Podcast 21: Join a Group, Put an Item on the Schedule, Enjoy the Present Time, and the Joy of a Treadmill Desk.

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

This episode was particularly fun to record; Elizabeth was in New York City for a wedding, so we were together in the studio — and not only that, our mother was there, too! We tried to persuade her to make a cameo audio appearance, but she declined.

This week…

Update: We got many responses from people who tried the idea to “be a tourist in your own city” from episode 15. So many imaginative ideas.

Try This at Home: Join or start a group. If you want to start a group for people doing happiness projects together, request it here. Or if you want to start a group for people working on their habits together, request it here.

After we recorded the show, our mother made a good point: if you’re in a group that meets regularly, it’s much easier if you set a year’s worth of dates, or to set some kind of rule (first Monday of every month), to set the dates. Thanks to her reminder, one of my book groups has now set a year’s worth of dates.

Better Than Before Strategy for Habit Change: Put an item on the schedule. It sounds simple, but it really works. (Except for Rebels! It does not work for Rebels.) Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.

Listener Question: “I’m always looking forward to the next thing in life, and not enjoying where I am now enough.”

Gretchen’s Demerit: I relied on sleep medication to get back into a sleep pattern after coming back from Australia, instead of using good sleep practices to get back on track.

ElizabethTreadmillDeskTheFamilyElizabeth’s Gold Star: Now that she has started her new job on The Family, Elizabeth is back on her treadmill desk. You may remember her treadmill desk; she mentioned it in our very first episode. Hearing her gold star made me very happy, because, as I describe in Better Than Before, it was my idea to give her that desk! Best gift I’ve ever given.

Elizabeth and I have a favor to ask. We’re part of the Panoply network, and Panoply has created a listener survey. If you could take a few minutes to take the survey, it will really help us — and Panoply — learn more about our listeners. Thanks!

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Also, thanks to The Great Courses, which offer 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 The Art of Travel Photography, and get up to 80% off. Limited time.

We’d love to hear from you: have you joined or started a group — and if so, did it make you happier? What’s your group organized around?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

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  • Liz

    Hi Gretchen & Elizabeth! I’m excited to comment on this podcast because I can relate to joining/starting a group. Last year I joined a book club, but after the first meeting I knew it wasn’t for me. There was over 100 members & not everyone was able to go to each book discussion. Also, there was no one in the group that was around my age so it was hard to connect. When I got home that night, I decided I was going to start my own book club! (Book & Social Club for mid 20’s Ladies) As soon as I submitted my book clubs sign up page, I was filled with fear & doubt that no one would want to join. With in a week I had over 30 people sign up! Now it’s down to ten ladies. Which I think is the perfect number for small get togethers! I post the monthly books way in advance so fast readers can get ahead if they’d like! The last Wednesday of the month we get together & discuss that months book. Every other Wednesday we go to trivia night. Other events include going to dinner, movies, pool parties & more pool parties (we live in TX!). I’ve signed up for a secret FB page & that is how we all stay connected! It has brought so much happiness to my life b/c I have a group of ladies to explore the city with! 🙂 I’ve done so many fun things with them that I would not have done by myself! To others reading this, I highly suggest to start or find a group who does things you are interested in! -Liz B.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific example. Congrats on getting that started —

  • Caroline

    Great episode!!! I loved your talk about the seasons of life… I am struggling with depression, but I know what i am blessed with in this season. And that is truly what is keeping me alive.
    I would like to know if you had any tips that would help specifically a rebel to change a habit? Rebels wanting to do whatever they feel like whenever they feel like…

    • gretchenrubin

      Sorry to hear that you’re struggling with depression. That’s so rough, hang in there.

      I’m now working on a “field guide” to the Four Tendencies, which will go much more deeply into the framework – there will be lots there about how Rebels can change their habits. It has been fascinating to talk to Rebels about how they do this – given the Rebel Tendency.

      • Caroline

        Thank you very much for taking the time to answer!!! And for your kind words.

        I am glad to know you are working on a field guide and i look forward to reading it! Thank you Gretchen

    • Mary

      A great proactive way to combat depression is by reading uplifting books. Start with Gretchen’s The Happiness Project. Other great books: The Happiness Makeover, Stumbling on Happiness, Handbook to Happiness, How to be like Walt.
      The fact that you’re listening to the Happier podcasts and using this website shows how committed you are to you! I’m pulling for you, Caroline!

      • Caroline

        Thank you Mary for taking the time to write this for me, such encouraging words, really! I will look up your books thank you xxxx

  • Alicia B.

