Podcast 53: Put the Word “Meditation” Before A Boring Task, Competitive Parenting, and Ideas for Organizing Recipes.

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

Update: The TV show Elizabeth writes for — The Family — starts soon! Be sure to watch: ABC, March 3. Watch the trailer here. I mention one of my favorite children’s books, Father’s Arcane Daughter, now titled My Father’s Daughter, by E. L. Konigsberg, one of the true giants of children’s literature.

Try This at Home: Put the word “meditation” after any activity you’re finding dull. Relatedly, we talk about the value of boredom.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Being a competitive parent. I quote from Anne Lamott’s essay “Forgiveness,” from her book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.

Listener Answers: In episode 50, we talked about Fiona’s question about how to organize recipes, and we got so many excellent responses — to that question, as well as some others — we wanted to share them. Many people with great ideas about this subject noted that they’re Questioners — which makes a lot of sense.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth is not keeping up with her night-time skin-care regimen.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to Elizabeth’s diabetes doctor, who told her, “I wish I could get this monkey off your back.” I quote from one of my favorite parenting (and adulting) books, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Such a great book.

Gretchen Rubin - Happier Podcast #53

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HAPPIER listening!

  • I really enjoyed this episode. I’m part of a meditation group at work, and it turns out there is such a thing as a “walking” meditation – one colleague even does it walking on the streets of NYC using an app as her guide. We read “Search Inside Yourself” which explains more — it’s about paying attention to how your body feels, etc. So something like a “subway platform meditation” can really be a meditation!

  • I love the “meditation” idea. What works for me when it comes to skin care is to do my face right after dinner instead of waiting until before bed. The same thing for teeth. Brushing and flossing your teeth right after dinner also helps prevent snacking before bed.

  • Kate Ostrem

    Another great episode! Liz, I’ve heard that your face really doesn’t need to be washed in the morning – just some water, and moisturizer/sunscreen and you’re set. It makes sense if you think about it – how could our face get so dirty while we’re asleep? So what if you switched your skincare routine to be in the evening instead of the morning? Would you feel like you gain some precious minutes at a hectic time of day? Just a thought!

  • Rachel Stansberry

    It is a thing! Thich Nhat Hahn (and others) teaches walking meditation, driving meditation, washing the dishes meditation…it is exactly as you described, just be there, get into it rather than trying to escape. When I find myself suddenly bored or cross, I remind myself it is ‘an opportunity to practice’ mindfulness and breathing.

  • Sarah Baroody

    I’m an ophthalmologist and whenever a patient has to wait for their eyes to dilate I leave them in a dimly lit room and say “this is the meditation room”. At first I was kind of kidding but a lot of patients do! So that’s a thing… Dilation meditation!

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great example.

  • Mimi Gregor

    It seems that the more that people come up with ways to fend off boredom, the more boredom seeks them out. I don’t get bored. I don’t remember getting bored as a child. And back when I was a child, we weren’t over-scheduled with activities and play dates as children are today. We had lots of free time, and our mothers didn’t worry about how we were going to fill this time. That was on us. As a result, I found all sorts of creative ways to keep from getting bored. I think that this has made me a better person today. I am an avid reader, as I have been all my life. I’ve always had a creative way of approaching problems, coming up with ways to re-purpose things to make other things, and to find ways to entertain myself even in the most boring situations. Most times, this just comes down to planning ahead: bring a book, magazines, knitting… whatever. Let your iPhone be a last resort. It is such a passive form of entertainment.

    Elizabeth, regarding your evening skin care routine: I suggest that you simply do it earlier in the evening. Perhaps reframing the whole process would make it more palatable for you: think about how beautiful your skin will look when you pay it the proper attention. It’s useless to have these expensive products and not use them. They do not work by osmosis; just having them sitting on your shelf does nothing for you. The evening routine is so much more important than the morning routine, as you need to get every speck of makeup and sunscreen off so that it does not clog your pores. Wipes just do not cut it there. I would even suggest the Clarisonic. It’s like an electric toothbrush for the face. I noticed a BIG difference after one use. In the morning, I tend to just use a cotton ball moistened with rosewater to cleanse my face, as there is nothing to take off except the previous night’s moisturizer. I find that the more natural the products I use, the better my skin responds.

