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.

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

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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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HAPPIER listening!

  • Ellen

    I’m one of your many foreign listeners; an Aussie living in Switzerland. I have reread all of Gretchen’s books multiple times and find them incredible – but love having Elizabeth on the podcast, because the ease with which Gretchen adopts new habits sometimes makes me feel inferior, but Elizabeth is a refreshing reminder that Gretchen is the exception, and it’s not so easy for most of us. You make a great team!!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for listening – and for reading!

  • Wendy Koscierzynski

    Love this episode. I appreciate Ellen’s comment below about Elizabeth. Glad I clicked nn here too to get a picture of Elizabeth. Love it! I posted a pic of my shrine I guess, well, it was just built in this pic. I call it my She-Cave or Craft-Cave. I love to scrapbook and now i have the best space to do it in. Thanks for bringing more happiness into my life ladies!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! that’s great to hear!

  • s_ifat

    I came to the “no-end/no finish-line” conclusion after years and years of being in the habit-break loop. it took me till my mid 30s to understand this loop, i’m 40 now. I could have used this advice much early on in life, it’s a great advice Gretchen! and of course I love the idea of a shrine, I never thought of it as a shrine, but I have the same one ever since I was a teenager. I love horses and horseback riding and I have so many books on the subject that I keep for yearrrrrs on a special shelf. I have read them all many times, of course, but I don’t anymore, I just love knowing they are on their special shelf. even when I was a university student in another country, I carried all these havy books to another country just so I can put them on a special shelf in my apartement. my husband find it very amusing

  • Robin

    I love today’s episode, thank you! You brought to mind two things: 1) I think Hostess Neurosis is a side effect of being an introvert. Even people who enjoy parties and have good social skills can be introverts. It just means you need to recover alone with a good book after your social experience. Similarly, *before* your social event the anticipation/dread can be overwhelming and being responsible for organizing the event makes it even worse! That’s when the control freak comes out in us introverts trying somehow to wrestle the thing into some sort of controllable experience. 2) Caring Bridge is an awesome service. I wanted to mention a corollary service called Mealtrain.com, which helps people organize scheduling and delivery of meals to people and families that are otherwise overwhelmed by a personal crisis.

    • gretchenrubin

      MealTrain – what a great idea.

      Thanks for the kind words and the thoughtful insight —

    • MidwesternGirl4ever

      I started a Meal Train page at my office for a coworker on Wednesday. I actually signed up for Meal Train Plus. We are all scheduling times to bring over food, mow her lawn, clean her house, run any errands for her that she needs over the next 1-2 months as she recovers from the death of her spouse in a tragic car accident. We are even going to sign up for times to sit down and eat the meals with her as she adjusts to this huge change. Mealtrain.com is free, but MealTrainPlus only costs $10.

      • gretchenrubin

        Such a terrific resource.

  • Kerry

    I’m one of your Luxembourg listeners – loved the Lux shout out! I’m a Canadian living in Lux, and am quickly becoming passionate about this tiny country. It’s kind of amazing to move from one of the biggest countries in the world to one of the smallest.

    I was introduced to your work in 2013 when you were an inspiring speaker at World Domination Summit.

    I’m living in in a different time zone (by 9 hours!) from most of my friends and family, so it feels like an opportunity to practice making myself happy. I loved the discussion about whether you like to always try something new, or repeat your favourites. It was food for thought as I’m in a new country, trying new things every day, which is exhilarating! But I get grounded and happy doing my favorite things – drinking coffee at a cafe and hiking with my dog out in nature.

    Thx for the podcast!

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  • Natalie

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth! My shrine consists of my favorite books. I don’t have a picture, because it’s just too messy. But it’s on the list of things to do because I love having them. I just wanted to share with you both that I started a book club in my area (no members, yet!) and the first book is Better Than Before! I have already started reading it and my boyfriend is reading it, too. I can’t wait to read it with others and watch how we grow over the course of the time. I love your podcast and I enjoy listening to it every week!


    Birmingham, AL

  • Victoria

    On the subject of “Hostess Neurosis”, I remember feeling exactly the same about hosting both my daughters’ birthday parties. It felt like a huge responsibility to make sure everyone had fun, so that the birthday girl and her friends remembered it as a really good one. I always feared the party might be boring, which would have been terrible, and very disappointing/embarrassing for the birthday girl, possibly for months afterwards! Children can be very judgmental, and the approval of their peers matters so much to them. I don’t have the same fear/neurosis about hosting things for myself, because I don’t worry half as much about what other adults will think of me and my hospitality!

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, there’s something especially anxiety-provoking about a child’s party.