    I love the idea of putting things on a schedule! I have a daughter now (a year in a few weeks!!!) and getting together with my non baby friends is so hard! I’ve decided that a way to nail them down to hang out (since I always put it off since life is so unpredictable) is to send out an Evite! Even for just a hang out with 2 friends, it makes it seem more special and commits both parties to a date. I just sent one to 2 college friends and I’m going to send another one to my sister for a trip to Ellis Island! That way I’ll get to be a tourist in my own city too…2 birds with one stone.

  • Liz Brown

    My friend and I just decided to start a goal-setting support group. I suggested it since I knew from reading your blog that I’m an obliger. I really need an external motivation to keep me in line. Since we couldn’t meet right away to discuss our goals in person, we’re going to check in via text every day. Once we become better at maintaining our goals, we probably can check in once a week. While our goals will probably focus on very different areas of our lives, we both need support.

    • gretchenrubin


  • Kris Poppie

    Hi Gretchen! I’m sure I was inspired by you along the way and decided to do a monthly adventure in 2015 to celebrate turning 50 this year. My cousin, who also turns 50, agreed to join me and we have completed one adventure every month so far. Our criteria is to simply have a brand new experience every month; we have pushed our comfort levels (learning to scuba dive and ride a motorcycle for example), or simply enjoyed a new experience like dog sledding and an afternoon of “High Tea” service. People love to hear what we’ve done, or plan to do next, and many are inspired to create their own Year of Adventure. I’m going to keep this as a personal theme going forward…thinking about doing a Year of Service in 2016 by volunteering for venues outside my normal routine or comfort zone. Thanks for the inspiration to be “Better Than Before”!

    • gretchenrubin

      Love it! great to hear that my work strikes a chord with you.

  • Jenna Van Sickle

    Hi Gretchen! I love the podcast and all of your work. Congrats to Liz getting to use her treadmill desk again. I have an office that is too small for a treadmill desk, but I recently found a small, base-only elliptical machine that I use under my desk. It’s probably not as good for exercise as a treadmill desk, but it keeps my feet moving, and I really love it. Also, at less than $100 on Amazon it is less of a financial investment than a treadmill desk. So my gold star goes to my Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I’ll investigate that device – sounds terrific.

  • Mary

    A great proactive way to combat depression is by reading uplifting books. Start with Gretchen’s The Happiness Project. Other great books: The Happiness Makeover, Stumbling on Happiness, Handbook to Happiness, How to be like Walt.
    The fact that you’re listening to the Happier podcasts and using this website shows how committed you are to you!

  • Michelle M

    I have been listening to this podcast since the first episode, and I continue to look forward to it every week. I love it! I wanted to say to Elizabeth that I can totally relate to being married to someone who does not want to make plans. Even if my husband and I talk about doing something (which, in my mind, means we have made a plan) he does not think this means we are actually going to do it. Sometimes I am fine with it, but other times, it drives me completely nuts! Similar to what Elizabeth said in the show, I came to the conclusion that I am just going to make the plans on my own and tell him about it just prior to execution. We will see how it goes!

  • Ellen C.

    My 26 year old daughter suggested we do a family “homework” project by listening to and discussing the Happier podcasts. I started late but have now enjoyed them in their entirety along with the discussions with my daughter; thanks for launching this project! As a result, I am setting my alarm each day to walk (and listen to the podcasts; sad that I’m up to date!); doing anything immediately that takes less than a minute; having accountability buddies; and thinking a lot about my passions as a ten year old as I transition into a new career direction. Finally, it doesn’t hurt that Gretchen’s inflection & cadences sound like a good friend from college.

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent! thanks for listening!

      I love the idea that our podcast is family homework.

  • Erin

    Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth,

    I’ve been enjoying your podcast as I take my walks, but there is one thing that I have been noticing… the happiness gold stars and demerits are a great idea because it’s nice to hear about gold stars and the demerits help us realize that we’re all human and don’t always follow through the way we would like. However, while the demerits seem to always be given to yourselves, I can’t remember an episode where you have given YOURSELF a gold star. In this episode, Elizabeth gave a gold star to her treadmill desk (which she is taking the initiative to use), but often the gold stars go to other people. I think we’re all a little hesitant to give ourselves gold stars because we’re afraid of seeming too full of ourselves or like “know it all’s” (ha ha), but I don’t think most people would have that reaction, and I would like to hear how some of your suggestions and ideas have been helping you in your own lives. I’m not sure if you even notice or realize you’re doing it, but you deserve some gold stars too!

