.

4. Novelty and challenge boost happiness. This is hard for me to remember — I’m naturally attracted to familiarity and mastery, and I really have to talk myself into doing new things. But even for a creature of habit like me, novelty does boost happiness. I was really energized by the new experience.

5. We’re happier when we have many sides to our identity. Maybe you get fired, and that’s a blow to your identity,  but you think, “Everyone in the PTA likes and respects me.” That’s comforting. Professionally, I’m a “writer”: when I became a “blogger,” I got a big happiness boost, and now becoming a “podcaster” is giving me another boost.

Bonus happiness boost: Elizabeth made t-shirts with our “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” logo. Corny but fun.

Working on my three books about happiness — The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before — has really helped me to analyze a situation according to its likely happiness effect. In the past, I might’ve thought, “Nah, why go to the conference? All that bother and expense and inconvenience, for such a short trip.” Now I look at that kind of decision in a very different way.

How about you? When you’re deciding whether or not to do something, do you explicitly consider the effect it will have on your happiness?

My College Roommate Sent Me a Sketch of Myself–What a Memory.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood is: “Always remember how easy it is to forget.”

I’ve tried a lot of things — keeping a one-sentence journal, taking tourist photos of my own romance — to help hang on to memories.

It’s funny, though, what can unleash a memory. A smell, for instance, can invoke memories very powerfully.

I had a rush of memory when Rebecca Lemov, one of my college roommates, emailed me this sketch. While looking through her dusty sketchbooks, she found this drawing of me. She also sent a photo of a note that I wrote to her around that time. (My handwriting hasn’t changed.)

Seeing the sketch brought back…such a feeling of college. I can’t even quite describe it. The atmosphere of that time of life. It was acute.

Have you ever come across an artifact like this, that brought back a flood of memories?

Revealed! Book Club Choices for August 2015.

Pardon this moment of book self-promotion: I was very happy that the Washington Post included Better Than Before in its terrific list, A summer reading list that will help you professionally. Many great ideas for reading. (Want to know more about Better Than Before? Excerpt here. Audio clip here. Discussion guides here.)

Now enough about me and my book (!) — on to the fun part. Three terrific books.

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, or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

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.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

Happy August, and happy reading!

Podcast 23: Choose an Office TV Show, Do You Savor or Spree, and Keeping Good Habits While Traveling.

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

Update: Elizabeth clarifies that Adam is protective, but not over-protective (she felt that she was a bit harsh in episode 20).

Try This at Home: Choose an office TV show. Elizabeth’s office watches Game of Thrones, and everyone has fun discussing it.  Or maybe a family TV show–my family’s TV show is The Office. (Listen to the bonus clip.) Or you could have an office podcast!

Know Yourself Better: Do you prefer to savor or spree when you’re enjoying certain pleasures? This is related to, but not exactly the same as, the abstainer vs. moderator distinction, which relates to how you most easily resist a strong temptation. I write a lot about this kind of distinction in Better Than Before.

Listener Question: “How do you cultivate healthy habits while traveling?” One answer: avoid loopholes! Here are the 10 categories of loopholes, including the travel favorites, the “this doesn’t count” loophole and the “lack of control” loophole and the “planning to fail” loophole.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth regrets that she didn’t make a bigger effort to make friends with the very nice parents at her son’s pre-school. Now he’s off to kindergarten, so the opportunity has passed.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I gave a gold star to my husband, for being super lovely-dovey — which, if you met him, might come as a surprise. He doesn’t seem like he’d be a big “mushball” (Elizabeth’s term).

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Wish you cooked more? Get all the delicious, fresh ingredients you need to make great meals, delivered to your front door. Check out BlueApron.com/happier to get your first two meals free.

Also, thanks to Audible.com, with more than 180,000 audio-books and spoken-word audio products. Get a free audio-book of your choice by visiting Audible.com/happier.

We’d love to hear from you: What’s your office or family TV show? What loophole do you invoke–while traveling, or generally?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page. To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

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HAPPIER listening!

How Do You Feel About Gifts? A List of Questions.

Today is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day: A list of questions about gifts.

People often ask, “What’s the key to happiness?”

I think that question can be answered in a few different ways, depending on the framework used to approach the question.

For instance, one answer is: self-knowledge. As the Fifth Splendid Truth holds, we can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature, our own interests, our own values.

Another answer — and maybe the best answer — is relationships. To be happy, we need strong bonds to other people; we need to get support and give support; we need to be able to confide; we need to feel like we belong.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of gifts in our relationships.

Consider these questions — and post your answers, if you’re so inclined! I’d love to hear them.

What’s the most successful gift you’ve ever given? I’ve given two outstanding gifts: I bought my husband a TiVO device when that technology was fairly new, and I bought my sister a treadmill desk, as pictured (you can read about that gift exchange in Better Than Before, or listen to us talking about it here).

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

Do you like to be surprised by a gift, or to get something you’ve asked for?

Do you like getting gifts—or is it not very important to you?

Are you good at choosing gifts for other people? Some people have a real gift for gift-giving.

Do you feel sad or angry if you don’t get gift at a traditional time (birthday, holiday, Mother/Father’s day, anniversary)? Be honest!  I know someone who clearly cares a great deal about getting gifts, but rather than admit she’s hurt when she doesn’t get a gift, she tells people, “Gift-giving is a stupid custom.” So guess what. No one feels obligated to give her many gifts.

If someone gives you a gift, do you feel that you must use it? Read the book, eat the chocolate, use the tote-bag. Or even if you don’t use it, do you feel that you must keep it, even if the gift-giver doesn’t know what you’ve done with it?

A gift can be an object you possess, or it can be an experience (like concert tickets), but giving or receiving of a gift is an experience, in itself. (If you want to hear Elizabeth and me discuss the benefits of “buying an experience,” listen to this episode of the podcast.)

Gift-giving can be complicated. We can feel bad about not knowing what to give, or not wanting what we’ve been given, or not getting anything at all…but exchanging gifts can also be a tremendous source of happiness.

I recently gave a plastic crown of flowers to a friend. I saw it in a store, and thought, “Boy, I know just who to give those to!” It was so fun to buy it, and so fun to give it.

How about you? How do you feel about gifts?