“It’s Helpful to Remember the Younger Version of Me Because It Reminds Me To Feel Grateful When I Want To Be Snotty.”

Interview: Mindy Kaling.

I’m a gigantic fan of Mindy Kaling. I love her in The Office, as Kelly Kapoor (Mindy not only stars in the show, but also writes and produces); I love her on Twitter (@mindykaling); and I’ve already pre-ordered her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). She is brilliantly hilarious, and her work has added a lot to my daily happiness.

So I was thrilled to get the chance to do a happiness interview with her.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Mindy: I do two things that consistently, and instantly, make me happier. One is running. Please understand, I am by no means an athlete. I run a 12 or 13 minute mile, which is about the pace a real runner would do if they were doing physical therapy after a traumatic leg accident or something. It is not an impressive pace, but it’s my instant trigger to a good mood. That’s the great thing about endorphins – you don’t have to be really in shape to get them.

The second is sending my parents a text message. My parents got into texting recently and they love it, and are working adorably hard to master it, but don’t have too many people to text with. When I send them a text with some young-people abbreviations or emoticons, they respond immediately. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel great to be in touch with them through text.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
When I was 18 years old, I took a semester off from college and was an intern at Late Night With Conan O’Brien. It was the most glamorous job I ever had, and I idolized the writers there. I remember lying in bed every night telling myself that if I ever got a job as a comedy writer, I would be so happy and all my dreams would have come true. Six years later I got that job, working on The Office. I felt incredibly happy and grateful for a about a week, and then a whole new set of complaints set in. This would’ve shocked and disgusted my 18-year-old self. It’s helpful to remember the younger version of me because it reminds me to feel grateful when I want to be snotty. Also a little scary because obviously, happiness for me does not come from career success alone.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
I really need to stop watching horror movies. I love them because I am really drawn to true crime and the world is so different than the comedy world. But man, horror movies just kill me. They keep me up all night, makes me fearful of my loved ones trying to murder me, and make me scared to walk around my own house at night. It’s nuts.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (E.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)
My best friend’s Jocelyn’s father once told me that “the best revenge is living well,” which is terrific advice, but very difficult to listen to if you’re a hothead and a vendetta-carrying person like myself. When I get mad or feel slighted, I remember this advice and it helps me “let go” of the bad feeling. I think of it in a very practical way: the time I would spend having a mean thought or acting out against someone could be better spent thinking of a fun workout playlist on my iPod, or finding a cool recipe to use on my slow cooker, thus making my life more fit and more delicious (these are my ideas of “living well” — you have to understand how awesome my slow-cooker is).

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
My friends and Office writers Brent and Charlie derive an incredible amount of happiness from 5am to 7am, when they are woken up by their children and do early morning rituals with them. This sounds totally crazy to me but their joy cannot be fabricated. Interaction with their children makes the people I work with the most happy.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
I don’t consciously work on being happier because, well, honestly, if I heard myself telling someone “Yes, I’ve been actively working on my happiness,” I would think “what a Los Angeles weirdo.” I do think I work on my happiness subconsciously. For instance, as I’ve gotten older, I implement rules in my life that I don’t change at all, no matter what. I get to work at 6am as an actor, and when I wrap as an actor, I stay on at work as a writer, and work sometimes 10pm or later. With that schedule, I miss out on sleep a lot. So, on the weekends, one day I need to sleep 9 hours without any interruptions. I realized that the weekends I found the most relaxing were the ones where I felt I slept late – “as late as a teenager” is how I think of it – for at least one day of the weekend. I know I won’t be able to do this when I have kids, so I want to take advantage of this now. Making sure I get enough rest is a way I work on being happy.

* I love this post showing 29 stunning examples of tilt-shift photography. I didn’t even know what tilt-shift photography was, and now I love it.

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  • Dan

    Huge fan of Mindy Kaling and the Office. Her and the whole crew of young actors/writers there are defining comedy these days, and I have to tip my hat and give props. I’m rooting for you Mindy!

  • kinziesays

    She is one of my favorites– she is smart, witty, thoughtful!

  • Congrats on a great interview, Gretchen! Your life is so glamorous now that you’re rubbing elbows with celebrities! =P This long time reader, infrequent commenter is a huge Mindy Kaling fan, so thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      I am definitely feeling quite fabulous after a brush with Mindy Kaling!

  • Mindy is so cool – I really enjoyed this interview and her thoughtful responses. Also love her twitter and her genius on The Office. Cool site Gretchen!

