Podcast #9: Treat Yourself, But Resist “YOLO”; the Challenge of Changing Someone Else’s Habit; Why Elizabeth TP’d a Friend’s House.

My sister Elizabeth Craft and I are having a great time doing our new podcast,  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

We’re thrilled–we’ve hit more than 500,000 downloads, in just eight episodes! Thanks for listening! (If you like the podcast, we’re sheepishly asking people to rate and/or review it, if time and inclination permit; that’s very helpful for a new podcast like ours.)

Like last week, this episode was especially fun; I was in Los Angeles for my book tour for my new book Better Than Before, so Elizabeth and I got to record together in the studio. By the way, Elizabeth is taller than I am, but in the photo she towers over me–she’s wearing boots.

And we also had the chance to do our “very special episode.” That’s coming up next week — something different. We had a great time doing it, though I will confess, even though it was Elizabeth’s brilliant idea, I enjoyed it much more than she did, for reasons that will become clear. Stay tuned for that!

Here’s what Elizabeth and I discuss in today’s episode:

First, we read a thoughtful reader email we got about the “evil donut bringer” issue that we talked about in episode 3. That happiness stumbling block sparked a lot of comments. After the episode aired, Elizabeth and I realized that we’d forgotten to mention something, because it’s so obvious to us: Elizabeth is a type 1 diabetic, so for her, those donuts are a serious issue.

Try This at Home: Treat yourself (not to be confused with “treat yourself like a toddler” from episode 7). Bonus: an audio clip from one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation. To watch the clip of Tom and Donna talking about “Treat Yo’Self 2011,” go here. (No surprise, Tom and Donna have very lavish treats; in real life, treats work better when they’re more modest.)

Happiness Stumbling Block: Avoid the “fake self-actualization loophole.” Not to be confused with a mindful treat. Want to read a list of all ten categories of loopholes?

Listener Question: What’s the best way to strengthen good habits through rewards? Great question. This is a very complicated issue, so if you want to read more, check out Better Than Before, chapter on the “Strategy of Reward.”

Gretchen’s Demerit: As an under-buyer, I delayed buying toothpaste–and then bought just one tube.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth goes to her high-school reunion–and has a flashback adventure.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors! Like Smith and Noble. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and a free in-home consultation.

And to Travel Zoo. Head to www.travelzoo.com to sign up for a free membership–or download the highly rated Travel Zoo app.

Want to get in touch? Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Phone: 774-277-9336 (774 HAPPY 336). Click here for Facebook Page. Or comment right here.

And we would love to hear from you — about whether treating yourself made you happier, whether you fall prey to the “fake-self-actualization loophole,” your questions, and any other comments.

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 here 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).

Each week, we give  a “Try This at Home” suggestion, for some easy habit you can try, as part of your ordinary routine, to boost your happiness—something like setting an alarm to signal your bedtime, or using the one-minute rule, to help yourself stay on top of small nagging tasks.

We also suggest questions to help you “Know Yourself Better”—like “Whom do you envy?” and “Are you a Marathoner or a Sprinter in your work style?”—and explore “Happiness Stumbling Blocks,” those small, seemingly insignificant parts of daily life that drag us down—everything from aforementioned problem of the Evil Donut-Bringer to the fact that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

We “Grill the Guest” (well, we plan to — we haven’t had a guest yet), consider “Listener Questions,” and finally, we get even more personal, and each of us either gives ourselves a “Demerit” for a mistake we made that week, that affected our happiness, or awards a “Gold Star” to someone or something that deserves recognition.

We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really. Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you want to listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Tell us what you think! Drop us a line at @gretchenrubin, @elizabethcraft, Facebook, podcast@gretchenrubin.com, or call 774-277-9336. Or just add your comment to this post.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

Happy listening! Or I should say, HAPPIER listening!

  • excursivey

    I went back and read comments about the “evil donut bringer”. I can agree with the just don’t eat it crowd to a certain extent. The trouble is that in my office, and I bet in others, the evil donut bringers can never just accept a polite “no thank you”. They have to nag you and berate you if you don’t want to partake. You practically have to say “I’m diabetic” or “I’m allergic” just to make it ok not to eat stuff you don’t want to.

    • gretchenrubin

      We forgot to mention in the podcast that Elizabeth IS a type 1 diabetic!

      • excursivey

        Yeah I saw that. 🙂 I bet people in my office would STILL say “Oh one little donut isn’t going to hurt you!”

  • Lindsey Gerstlauer

    Great topic! I’m enjoying the podcast. I love treating myself to a comic book or two! I visit my local comic shop monthly to pick up a book or two on my pull-list. I love the fantastic content out there! And there are several female titles that I’m really loving & can relate to in some ways. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Great treat!