  • LaraSnows

    RE Elizabeth’s problem remembering to treat skin at night— Maybe you could do this right after brushing teeth after dinner? Since you are in the bathroom anyway??

  • Heather

    Where I need to add Meditation: Airport delay meditation. I need that kind of mindset b/c nothing gets me stressed or wound up more than an aiport delay. It’s the worst too, b/c there is literally nothing I can do. Meditation wold be much healthier than the stewing I do today.

  • Jess

    I actually started using deep sleep hypnosis to fall asleep, and it’s been a great way to integrate meditation into my day — because I certainly don’t fall asleep right away — without having to take precious time out of my schedule to meditate. I found a fun one that takes me on a trip through space! It’s definitely a great way to wind down at the end of the day.

  • Christy

    I loved the ideas about boredom. It reminds me of my favorite quote by Thich Nhat Hanh (my spiritual guide) on practicing mindfulness while doing mundane tasks.
    “To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity,for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and that fact that I am here washing them are miracles!”

    • OceanPark2

      Yes!!! When I listened to the discussion on meditation, I thought of the exact same Thich Nhat Hanh quote. Reading that book changed the way I think about so many tasks in my life – including dishes. I’m so happy to find someone who made the connection as well. Although I am not a Buddhist scholar, I also love Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing and find him to be a wonderful spiritual guide, alongside Pema Chodron.

  • santaclams

    This episode had multiple items that resonated with me. Thank you, G&E.

    –I too am averse to washing my face at night or anytime I’m not in the shower. My blocks have been being impatient for the water to warm up and not liking water to run down my arms under my pajama sleeves. Solutions: The water from the tub tap warms up much faster, and wringing out the cloth and holding my arms so that water can’t run down sleeves. Going well so far.

    –Sometimes when I’m on the bus or train or waiting in line, I meditate for a few minutes, focusing on my breath, breathing deeper, and either counting breaths or listening to the sounds around me. Within a minute I can feel my breathing slowing down and my body relaxing. Even if I stop after five minutes, I’m glad I did it.

    –I, too, have felt competitive with other parents though I’ve grown to see we all have our strengths and I try to celebrate/revel in our different gifts.

    –While listening to you say many of us want our children to do what we didn’t do as children, I realized I may inadvertently be passing on my fears to my son around bike-riding. As a 4yo learning to ride, I crashed into a parked earth-mover and a friend on her bike got hit by a van (yikes). Even though I’m now an intrepid urban bike rider, I can’t stop envisioning something bad happening to my son on his bike and at the same time want him to experience the job of riding a bike. He himself has no interest. ???

    • gretchenrubin

      Great to hear that it struck such a chord with you.

  • Kristiana

    The listener who shared the idea of Magazine Meals sparked an idea for me – I haven’t started practicing this yet, but I hope to soon. I am trying to make healthier eating choices and I’m considering adding Paleo dishes to my diet. What if start by picking one night a week to be the day I make a Paleo recipe, and it won’t be as steep of a learning curve? As an Obliger, it wouldn’t hurt me to have accountability, so I might also invite a friend to join me for that meal.

  • MHC

    I have been collecting recipes for 20 years and tried a few methods, including an accordion folder (not searchable) and an Excel spreadsheet (got too big). A friend introduced me to Paprika, which is the greatest.app.ever! Recipes can be:

    – Organized by category
    – Rated

    – Edited, if you decide you want to change the cook time, ingredients, etc
    – Notated (for example, a favorite or brought to an event)
    – Upload a picture

    – Organized on a calendar, so that on each day, you have the recipe for that day
    – Used to generate a grocery list
    – Imported directly from any website (like a magazine, a food blog, or a cooking website)
    – Synced between devices (I import recipes from my computer and use my iPad when I’m cooking)
    – Emailed directly, when a friend wants a recipe
    This app has greatly increased my happiness associated with meal planning (including my family) and cooking!!