  • ” I run a 12 or 13 minute mile, which is about the pace a real runner would do if they were doing physical therapy after a traumatic leg accident or something.” Bless you for printing this. Yes, endorphins are available to us all. They don’t know how to compare.

    Also, I’m heartened by the texting exchange. My daughter is about to sail off to college and I’m going to miss her. Texting is one of the tools I’m hoping will keep us connected.

  • Wow, what a schedule 6am to 10pm. Very interesting interview.

    • gretchenrubin

      I was struck by that too. Two jobs, in the same day! and they are both so

  • Natalie

    Wow! This interview made me really like Mindy Kaling as a person! I’ve enjoyed her work on The Office, but I wasn’t a fan. I am now! We have a lot in common ie running a slow mile, loving our slow cookers. Great interview, Gretchen!

  • Kate

    I don’t watch “The Office” (original version snob) and had never heard of her, but this was one of the most fun interviews you’ve had on the site. Perhaps I was just relating to her — slow-cooker love and horror movie addiction — but this was a great one!

    • gretchenrubin

      I LOVE the original Office, too, so it is possible to love both versions!
      though they are very different.

  • Anoel

    My favorite interview so far! Big Mindy Kaling fan (can’t wait for her book!) and what she says is so true, I have to remember to be grateful for what I have sometimes because my past self would be so annoyed about some of the things I complain about.

  • Cowswithcoffee

    I love Mindy Kaling too! She is hilarious!!!

  • Loved the interview. Love ‘The Office’. I now look forward to my endorphin charge with the slow mile…

  • Great post and have never see “office” and now i am intended to see one and how it is. Thanks for sharing .

  • Katie D

    One of my favorite interviews too–honest and so funny. I particularly appreciate her mentioning how a small thing like a slow-cooker can be so enjoyable. I once read an interview with Roger Ebert (I think) who raved about his rice cooker and that really made me think about the joy in little things. A few years ago I discovered the thrill of making grilled cheese sandwiches on a waffle iron and I actually brought my waffle maker (which made beautiful little heart-shaped waffles) to work and would make myself a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch most days. I looked forward to those lunches so much!

  • megs283

    I love her! She is hilarious, self-deprecating, sweet, and a great actress! A friend sent me her blog back in 2008 – http://mindyephron.blogspot.com/ – and I instantly became a Mindy Kaling fan.

    Great interview, Gretchen!

  • Napkin Dad

    I love the ‘Los Angeles Weirdo’ comment, so funny the way she said it, and so true. I think she is like most people, we slowly find our ‘happiness areas’ even if we didn’t work on them consciously. The bit about texting with her parents is a perfect example, you can’t arrange that in advance as a happiness event, you find it out after the fact. Great interview!

  • Rachel

    Nice interview. I’m going to check out her blog!

    I do wonder… what brand/type of slow cooker does Mindy have? I am out of the house about 9-10 hours a day which is too long a cooking time for the slow cooker recipes I see. Does she have a good recipe source? Or maybe she just slow-cooks on the weekends? Can we have a couple of follow-up questions here?? Thank you! Rachel

  • Fabulous! Thanks so much for posting. These interviews always help me gain a little perspective, but this one was especially amazing given that I’m a huge Office/Mindy fan.

  • This is a great interview, Gretchen – both the questions and answers! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • Thanks so much for posting this interview! I love it! I giggled at the horror movie reference. I am very guilty of this. I have a love-hate relationship with the show Criminal Minds. I love it – AND Shemar Moore – but it gives me nightmares and makes me imagine that serial killers are watching my house around the clock. It’s really ridiculous to keep going back to something that makes me feel scared!

  • Korkln22

    I love Mindy Kaling! Shes so funny and deffinitley my favorite on the office! Go Mindy!

  • Great interview! Mindy is on my list of people I want to be when I grow up, and reading this interview reminded me why. Thanks!

  • Great interview. I’ve recently become obsessed with the Mindy Project. I laugh out loud each time I watch it which GREATLY contributes to my happiness.

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  • Love this interview! I think her advice that “the best revenge is living well” is spot on. We can waste so much time and energy holding grudges, and as you said in your Happiness Project, it’s easy to be heavy and hard to be light. If we try to live a life that works towards becoming our best selves, we sure as heck can’t spend our time holding in anger or negative feelings. While it may take more effort on our part to suppress the negativity and instead focus on the positive aspects in our lives, we will be much better for it in the long run!