  • Hi, first of all I just wanted to say that I love your podcast. I stumbled upon it by a coincidence and now I’m basically just excited every week to see what I can do to make myself happier. I’ve started to make my bed everyday, and that actually makes me happier. Great job with the podcast, keep it up! Cheers all the way from Sweden!

  • NancyY

    Re: the treat question – went to the dentist for necessary but not-fun maintenance employing the ‘strategy of identity’ to make myself go. I decided that the unpleasant task was part of my health and self-care identity strategy. While that motivated me to keep my appointments, I also decided the treat would be in the self-care column. On the way home from the dentist, I stopped at a drugstore and picked up a facial mask – something I wouldn’t normally spend money on – as a treat for following through on my commitment to health. It was less than $2 and I felt great for treating myself while also going to the appointment. On a side note – As one of three sisters – I love that you’ve
    recruited your sister to do this podcast with you! It humanizes the
    whole enterprise of habit forming.

  • Emma

    My treat today was listening to this podcast while on a bike ride. Your podcast is always something to look forward to. Can’t wait for next week!

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s so nice to hear. Thanks!

  • About Creativity

    I lock my frig and freezer during times during the day and nite – its a great way to control food intake. get a lock for those donuts – ho ho ho…
    my treat that i have created over years in nuts-mixed – a portion. remember taste is acquired over time with any food.

  • Helen

    Gretchen – you always seem irritated with your sister like you are trying to make her go faster! Is that a sisterly habit of yours?

    • gretchenrubin

      Gosh, I don’t feel like I’m doing that, or feel irritated with her. I’ll have to ask Elizabeth if she feels like I’m rushing her.

      • I think it’s just Gretchen’s speaking style, which probably comes from living in New York. People living in the northeast tend to have more rapid speech where people living in the west (like Elizabeth) speak in a slower, more relaxed cadence. It would be interesting to compare their speech patterns now to when they were little & growing up in the Midwest.

  • Chelsea

    Love the podcast – convinced my sister and parents to subscribe as well! The iTunes music treat story reminded me of a treat I didn’t even know I was doing. I buy whatever song I’m into at the moment to use as an alarm. It starts my day on a positive note. Such a great treat!

    • gretchenrubin


  • s_ifat

    I so enjoy the podcasts, you two have great sister-energy, it made me laugh when Elizabeth said you always follow your desicions to the point of insane. she feels like it’s ok to say it, like every sister should. btw, I don’t think you’re insane, I still can’t figure out how you do it, how do you avoid that Croquembouche, but the more I read you, the more you male sense to me. I learn a lot from you. I’m rebel, which in my view, is an upholder gone bad 🙂

  • Chris Bazzett

    I hope someday that you’ll put the transcripts of the podcasts online for those of us who have S-l-o-w internet connections and can’t listen to them!

  • Mca

    I am really enjoying..or “treating myself” to listening to you podcasts!!

    I thought of “treat yourself” when I read this blog this morning:

    These girls have a fun podcast that I would enjoy to hear you on as a guest.

  • Re: Gretchen’s demerit – for those things where you resist buying more than one, maybe hit up a club like Costco or Sam’s Club. You could get one multi-pack of toothpaste. Then, you’d only be buying one thing, but would still have back-ups! Not sure if they have Costco in Manhattan, though…..

    • gretchenrubin

      Alas, we don’t have a Costco convenient to us.

      But great suggestion!

      • Amanda Smith Faucett

        Gretchen (and all other underbuyers) – Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program is your answer! You can automate shipments on your desired schedule for EACH item (monthly, bimonthly, whatever), charge it to your card on file (i use Amazon’s card which earns me cash back on Amazon purchases, yay!). I now receive toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, swiffer dusters, and kleenex regularly without thinking about it or leaving the house. Epantry.com is my answer for things that I like to buy different brands, like face wash, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. It’s a monthly shipment and I can make changes before it ships (or even receive no shipment if i don’t need anything), so there is a bit of thought and decision making involved, but not much. And I still haven’t left the house. :). Hope that helps!

  • Catherine Grainger

    The Demerit… Alas, I am an under buyer myself and it’s nice to know that I am not alone out here with this quirky trait. Your admission about the utilization of the small tubes of toothpaste that we receive for free from the dentist, rummaging around under the sink and linen closet for them, squeezing the last little bit out of the tube you’re currently using, etc. sends my heart aflutter and tears to my eyes, since I do exactly the same thing. Then after hearing your podcast, I actually went to buy a real tube of toothpaste and was actually walking away towards the register, with 1 tube in hand when I caught myself, saying what about my son, he needed toothpaste when he went back to school and all I had to give him were two full freebies from the dentist office, etc. I walked back and was able to buy 1 box with 2 tubes of toothpaste in it, which helped me with my anxiety about buying so much. I use to go to BJs when the kids were small and stocked up on these types of goods, but there’s is no motivation to do so now. Gretchan, I am thinking there are some cultural tendencies, such as the old Yankees, “Waste not want not”, since I live in New England?