    Anyway, I really have been loving the podcast and it’s the perfect length of the time to learn some new ideas to incorporate into our lives without being too overwhelming.

    – Erin

    • gretchenrubin

      Great idea!

      Gold star junkie that I am, I would LOVE to give myself a gold star that way!
      Stay tuned.

  • Lilly

    love your podcasts, ladies! Can I just ask Elizabeth how she uses the treadmill desk? Do you ever sit down during the day? Do your feet hurt at the end of the day? So intrigued!

    • gretchenrubin

      She uses it whenever she’s at her desk (sometimes, at work, she’s in the Writers’ Room, so not always at her desk).
      She does sometimes get sore feet.

      But she LOVES it.

  • Laurie

    I look forward to hearing your podcast each week. In fact it’s scheduled on my calendar! I also started a small group with some people I was seeing regularly at my professional association’s monthly meetings. “3rd Saturdays” has been quite a hit. It makes it nice to have a group as at least a couple of people show up every month.

    • gretchenrubin


      Thanks for listening.

  • Christine K.

    Hi Elizabeth and Gretchen! Three years ago I was a new stay-at-home mom looking to find a social group. I tried Baby Boot Camp, a workout class for moms with their babies in strollers, and it was wonderful. I got out of the house regularly, got a workout in without having to find childcare, and got to know a bunch of other mothers as we often went out to coffee afterwards. Three years later Baby Boot Camp is still my social group and support network. I even became an instructor and hope that I am helping to support other moms the way I have been supported.
    Thank you for your podcast. It is a bright light in my week!

  • penguin mumble

    I love you Gretchen! <3 Thank you for being such an inspiration.

  • Jules2theworld

    I started a group! A bad Sunday hibernation habit was putting a cloud over the start of my week. So, I started a Sunday Brunch Bunch group. I send an invite through a Facebook Group making coordination and RSVPs very easy. Now I regularly see a group of friends every other week. I get to go to restaurants and new places, which also makes me happier.

    • gretchenrubin


    • Posey

      that’s a great idea!

  • SweetGreenInk .

    Gretchen, I’m working to install a standing desk at my office. What about a standing desk with a small stair stepper or something? Maybe there’s something else that would work for you in your smaller space.

    • gretchenrubin

      I keep searching!

  • Meghan Mathieson

    Gretchen, this solution created by Karen at “The Art of Doing Stuff” may be the solution you need to have a treadmill desk: a tiny, tiny treadmill desk that folds up when not in use. http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/diy-walking-desk-for-250-and-that-includes-the-treadmill/

  • Barb Wilson

    I just ordered a treadmill desk!! All because of Gretchen and Elizabeth. I can’t wait for it to arrive! I work from home so this will be a great way to get more movement throughout the day. Happy Black Friday! (it was on sale!)

    • gretchenrubin


  • Hi Gretchen and Elizabeth! I’ve been listening to your podcast for a couple of months, and I’m now going back and binge-listening to all previous episodes. I love every episode–I always learn at least one thing (usually two or three things) and I always feel happier after hearing your voices. Episode 21 struck a chord with me because I belong to a book club called Bookworms Anonymous, and I’ve written two books and a cookbooklet about our group. We started meeting in November 2000 and recently celebrated 15 years of meeting monthly to share a gourmet vegetarian meal and discuss and swap books. We are a non-traditional book club, in that we don’t have assigned reading. We simply read everything that interests us, then bring stack of books to the meetings. Our meetings usually run 2-3 hours, and we still have the original seven members we started with 15 years ago. If you’re interested, I’d love to mail you a copy of my Bookworms Anonymous books, which provide a peek into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula culture, a bookworm’s-eye-view of several meetings, book recommendations, reading lists, recipes and photos.

    I can’t wait to listen to the rest of your podcasts. Thank you so much for enlightening my Upholder self about my habits! I identify closely with Gretchen, and love listening to Elizabeth’s comments and the interaction between you both.

  • Deb Eisloeffel

    Gretchen and Elizabeth: I only recently discovered the Happier podcast, and I’ve been enjoying binging through the old episodes. I happened to see a fun approach to the treadmill desk, that I just had to share: it’s like a human hamster wheel! (https://youtu.be/ZZTp8NeGbmk) It’s even something I could build in my own garage, if I were so inclined. Keep ‘casting – I love the conversations, the humor, the happiness tips, the guests, ALL of it! I’m also very curious about your process — how do you decide on features, plan your topics, how much is scripted vs. ad lib. Maybe you could share some time!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! And great idea —