  • Laurie

    I am thoroughly enjoying listening to your podcasts. Looking at pix of the mug collection I spotted the one with my favorite Anne Lamott quotes/books: Take it bird by bird. Where did you get it?!

    • gretchenrubin

      Elizabeth ordered that, custom made.

      Great to hear that you’re enjoying the podcast!

      • Laurie

        Oh darn….I guess I could do the same thing! Thanks for your response. The bird by bird idea has become like a mantra for me — and the anecdote behind it one I often share with others (including my girls, who do not YET see the wisdom in it). It is, Gretchen, much like something of yours that I often say (with attribution) and think…the days are long but the years are short. In fact, I have watched that little video a number of times, and it always moves me. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • Diana Lerman

    Here’s a photo of my Jane Austen shrine; many of the items were gifts.

    • Wendy

      I love your Jane Austen shrine, Diana!

    • gretchenrubin

      Love the idea of a Jane Austen shrine!

  • Wendy

    My husband has a cat shrine (figurines, paintings, etc.). I’m not a
    collector, and I’m trying to be more understanding of his fondness for
    collecting. (Love of abundance versus simplicity in action!) He
    recently weeded his shrine down, so it’s now about half (!) its original

    I do have a shrine of books by Mary Stolz. (Gretchen, you’ve mentioned her as an underrated writer… I agree!)

    I took photos of both shrines, but they’re too large to post on this site. 🙁

    • gretchenrubin

      So great to hear from a fan of Mary Stolz! We must bring her back into popularity.

  • Jackie

    Going to create a wellness reading shrine in my exam rooms (I am a FNP) and I recommend #Betterthanbefore regularly. #phototofollow #orderingbooks

  • Liz

    I loved hearing about your Hostess Neurosis! My mom and I definitely get bogged down by this. Another issue that Hostess Neurosis reminded me of is my mom’s tendency to snap and “stress-out” right before we leave for a family vacation. For instance, if we aren’t leaving until 10am, she’ll be asking me why I wasn’t up with her at 7, even though I woke up at 8:30 and was still ready to go on-time. She like everyone to keep to her schedule, and she is always extremely worried about forgetting something! Do you ever experience this, and if so, do you have a cute name for it like Hostess Neurosis?

    • gretchenrubin

      Comforting to hear that others experience this!

      No good name for it, but definitely experience it–

  • Liz

    Also, after listening to your podcast, I realized that I have a shrine in my house without even meaning to create it! There is this one shelf where I keep the boxes from my favorite chocolate bars, magazine clippings about chocolate shops that I’ve been to or want to go to, and little cards listing flavors or quotes about chocolate. I’ve always been interested in chocolate making and the bean-to-bar process, and I guess I do have a shrine for this passion! It makes me so happy to see it every day and add to it whenever I have an especially gourmet chocolate bar!

    • gretchenrubin

      What a shrine!

  • Julie S.

    I love your podcast!!
    Gretchen, Who are your favorite children’s authors? I agree with you about Mary Stolz being underrated. Who are your favorite contemporary authors. I just adore Kevin Henkes.

  • Elizabeth, I understand! I have a mug shrine, too! I collect mugs from where I travel, and I also collect mugs with slightly irreverant, great sayings, such as “too legit to quit” or “for fox sake!” with a handdrawn fox on it. My mugs sit on floating shelves in the kitchen area to be functional decorations.

  • Ashley Martin

    Thanks for sharing the photos; it’s good to know how simple this can be! I have a few shrine-like spots in my apartment. I love candles and scents like sage, incense, and essential oils. Here’s my fireplace shrine of candles (there are many more placed throughout the house)!

  • Gabi Pezo

    This is the picture of my altar /shrine. It’s in a room where unseat to read an meditate. I love it. Wish I had more time to just sit down and just be.

    But when I do sit there I feel whole and in touch with myself.


    Totally love hearing you girls talk. Greetings from the desert. ☺️

    • Gabi Pezo

      I forgot to explain. This is the picture of my guru babaji and a statue of Lakshmi. This was taken some time ago, now I have a picture of my mom who passed away 3 years ago and almoa candle and flowers.

  • a24hrbutterfly

    Last year I got out of a relationship where I really felt like I lost myself. It was a controlling and possessive relationship in which every opinion I had, decision I made was essentially “wrong”.

    In moving out and having my own space I’ve attempted to cultivate a sanctuary, or to make my entire apartment a shrine to me and to the things that make me smile.


    This is a collection of the pictures of my apartment. I’m not trying to promote my blog (I actually like to keep it kind of private). However, I did make a huge post about it recently. I looked around and there’s very little around that doesn’t bring a smile to my face, so I’m quite excited to share this one post.

    Thank you.