Podcast 16: Imitate a Spiritual Master, Try the Strategy of Monitoring, and Acknowledge the Pink Eye.

It’s Wednesday — which means it’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Did I mention that according to BuzzFeed, the podcast is life-changing? Oh right, maybe I did. Anyway, check out 10 Life-Changing Things to Try in June.

Coming up: To celebrate our 20th episode, we’re going to do an episode that features our listeners. So call, email, post your response by June 24, 2015, to one of these questions:

— if you could change one aspect of a relationship, what would you change? Huge, trivial, any relationship.

— what happiness demerit would you give yourself? what gold star would you bestow?

Thanks so much to the folks who have already sent in comments. Fascinating.

henrymolofskyExciting big reveal: Listeners, “Henry Molofsky” is no longer just a name that we list in the credits at the end of the show. Our producer/captive audience Henry steps up to the microphone to share what he’s tried at home, and what works for him.

Try This at HomeImitate a spiritual master. My spiritual master is St. Therese of Lisieux, and her spiritual memoir (if you’re curious) is Story of a Soul. I was surprised to hear the person that Elizabeth picked as her spiritual master! Hint: that person’s autobiography is called Audition. (Sorry, I promised to post a photo of my shrine to St. Therese, but I’m in Australia now, and I forgot to take the picture before I left town.)

Better Than Before Habit Strategy: We discuss the power of the Strategy of Monitoring. Elizabeth explains why this strategy is particularly helpful to her as a type 1 diabetic.

Listener Question: “How do you remain happy through a transition?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: I ignored my pink eye.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s friend Mindy Wilson gets a gold star for giving Elizabeth a cookbook – with the knowledge that Elizabeth is an Obliger, and is much more likely to cook if she knows Mindy (and we) are expecting it.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Check out Smith and Noble, a solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and a free in-home consultation. Limited time.

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We’d love to hear from you — who is your spiritual master, and how do you imitate that person? Comment here, or even better, post a photo of it on Facebook! Also let us know your questions and any other comments, especially for the Very Special Episode.

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: (774 HAPPY 336).  Facebook Page.

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HAPPIER listening!

  • Grant Thomas

    Brother Lawrence is my spiritual master. There’s only one book that wasn’t even written by him. His followers collected his saying later.

    He was all about about elevating so-called mundane activities (like doing the dishes) into times of intimacy with God and ultimately seeing these tasks as acts of love and service to others.

    • Penelope Schmitt

      My Dad really admired Brother Lawrence. I need to check him out! I admire St. Therese and Thich Nhat Hanh. Such simple and collected people.

  • Deborah

    Along your keeping-perspective-in-a-transition “this will be over soon” comments … a well-known actor tells about a pre-celebrity job — lifeguard at a health club pool. Pool was only three feet deep but every so often a patron would forget that and panic, splashing about and calling for help. The not-yet-famous actor would yell from his lifeguard chair: “STAND UP!” My coworkers and I took this as a reality check to look around, assess the REAL importance of whatever we were stressing about. Occasionally in an emotion-filled meeting or discussion or emanating from an office, one of us would offer the advice: “STAND UP!” Laughter and calmer behavior always followed.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great illustration!

  • cupcakemuffin

    I am a big fan of monitoring, and I do it different ways for different parts of life. I’ve become a religious flosser with the app “Chains” on my phone. The idea behind it is that you mark off your habit each day, and try not to break the chain of doing it each day. I am currently at 92 days in a row of flossing, which is insanely better than I have ever done at any other point in my life. For exercising, I like putting little star stickers on my calendar. Silly, but it totally motivates me to have lots of little colored stars next to my desk at work.

  • Jenni Amundsen

    You asked about demerits or gold starts…one BIG demerit that I struggle with is wanting to be on time to every event, and getting angry and frustrated when we’re not on time. It ruins the event for me, or at least diminishes what I could get out of it, if I start off grumpy for being late. It’s a big happiness deterrent for me.

    • gretchenrubin

      I hate to be late, too.

    • Mimi Gregor

      I can identify. For me, being on time is being late; I like to get where I’m going slightly early. I just don’t like the anxiety and rushing around that getting there on time and not a minute sooner entails. The fly in the ointment is that my husband doesn’t like being early, and in fact dilly-dallies until the last possible second. He plans how long it takes to get somewhere based on ideal circumstances, whereas I like to account for heavy traffic, road work, lack of close parking, etc.

      • gretchenrubin

        I also really prefer to be early!

  • mal

    I was thinking of the difference between an addiction and a habit. Growing up with an alcoholic I vowed to never be addicted to anything. I like a coffee in the morning but skip it sometimes because I can’t stand it when people can’t function without a cup of coffee. My husband is addicted to exercise. If we have to go somewhere early he will get up at 4 am to be sure he gets in his exercise. He cannot skip a day! That kind of bugs me. It probably makes it harder for me to form habits.

