Podcast 44: Drew Barrymore Gets Personal. And Happier.

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

Update: The paperback of Better Than Before just hit the shelves. You can see me talk about it in this short video. If you’ve ever wanted to change a habit, all is revealed.

Try This at Home: Have an end-of-the-year ritual. Let us know your ideas. We’re looking for good suggestions.

Interview: Drew Barrymore. Yowza! It was so much fun to meet her. Her new book is Wildflower. What a fascinating conversation.

As we discuss, Drew Barrymore’s sister-in-law is writer Jill Kargman, who created and stars in the TV show Odd Mom Out.

One of many highlights — Drew’s point about maternal instincts, when she wondered, “When these maternal instincts kick in, are they going to be overarching, like a rainbow that comes across me, or more like Skittles on the floor?” Rainbow or Skittles — a great metaphor for a complex point.

In our discussion of Drew’s personal symbol of “flower,” I couldn’t resist mentioning my spiritual master, St. Therese, who describes herself as a “little flower” in her memoir, The Story of a Soul. Note that in the image below, Drew is indeed decked out in flowers.

We discuss the Four Tendencies framework. Drew revealed that she’s an Obliger — which is what I thought, from reading Wildflower. If you want to take the quiz to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take it here.

Drew’s Try This at Home: Drew writes in a journal to her daughters every day; she also suggests writing letters to your children on important days — and also ordinary days — keeping them in a box, and giving the box to your children when they turn eighteen. Such a great idea.

I was so thrilled to hear that my book The Happiness Project had struck such a chord with Drew. So gratifying.

By the way, the clip we play is from the movie The Wedding Singer. You can watch here.

Elizabeth’s Demerit:  Elizabeth hadn’t taken out her Christmas decorations yet, because a plastic sheet was covering the door of the closet — even though she could easily get through the plastic.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I love temporary tattoos. So fun, so cheap, so easy, so delightful.

Remember, if you live in the Bay area:  Elizabeth and I are doing our first live recording of the podcast! January 21, Brava Theater, we hope to see you. Info and tickets here.  We’ll have two outstanding guests, Nir Eyal and Jake Knapp. Plus Elizabeth and I have planned special little treats, and you also get a copy of Better Than Before with your ticket.


As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin #44 - Listen at Happiercast.com/44

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  • Robin

    I have the best end of year ritual! It’s not sexy or fun, but it really improves your life. At the end of every year, my husband and I replace all the batteries in our smoke detectors. If you’re like us, you have been awakened in the middle of the night, the middle of a phone call, or the middle of something else by that incredibly annoying “CHIRP!” of the low battery warning. And, if you’re like us, you rip the battery out to MAKE IT STOP, but you don’t replace it, because you never have the right battery on hand. And so eventually all your smoke detectors are rendered inoperable. So one December, we decided No More and we replaced the battery in every smoke detector in the house with a new battery (even if the battery in one was relatively new) in order to get them all baselined. Then every December since, we have replaced them all. No more CHIRPS, and our house is safer. And happier.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great idea!

  • cara

    Loved this weeks episode! I have a few rituals I observe towards the end of the year. One which I have neglected recently but want to start again is writing a letter to myself, reflecting on what i would like to happen in the year ahead, what didn’t work out so well this past year and what I would like to change. I post it to myself, and then open it at the end of the year to see how much turned out. It’s a focus and motivation, but also a reminder that we never can really know what’s around the corner!

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a great idea.

  • marie

    One ritual I have done with friends is doing a “burning bowl.” A large fire-safe bowl should be available, and something like matches to start a small fire. Everyone writes events from the outgoing year on slips of paper. We shared both good and bad significant events (or to the degree we felt comfortable), but wrote only the negative events. At midnightish time, burn the slips of paper in the bowl.

    My own personal rituals involve self-reflection lists. On New Year’s Eve, I write a list of significant things that have happened or had accomplished in the year, and then on a white board, I brainstorm a “life list” of everything I want to do in my life (I also write this on paper somewhere, but the whiteboard makes it easy to write down everything that occurs to me). It’s interesting to compare the two lists.

