Podcast 14: Cultivate a Shrine, Know What’s Different about You, and Fight Hostess Neurosis.

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

Updates: we have listeners in 192 countries! Zoikes. And we’ve heard from a lot of people who have successfully used the “one-minute rule” that we discussed in the first episode. Great to hear that it’s working for people.

This week:

Try This at Home: Cultivate a shrine.podcastMugShrine As promised, here are photos of Elizabeth’s Shrine to Mugs and my Shrine to Smell.shrinetosmell If you’d like to read more about shrines, check out Happier at Home.

Better Than Before Habit Strategy/Know Yourself Better: Use the “Strategy of Distinctions” to figure out the habits that will work for you. Which might be very different from what works for other people.  The book I mention is Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired by Till Roenneberg.

Listener Question: “How do you stick to your habits for the long run?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: Gretchen confesses to “hostess neurosis,” which is our family term for the irritable, demanding frame of mind that descends when it’s time to act as a hostess.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to Jeff and to the website CaringBridge. Elizabeth’s longtime friend Suzanne is dealing with cancer, and her husband Jeff is doing a great job of keeping everyone updated on CaringBridge.

How do you like the photo? That’s Elizabeth’s back yard in Encino. Orange trees!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Check out The Great Courses for a wide variety of fascinating courses. Special offer for our listeners: go to thegreatcourses.com/happier to order from eight of their bestselling courses, including Practicing Mindfulness: an Introduction to Meditation, and get up to 80% off. Limited time.

Also, thanks to Squarespace — the easiest way to create a beautiful website, blog, or online store. Go to squarespace.com, and enter the offer code “happier” at check-out to get 10% off.

Want to get in touch? Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: (774 HAPPY 336).  Facebook Page. Or comment right here.

And we would love to hear from you — whether you’ve cultivated a shrine. Comment here, or even better, post a photo of it on Facebook! Also let us know your questions and any other comments.

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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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Secret of Adulthood: Accept Ourselves, and Expect More From Ourselves

Of everything that I’ve considered and concluded about happiness and good habits, I think this phrase sums it up best.

We must strive to know ourselves, and accept the truth about ourselves, but at the same time, try to do the best we can.

As Flannery O’Connor put it, “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” (Letter, December 9, 1961, quoted in The Habit of Being.)

Agree, disagree?

Need a Good Gift for a Father in Your Life? Look No Further!

 Sunday, June 21, is Father’s Day in the United States and Canada.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful gift for a father in your life, may I suggest my new (bestselling) book, Better Than Before? It’s all about how we can master our habits.

I’ve heard from a lot of people who are giving the book as a gift. I offer free, signed bookplates, to make books more special, but if you’d like one (or as many as you’d like), request soon, because it can take a little while to get those signed and mailed back. Request bookplates here. (U.S. and Canada only, sorry–mailing costs.)

If you’d like to read an excerpt, to see if you think the book would be a good gift, read here.

If you’re considering giving the audio-book, listen to a clip here.

I love all my books equally, but a surprising number of people have told me that of all my books, Better Than Before is their favorite.

I know some people think that days like “Father’s Day” are artificial and forced, but for myself, I find it helpful to have reminders to think about the important people in my life.

I love giving books as gifts, generally. Partly for selfish reasons — I always love an excuse to go into a bookstore.

One thing I regret about the switch to digital for music is that buying music in a physical form was so satisfying and straightforward. It’s always fun to buy stationery and office supplies as gifts, but it takes a long time for people to use them up. Do you have a type of gift that you love to give?

Do You Have an Image that Calms You? Like a Clock During a Thunderstorm.

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson

I love this image, and often recall it to my mind when I feel anxious or harried.

Do you have an image that calms you?

Trying to Change a Habit? Beware These 5 Traps.

Today is Tip Day: Avoid five habit traps that can destroy your good habits.

In my book Better Than Before, I describe the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. Habits — the most fascinating subject ever.

One thing I observed is that when we’re trying to master our habits, it’s important to be aware of the justifications or arguments that we sometimes invoke that interfere with keeping a good habit.

They slip in so easily and quickly, it can be hard to spot them. Be on the look-out for these five popular lines of thoughts:

1. Thinking, “Well, now that I’ve slipped up and broken my good habit, I might as well go all the way.”

I remind myself, “A stumble may prevent a fall.” Because of the colorfully named “what the hell” phenomenon, a minor stumble often becomes a major fall; once a good behavior is broken, we act as though it doesn’t matter whether it’s broken by a little or a lot. “I didn’t do any work this morning, so what the hell, I’ll take the rest of the week off and start on Monday.” “I missed my yoga class over spring break, so what the hell, I’ll start again in the fall.” It’s important to try to fail small, not big.

2. Thinking, “If I really beat myself up when I break a good habit, I’ll do a better job of sticking to it.”

Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more. Often, when we feel bad about breaking a good habit, we try to make ourselves feel better by — indulging in the bad habit! A woman told me, “I felt so bad about breaking my diet that I ate three orders of french fries.” This is the cruel poetic justice of bad habits.

3. Thinking, “Sure, I’m not sticking to the habit that’s meant to keep me productive, but look how busy I am.”

Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

4. Thinking, “Of course I usually stick to my good habits, but in this situation, I can’t be expected to keep it up.”

We’re all adults, and we can mindfully make exceptions to our good habits, but alas, everything counts.  Justifications like “It’s my birthday,” “I’m sick,” “It’s the weekend,” “I deserve it,” “I’ve been so good,” “You only live once,” are loopholes, meant to excuse us from responsibility. But nothing’s off the grid. Nothing stays in Vegas.

I love all the strategies in Better Than Before, they’re all powerful and fascinating, but I especially loved writing the chapter on the hilarious Strategy of Loophole-Spotting. We’re so ingenious of thinking of loopholes for ourselves!

5. Thinking, “I love my good habit so much, and I get so much satisfaction from it, that now it’s okay for me to break that habit.”

One danger point in habit-formation is the conviction that a habit has become so ingrained that we can safely violate it: “I love my morning writing sessions so much, I’d never give them up,” “I stopped eating cereal two years ago, so now it’s okay for me to eat it.” Unfortunately, even long-standing habits can be more fragile than they appear, so it pays not to get complacent.

What have I missed? What traps catch you, when you’re trying to keep a good habit?