    • zil

      Very interesting point. I would love Gretchen to weigh in on this – when does a habit become an addiction? Is the difference only whether it’s causing disfunction or is healthy?

  • Lindsey Gerstlauer

    I feel like my spiritual master is poet, Mary Oliver. I love her work, so much & can find something relatable in so many of her poems. One day, my mom & I discovered this independent bookstore in our area. This was so exciting for me because I’m a huge bookworm! I went to the second floor to explore & sitting on it’s own stand was a book of poetry by Mary Oliver. I didn’t own anything of hers before. I knew I had to get this book. It felt like it was meant to be. 🙂

  • Michele Goldstein

    Oprah Winfrey is my spiritual master…that I know for sure..:-)

  • Jeanie

    My gold star is for my husband and his simple act of saying “thank you.” Mostly he likes to thank me after a nice day out or after a good dinner. He’ll often say, for example, “Thank you for coming out with me today,” even if I was the one who wanted to go out and he had to do all the driving. He’s always genuine when he says it. It just makes me feel very appreciated for just being there. It also lets me know that he’s feeling good and that makes me feel good too.

    • Mimi Gregor

      He sounds like a gem! What a wonderful guy!

  • Sara

    I never really thought about a Spiritual Master until I listened to this podcast, but when I thought about it I realized that the closest thing to it is probably Fred Rogers. I have read all his books and every book written about him. I love forcing his show on my kids and I originally got Amazon Prime so I could stream the 300+ episodes that that they have exclusive rights to.
    His earnest kindness was legendary.He was revered by kids and adults. He never had a single scandal (or story of some bad interaction with a fan) to tarnish his image. One of my favorite religious writers, Henri Nouwen, was a dear friend. One of my favorite radio hosts, Diane Rehm, said her interview with him was one of her favorites. Thanks for making me think more about this. I should read his books again – they are very inspiring, especially as a mom with young kids!
    “Love and trust, in the space between what’s said and what’s heard in our life, can make all the difference in the world. ” ― Fred Rogers
    Love your podcast!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! Great spiritual master.

  • Shelly W.

    I’d like to give myself a gold star. I first learned about MyBodyTutor when I read Better Than Before. I decided that I would sign up and end the roller coaster of weight loss and regain once and for all. I joined on April 25 and have lost 15 pounds to date. More important than the weight loss, though, is the way I’ve changed my approach to my eating habits. Since what you do most of the time is what is most important, I am ruthless with my choices for everyday meals and snacks. That way, I can enjoy my indulgences as they were meant to be enjoyed, occasionally. Gold stars to Adam Gilbert, founder of MyBodyTutor (he would be a great guest on the podcast), and my tutor Nikki too!

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent! So happy to hear that!

      Yes, gold star for Adam…and you’re right, he’d make an excellent guest.

  • Debra Mugnani Monroe

    Thanks for your inspiring podcast. Today’s segment on tracking your habits was a good encouragement for me to continue to track mine Ina super app I found awhile ago called Coachme (formerly Lift). You add your customized habits or follow suggested habits and the community can give you props for doing it. I often go through my list when I’m on the treadmill and it remindse of who I am wanting to be or become. It definitely makes a difference to be a tracker!

    I also had to mention Blue Apron. My boyfriend and I really enjoy making these delicious gourmet dinners together. The recipes and ingredients for three meals for two people or more are shipped to you as often as once a week. It’s very well thought through with just the exact amount of each ingredient and easy to follow recipes with photos. It’s teaching us great kitchen tips and almost always up levels our cooking skill level.

    I am not affiliated with either of these companies but love to share things I’m enthusiastic about.

  • Dianne Ochiltree

    You continue to inspire! I hope you’ll always make sharing tips, techniques, and wisdom a habit!

  • Mjaye

    Thanks to Elizabeth’s comments about the scale, I get a gold star this week! After listening to this week’s podcast, I made up my mind to get back on the bathroom scale. I, too, had been avoiding it because I knew I had put on weight. The next morning, I got on the scale and discovered I had only gained 4 pounds, and not the 14 it had felt like! I was so happy!! Now I am committed to get on that scale every morning, lose the 4 pounds and keep it off. Keeping to good habits really does make me happier so I am going to stick with it. thanks for the inspiration!