    I think this year, my family will do a variation of the burning bowl with good/bad events or accomplishments.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great ideas.

  • Nicole T

    three things:
    1) My end of year ritual is super gratifying. I go through my personal email box and the trash folder and unsubscribe from 98% of the recurring emails that accumulate through a year of online purchases, charity donations, and things that piqued my interest at one time or another. It is wonderful to begin a new year by only receiving mail from people that I know and love personally, then gradually choose new newsletters and other mail to receive throughout the year.
    2) On one of the recent episodes Elizabeth’s demerit was the twinkle lights. I was thinking a good solution would be to call the installers and set up an installation AND removal date at the same time, and pay for both then. That way, she won’t have to remember to call again later. You pretty much know in advance that you want them removed by February 1st, so just take care of both appointments together! Also, don’t be too embarrassed that he’ll be taking down old lights – it’s easy if you’re already on a ladder to remove one set at the same time as installing this year’s.

    3) I couldn’t figure out what tendency my husband was so I had him take the quiz. He said he really struggled on some answers, but was ultimately assigned Obliger, even though both of us think he may be somewhere between Obliger and Questioner. If you are somewhat hazy, are there particular traits you should look for or questions you should ask yourself to determine your ultimate tendency, or are some people really close to 50/50? Is that even possible?

    • gretchenrubin

      Great ideas – and great question. Stay tuned!

      • Libby Brown

        I’ve had the same question about being an obliger/questioner and if you can change over time?

  • Leanne Sowul

    I’ve been thinking about resurrecting an end of year ritual I used to do as a child/teenager. On New Years Eve I would put everything on my bed that was important to me, or symbolized something important to me. Then I’d take a picture. Favorite books, my flute music, momentos from school events, would all be captured together. In later years I left the things on my bed until after midnight, as if that would ensure more of the same favorite things and happy moments in the next year. I guess you could say it was a yearly time capsule. I wish I remembered why I started doing it- and when I stopped!

    • gretchenrubin

      LOVE this idea.

    • Robin

      That is a great idea! Also, you could take a picture of it every year. Then you’d have way to review the things that were most important to you over the years.

  • Cee

    Love the books and the show! I have an observation, which ins’t about this episode, but I’m going to share it anyway. As a rebel, from a family of rebels (sister, brother, dad, and even 3 year old niece are rebels) (my mum is an obliger), I have noticed a tenancy for rebels to reject popular things. For example, when Harry Potter first came out, I decided that I hated it purely because it was popular. It wasn’t until I had to see the first movie for a friend’s birthday that I realised what I had been missing. So my advice to other rebels is: No one cares if you don’t like something popular – you’re the only one missing out!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great observation!

  • Christina

    Here is my year-end ritual that I’ve been doing probably 20 years or so. I journal, so monthly I try to write an accomplishment and disappointment list for the past month, and goals and intention list for the coming month. At the end of every year, I sit and reflect on the past year and make three big lists for the year. These are more personal things: getting out of my comfort zone, cultivating friendships (more yay me! things). And also looking at some things I can work on (going to the gym more, saving more money, etc.) This gives me a boost of confidence, makes me feel grounded, and ready to tackle the coming year with all the things I’d like to accomplish. (Like completing my book proposal, Elizabeth!) I shy away from the word resolution; “goals and intentions” make me feel like I’m aiming toward something and that goal is attainable. 🙂

    • Christina

      ETA, I am an Obliger, so this is one instance where I focus on me and what I need to do, rather than everybody else! 😉

  • Julie Coffin

    I like temporary tattoos too. One summer my daughter was going to be away at camp on her birthday. She’d never not been with us on her birthday so I was trying to think of a way to make it really special. I found a company that prints custom tattoos and had 50 tattoos printed with I big red heart Zana and then the date 6-19-12. We packed them in a friend’s bag and reminded her to distribute to everyone on the birthday. We kept some and tattoo’d ourselves and sent a photo.