  • qwrt

    Lately my favorite treat has been rosemary infused water. I keep a rosemary plant in my kitchen and when I feel like a treat I just add a few stems to a pitcher. It’s adding a little special twist to something plain that I find the best treat. Also, purchasing cilantro to add to mexican food. Sure, I could make tacos without cilantro, but that extra little 99 cent splurge makes it that much more special.

  • Anne

    The subject line of this post made me laugh! I feel like “YOLO” is one of those things that I used to justify all measure of things when I was younger. Now I realize that precisely because we only live once we should take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. However, the expression was particularly relevant for me since I went home to my ten year high school reunion this weekend. I decided ahead of time that I was going to indulge in more drinking, eating, and staying up late than I ever do on a regular basis. But precisely because it was by definition the type of event that only comes around once every ten years, this felt alright. On Sunday, I was tired from staying up until 4:30 am, but I really felt deep down that it was worth it because I had been surrounded by a group of friends that merited this indulgence, many of whom I hadn’t seen in a long long time.

    On the other hand, I also decided ahead of time that I was going to exercise and eat a salad either for lunch or dinner every day while home. Thus, no matter the “bad,” I would be moving and getting my vegetables. This resolution also prevented me from drinking at the final Sunday cookout because I had not exercised yet. A few people actually tried to invoke the “YOLO” excuse with me at this time, but I was able to say, “I definitely embraced that attitude last night and don’t feel like I need to through drinking today.” All in all, a really fulfilling – and not TOO – unhealthy time.

  • Carol

    I find it funny that Gretchen cannot buy more than one tube of toothpaste, but how many books on St. Therese does she have? 15? 17? As for the class reunion, just thinking about attending a class reunion makes me nauseous.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, for my spiritual master, my under-buying is suspended (though all but one of the books was bought used, which satisfies my under-buyer side).

  • Amanda

    Funny story – my treat for myself was the “Better than Before” book! 🙂 Found the podcast and was so pleased. Looking forward to getting caught up.

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent! Great to be a treat.

  • Gabi Pezo

    Hello!!!!! i am loving the podcast! i am binge lisetning while working on a project that i have been postponing!!!1 LOL.

  • Gabi Pezo

    Greetings from Dubai.

    Loving this podcast. I have never been a podcast listener but i found it relaxing to hear it while working. I recently did a “lifestyle change diet” WHOLE 30 and it kind of makes you look at eating habits. I realized I was treating myself with food, even if it was healthy… Well, after the 30 day experiment I am glad to say I am done with that so I am happier because I am keeping myself healthier and losing weight.

    And about rewards … well, it makes sense… I try not to reward my child for household chores because no one gives me piece of candy or money for things that I have to do! Hello!

    Anyway.. Dear Gretchen… I have a confession to make..I resisted reading your book for 5 years.. Yes. since 2010.
    I wanted to start my own happiness project and when looking for the name found out your happiness project… I was at first pissed because I was gonna start something new each week 52 weeks of new things to improve happiness and self love..When I found out you had a blog, I was pissed.. “Are all great ideas taken already! ” And I was jealous. My ego was hurt.

    A friend I love posted an IG pic of your book and the other day I picked up the book and said: “Hell, I am reading this.” And I most say I truly love it. As a Laughter yoga teacher you make excellent points and it is inspiring to hear you talk about your experiment on happiness.

    Thanks for the podcast. I enjoy listening to it while doing things I don’t like to do
    .. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! Great to hear that my work strikes such a chord with you.

  • I’m an underbuyer too!! I love that you put a name to this concept. I have such a hard time buying extra stuff. Another great podcast!

  • Jessica Andrus

    A friend recommended your podcast to me and I’m loving it! My treat is buying myself flowers. They add a touch of life, freshness and beauty to my apartment.

  • jen

    I say to myself “don’t fall for this exceptions/YOLO loophole” almost every day. For example, when I get coffee in the morning, I think – I can have the half and half, I have a really tough day at at work today, I have a really long day today. Then, I have to tell myself No – if you have it today you’ll have it another day and then another day. 1 cup by 1 cup I gain weight, 1 cup by 1 cup I can lose it (just like your cupcake analogy from evil donut episode). I was out with my friends this weekend and they were eating french fries and I was like this is a great night out – you can have them. And in my head (stop! dont yolo it). This little knowledge/awareness has stopped me stumbling more times than I can count.

    one of my treats is: – if I am walking by a liquor store/mini-mart and happen to have cash in my wallet (which I almost never have cash) I go in and by a lottery ticket. This happens every month or so. I don’t even care about winning but I like thinking about what I would do if I were rich, and it refocuses me on the things that are important to me.