  • MidwesternGirl4ever

    I am attaching before and after photos to illustrate my happiness gold star. Managing my weight has always been challenging and stressful for me, really since high school. Finally, I stopped struggling, obsessing, and fluctuating once I became “free from sugar.” This has freed up so much more energy for me. The first photo, is from November 2012, while I was still eating sugar and carbs. The second photo is from March 2015, after I had been living sugar-free after reading about becoming “free from sugar” on the Happiness Project blog. I read a post about the abstainer v. moderator strategy, a strategy you discuss in the podcast and “Better than Before.” I have to admit, this happiness strategy has been transformative for me. It makes me feel a little happier every day. Ironic, that staying away from sugar and chocolate makes me happier. (I am sorry I could not get the photo to rotate on this post, but you can still see the difference.)

  • MidwesternGirl4ever

    I am attaching before and after photos to illustrate my happiness gold star. Managing my weight has always been challenging and stressful for me since high school. Finally, I stopped struggling, obsessing, and fluctuating once I simply became “free from sugar.” This has freed up so much more energy for me to pursue other endeavors in life. The first photo, is from November 2012, while I was still eating sugar and carbs. The second photo is from March 2015, after I had been living sugar-free after reading about becoming “free from sugar (or french fries)” on the Happiness Project blog. I read a post about the abstainer v. moderator strategy, a strategy you discuss in the podcast and “Better than Before.” I have to admit, this happiness strategy has been transformative for me. It makes me feel a little bit happier every day. Ironic, that staying away from sugar and chocolate makes me so happier! People don’t believe me, but it is true.

  • Jamie Herron

    Thanks to Elizabeth for the scale comment. I have this problem as well. I used a happiness tip from Gretchen to help me solve it. I made an extravagant purchase of an fitbit scale. It was $150 but it uploads to my app and tasks for me. It tells me when I skipped and my activity is also there. I haven’t gotten to tracking my food but this has been a huge help.

  • I definitely agree that monitoring makes you keep better habits! My boyfriend recently bought me a Fitbit, and wearing that pedometer on my wrist (and knowing it will congratulate me when I hit the goal for the day) has made me much more accountable to getting my exercise in! Additionally, you talk in Happiness Project about keeping a food journal, and I am getting back in the habit of this after a long hiatus. I became increasingly aware of how much mindLESS eating I did at work and I am trying now to be more mindFUL about it!

  • Ari

    I love the Little Flower, too – such an inspiration. So – how’s the pic of your shrine coming along? I know you’ve recently returned from international travel, but I’d love to see what your shrine to a religious master looks like.

  • Amy Conroy

    My biggest happiness gold star occurred several years ago. I noticed that whenever my coworkers and I met in the cafeteria for lunch we were in the habit of venting about our bosses, the company, our coworkers. It became a cycle of one upping each other about the most annoying or ridiculous thing that we had to deal with. I realized that I was leaving lunch feeling more stressed than I was in the morning. So, I implemented what I called “The 5 Minute Rule”. We were each allowed 5 minutes to vent or complain, then we had to switch to other topics. Everyone agreed, and we found that many days we didn’t bother to complain, we just talked about more pleasant topics. When someone did complain, we offered sympathy or advice but didn’t let it spiral out of control. We became better friends and we all found that our lunch break became a true break from the stress of the day.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great idea!

  • emd04

    St. Therese was my confirmation saint. 🙂 I love hearing about how she impacts other people! She’s been such a great help to me in my spiritual life.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear from a fellow admirer of St. Therese.

  • Craig St. Clair

    Gretchen, loved the discussion about your Spiritual Master. St. Therese is such a great choice, such a profound and influential soul. Mine is definitely St. Benedict of Nursia. I went to college near a monastery and was profoundly influenced by the daily rhythms and routines of Benedictine monasticism. Thomas Merton was also influential in my learning and study of monastic life.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear that.

      For Better Than Before, I read a lot about the practices of Benedictines – the use of time.

  • Ari

    Sorry, I’m gonna have to give you a demerit, Gretchen. Still no pic of your St. Therese shrine! (said in good fun, but still waiting…)

  • SarahTeaches


    I just read listened to the episode, and I wanted to chime in with my spiritual master, spirit “animal”, and my gurus. 🙂

    1. My spiritual master is Eleanor Roosevelt. I have been fascinated with her since I was a teenager and have grown to love her as I have gotten older. She has shown me how to fight for what you believe in, never give up, and try to make a difference in the world. A favorite quote of hers is “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” I am about to start reading her book, You Learn By Living.

    2. My spirit “animal” is Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. She embodies my personality, my drive, my craziness, etc. I try to live by the mantra of be the Leslie Knope of anything you do.

    3. My gurus are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. These two funny women make me proud to be a funny, odd, and strong person. I was a complete dork growing up and still am, but I proudly own it. I have read both of their memoirs, and they have helped my in different ways. They definitely offer me life advice.