  • Julie Coffin

    One year my daughter was going to be away at camp on her birthday. I wanted to somehow make it special for her. We found a place that makes custom tattoos and sent 100 to a friend of hers at camp. They were distributed to everyone to wear on her birthday. The message was I “heart” Zana and the date. We saved a few for ourselves and wore them that day too.

    • Doctor Zil

      Wow, this is such a creative and thoughtful idea! My son will be on a school band trip this year on his 17th birthday, I wonder if he would appreciate this or be horrified by it. I need to think about it, or a variation thereof. Thanks!

  • Jeanne

    Love that Drew didn’t say she was so grateful that she is a beautiful, wealthy movie star, producer, etc. – she said she was grateful that she gets to sleep in a bed. This is a back-to-basics approach to gratitude that I like to foster in myself. Clean running water (a big deal in California these days), a hot shower, a comfy and warm bed, more than enough food. When I see photos of the millions of people living in refugee camps, or slums, or are actually living in slavery, I realize how even the simple things are miles out of reach for so many people. My husband always says, “It’s a long way up, but it’s a long way down.” Looking up inspires envy, looking down inspires gratitude. There is no happiness without gratitude. (P.S., the latest TED talk is about happiness.)

  • Diana Fransen Herbst

    I am starting a brand new end of the year ritual. This past year, I have tried to write a happy thought each day on my Mary Engelbreit calendar. I cut off the saying and write my happiest moment of the day on the date and then place it in my happiness jar. I plan to read them on New Year’s eve or New Year’s day.

  • Linh

    I don’t have an end-of-the-year ritual, but this year I’m adapting a ritual that belongs to Michelle Lou Lan (@meshyoga). At the end of the year, she buys herself a sentimental card. On the left side of the card, she writes down all the memories that come to mind from the current year, and on the right she writes a list of hopes and dreams that she wants to come true within the new year.

    • Anna in France

      I am amazed at all these ideas for end-of-year rituals: I have never known such a thing could exist (other than clearing my desk and preparing my new diary at work). This one I find very do-able, and I am going to find a card and write it right now. Then I will stick it at the very end of my 2016 diary so I will find it same time next year!

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  • Kristy Roser Nuttall

    I really enjoyed this podcast! I could totally relate to her comment about motherhood and whether motherly instinct is like an overarching rainbow or skittles scattered on the floor. As a mother of four young boys, I feel like we have skittles, Legos, sand, rocks, bugs, books, gaming stuff, and light sabers all over the floor right now, and I just need to catch my breath and embrace the moment. Gretchen, I have been using something you put on an Instagram post as one of my mantra’s lately “The fun part doesn’t come later; now is the fun part.” It helps to remember that so many parts of childhood are temporary, and I really have to consciously savor the stages of my boys ages 5, 6, 9, and 11. Now when I snuggle my boys at night, I’m not just “getting through” it, I’m listening to them more carefully, and they’re telling me more. I also love the idea of year end rituals!! Here is a variation of a ritual that I got from Henreitte Ann Klauser’s Write it Down Make it Happen. I will write down three things that I want to get rid of (could be a material item or a way of thinking) and 3 things that I want to invite into my life. At dawn on New Year’s Day, I plan on going for a walk outside (to a mountain or river if possible) and ceremoniously letting go of the three slips of paper by burning them on top of a rock. Then I will put the three specific things I want to invite into my life into my journal and tape the three things with specific symbols to remind me of these goals and put them on my bathroom mirror where I will see it and read it out loud to myself daily. I burned the things I wanted to get rid of last year and found it enormously satisfying. I also found that writing down three things I wanted to invite into my life was very helpful—I also did some free writing about each item and why I want to invite it into my life, and I found the writing exercise really powerful. This year I’m trying out the symbol association idea—I think I’m a very visual person, and I need constant reminders of what I’m working towards.

  • Kristy Roser Nuttall

    Two more quick ideas for year end rituals:

    * Make a photo calendar with favorite pics from the past year (I feel like I have endless photo books to catch up on so this one is a quick victory for a mini-family year book).