  • Dayna

    The Family looks so good! My husband and I have been wanting a show to watch together. I think we’ll both enjoy it.

  • Anke Humpert

    I am really enjoying your podcast and I can not wait for the next episode to come out each week! Thank you Gretchen and Elisabeth! About meditation: I alsways wanted to do it on a regular basis, but I just could not keep up the practice. Just recently I discovered an app ( yes I know: there is one for everything! 😉 ) that helps you with setting up a daily meditation practice. It comes with little films where certain things are explained and after the basic practice you can use lots of different specialized meditations for all kinds of situations. The basic meditations are free and after that, if you like it, you can get into the paid option as well. I am an obliger and it really helped me to stick to the practice. The app is called “headspace”.

  • OceanPark2

    Thanks for another great and insightful episode. This weekend, I applied your meditation suggestion in a very different way – and it changed my life! Ever since I was a young girl, I have been afraid to ski. Now I have two young boys who are learning to ski, and I want to be able to join them. So I found myself on the bunny slope this past Sunday, waiting for a beginner lesson and quietly freaking out. After a few minutes of panic, I realized that if I could just get out of my head, my body could probably learn to ski. So I took a deep breath, and told myself that the next two hours would be a “Learning to ski…meditation.”

    Well.. it totally worked! I was able to clear my head, focus on my lesson and actually made it down the bunny slope many times without disaster. I felt so proud that I had broken through this silly fear that had almost kept me from sharing a wonderful experience with my boys. Thank you for giving me this wonderful new technique.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a terrific example. Congratulations on overcoming your fear!

  • Mae

    I thought you mentioned an app to organize your children’s artwork. Was that in this episode? Wondering what it was called.

    • Deb Eisloeffel

      Mae – The description of organization tools and apps starts at about minute 15:30 in the podcast. Here’s a summary of all the apps Gretchen and Elizabeth mentioned:

      Apps for Recipes:

      – Evernote

      – Pinterest

      Apps for Photos:

      – Chatbooks – puts together a paper photobook after you collect 60 photos
      – Recently – subscription service that automatically grabs 100 best photos off your phone and sends them to be printed in a paper magazine

      App for artwork:
      – Artkive – take pictures of art and the app creates a photobook viewable on your device

      Other Apps:
      – One Second Every Day – stitches together 1 second videos into a continuous movie (used to great effect in a scene in the move “Chef”)
      – Rolltape – record a message (like a podcast or voicemail), then send in a single or group message.


      • Mae

        Amazing! Thank you. Just downloaded Artkive and now I can sort through the pile of artwork on my desk. (Funny that the pile just only got bigger since I posted this comment 4 months ago! Thank you for responding even though it had been awhile)

  • Marla Burkholder

    I love spending time with my daughter, but sometimes the games and toys that enthrall a 3 year-old can be less than attention-keeping for me. I decided to try Candyland Meditation this week! It was a great way to reframe those boring playtimes and remind me that the most important thing is being present with my daughter.

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh yes. Playground meditation!

  • Hope Perlman

    I gotta say that unfortunately I relate too well to being a competitive parent. Now that my older daughter is a senior, it has been quite a struggle to handle! I am glad to see that my child seems much less uptight about prizes and awards – and the big one, college admissions, than I am.

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  • Amy Pasterczyk

    Elizabeth! My 7-year old son has started showering on his own, but I still want to stay close by in the bathroom, so that is my “facial” time! I may only wash my face, but sometimes I take time for a mask while he is happily splashing in the shower. This means that my face is all clean and ready for bed hours before I am, so when it’s time to actually go to bed I am good to go. (And- it makes him laugh if I can scare him with a mask on!)

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