    * I collect interesting questions and funny things that my boys say all year long in a digital family journal and tonight we celebrated the end of the year by playing a game where I said the quote and they had to guess who said it. They loved hearing themselves quoted and it was good motivation for me to continue my habit of collecting the hilarious and fascinating things they say for the next year.

    • Brooke

      I love the idea of saving the quotes ans guessing who said them! Sentimental and a nice family activity

  • Amanda M.

    For a ritual, I write myself a letter about what I’m proud of from 2015 and what I hope to accomplish in 2016. I seal it and will open next year on New Year’s Eve. Also, this year I’m going to try to do a journal that is broken out by month and I will put all of the places I’ve visited each month (concert, out of town trip, etc), so I can look back throughout the year and reflect and show gratitude more often.

  • Jill C.

    Loved the interview. Found your podcast because itunes recommendation showing Drew Barrymore. Thank you for such a wonderful interview with an amazing woman!! Now I’m picking up your book from my library today and hope to start the new year on the happiness road. Also, requested Drew’s book at my library.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! Happy reading and happy 2016!

  • santaclams

    I was struck by how hard Drew is on herself, and thought she would appreciate this quote: “Be nice to yourself: It’s hard to be happy when someone’s mean to you all the time” by Christine Arylo. I’m hard on myself as well–which hampers happiness and productivity–and this quote helps remind me to cut myself some slack. 🙂 http://thedailylove.com/be-nice-to-yourself-its-hard-to-be-happy-when-someones-mean-to-you-all-the-time/

    I originally saw this on the greeting card below by Emily McDowell, who appears to no longer carry it, but has lots of other cute and pithy cards. http://emilymcdowell.com/

  • Jacqui Pollard

    I loved your “Try This at Home” from this podcast! You and Elizabeth inspired me to try a couple of new rituals that helped end 2015 and begin 2016 on a happy, productive note. I have a small booklet that lists family members’ and friends’ birthday and anniversaries, but I hardly refer to it throughout the year. I transferred all the important dates to the wall calendar that hangs in our kitchen, so I don’t miss any important occasions this year. I love making people feel special and thought of on their important dates. Also, I was inspired by Elizabeth’s idea to make a 2015 photo book. I uploaded all the photos I took on my phone to my computer, which helped clear up my phone, and I put together a photo book on Snapfish. I just received it in the mail today and looking through the photos from the past year with my husband made me incredibly happy. I can’t wait to continue this ritual for years to come! Doing this project also got me to FINALLY design and order our wedding album (something I’ve been putting off for a couple of years). I decided to stop letting “perfect be the enemy of good” and just got it done. It turned out beautifully, and now we have a wedding memento we’ll always cherish. Thank you for your wonderful podcast – I love listening each week and have gotten my mom hooked, too!

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  • Sarah Baroody

    The last week of the year is my favorite. I take the week off from work and don’t go anywhere. It’s a time of reflection. i do several things.
    1. Make a one word list of news stories from the year
    2. Make a list of all my favorite music from the year, including new bands I’ve discovered and favorite albums, songs… and then a list of concerts attended with photos attached (This is a facebook “note”)
    3. Make a “flipagram” video of all my favorite photos from the year in chrono order and set it to one of my favorite songs from the year. (This is an app on iphone). Grandparents love to receive this via email. It’s a 4 minute time capsule!
    4. List of books read
    5. Look back at last year’s New Year’s resolution journal and see how far you’ve come, baby. 🙂
    6. Ponder what I want to accomplish or focus on in the year ahead.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great tradition!

  • Marci

    I make a photo calendar at walgreens, it saves birthdays and personal dates, which is nice to have built in, and it makes a great gift for grandparents.

  • I loved this whole episode! And especially that Drew loves Candide – I do too! (I thought I was the only one.. hehe). In fact I wrote a blog post on how the last line from the book has impacted my life. 🙂

  • Alexandra Cosgrove

    Hello! Wanted to let you know that the happiercast.com/44 link seems to be broken for this episode – when I enter it, I get redirected here: http://gretchenrubin.com/podcast/?utm_source=podcast&utm_medium=podcast&utm_campaign=podcast44 instead of to this page.

    Love love love your podcast!