Podcast 69: Give a Surprise Treat, a Conversation with Musician Moby, and Double Gold Stars.

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

Update: Keep sending us those “happiness hacks!” They’re fascinating. To hear about my happiness hack, it’s in episode 64.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Try This at Home: Give someone a surprise treat. This is fun!

Here’s the article about The Great Courses: Sarah Max’sBorn in the VCR Era, Great Courses Seeks to Evolve.”

Interview: The iconic musician and writer Moby. His fascinating new memoir is Porcelain.

Here’s the quote from E. B. White that I mention:

“Margaret Mitchell once remarked: ‘It is a full-time job to be the author of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ This remark greatly impressed me, as being an admission of defeat, American style. (Miss Mitchell, incidentally, was not overstating the matter—she never produced another book.)”  –E.B. White, Letters, May 7, 1961

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth has been making stir-fry vegetables for herself.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I moved my Scent Library to a more convenient spot in the apartment.

Gretchen Rubin scents

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #69

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  • cindy

    Hi there, this morning, when you spoke about surprises and sending your Mother in Law pictures of Barnaby I remembered a great app I saw used once ‘My Talking Pet’. I haven’t got a pet, but if I did I’d be all over this. You upload a pic, and after a few adjustments and recording a few words, your pet ‘speaks’. You can then send your MIL a surprise speaking picture that will really be different. A great ‘healthy treat’ too – don’t forget to share with us!

    Love the podcast – you and Elizabeth cheer my every Wednesday – gold stars all round!

  • Ann

    After listening to today’s episode, I picked up a treat for my kids – and I’m giving myself a gold star, because it was a huge hit! I picked up three packs of water beads at a craft store during the day. They are teeny tiny beads that slowly expand in water to the size of a small marble. They become slightly squishy and feel amazing to swish around in your hands! After school, we put them in a big container of water and spent the next few hours playing with them. My kids are 9, 12, and 14, and getting harder to thrill with little treats, so it has been incredibly satisfying to see them all so entranced (me too!) with these water beads all day. Best $6 ever spent! Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Mimi Gregor

    Surprise gifts are the only kind we do in our household, having learned long ago that Christmas and birthday gifts feel like more of a chore than a delight — both to give and, surprisingly, to receive. As you say, it’s just not as much fun if you are expecting it. I suppose it’s because you know that the giver felt obligated to give it. When someone gives you something out of the blue — it’s because they want to. That is so much more meaningful. Garage sales are a great place to find spontaneous gifts that do not cost a lot. A couple weeks ago, I surprised my husband with an outdoor radio that runs on batteries and also has an emergency lantern. He wanted a decent outdoor radio, because he likes to listen to talk radio when he’s doing yard work, and this one was still in the original box.

    Kudos to Elizabeth for the veggie stir fries! I have recently taken to buying a whole mess of vegetables at the farmer’s market each week and roasting them all in the oven that night with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. I also saute a “mess of greens” at the same time. Everything is stored in the fridge in clear plastic containers and used as salads, side dishes, and ingredients all during the week. (They taste great cold, or can be warmed slightly in the microwave.) It saves a lot of time later on, and I don’t have to think about what to have on the side with meals. I guess this would be my “gold star”.

    And Gretchen — I love the term “scent library”! It’s so perfectly descriptive of it.

    Great Moby interview! His book definitely goes on my Library List.

  • Vicki Hamill

    Please don’t get rid off Happiness Demerits! I love them and they help me to feel less bad about my own life happiness demerits.

  • ChrisD

    For surprise treats the most inspiring line I heard was from Noel Streatfield in her book Growing up Gracefully. It’s lots of advice on etiquette for young people written in the 50s with various contributors, with a real sense of how much things have changed since Victorian times (‘nowadays people will use the phone rather than write letters’). Of course things have changed as much since then (also wonderful illustrations, suitable to scan and use for cards to friends).
    ‘So often, the first generous impulse is the right one’
    That’s what I say to myself if I then feel unsure about the time and effort of following through, or if I worry if the gift will really be wanted/appropriate (spoiler: it usually is).

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m a huge fan of Noel Streatfield – must check out that book!

  • Lee Toth

    Sorry about all the typos and auto correct

    • zilly

      I think this is very important, and was thinking this while listening to the podcast. My husband is very thoughtful and will often get me something as a surprise treat, but I am (I guess) rather picky and often when he gets me something, I really don’t want it or would have picked out something different myself. So, you do have to be careful when treating others that it’s something they actually want! Not always easy to do.

  • Shelly W.

    Gretchen and Elizabeth – Your discussion of Surprise Treats inspired me today. I had my annual physical with my internist, and I took her a carton of farm fresh eggs from my backyard hens. I made sure to include a couple of green eggs, since those are everyone’s favorite. Her response really surprised me. She almost teared up and said that she hadn’t seen green eggs since very early in her medical training when a favorite patient used to bring them in from her backyard flock. She was truly touched! Thanks for encouraging us to be more thoughtful, generous people. Love your podcast.

    On another topic, today I cracked open “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey and found this on the introductory page:

    WHO AM I?

    I am your constant companion.

    I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.

    I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.

    I am completely at your command.

    Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,

    and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.

    I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.

    Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it

    I am the servant of all great men.

    And, alas, of all failures as well.

    Those who are great, I have made great.

    Those who are failures, I have made failures.

    I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.

    Plus, the intelligence of a man.

    You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.

    Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.

    Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.

    Who am I?

    (flip the page)

    I am a HABIT!

  • Sara S

    I also hope that the happiness demerits aren’t going away for good. I have really loved them simply because I can relate to them so well. It is nice to know that others struggle with similar things and can make mistakes while still working to be better.

  • Hi Elizabeth and Gretchen
    Thanks for another lovely episode. I hope you don’t abandon demerits altogether, although I can see it might be an idea to cut back on them to make sure you’re focussing mainly on the good things you do. I find it encouraging to hear that other people make the same mistakes I do. And I’ve really appreciated the positive attitude you model when discussing your demerits. Listening to you discuss demerits each week has helped me remember not to beat myself up when I make a mistake – it’s no big deal, just a demerit 🙂

  • Melissa

    Gretchen, I know you love scents, but please, please do not use room freshener sprays! They are nothing but a bunch of chemicals meant to smell like good things. Use some essential oils with a diffuser if you want to have a scent in your home. I cringed when you said your daughter sprayed it in her bedroom.
    I love listening to you and Elizabeth sort out life every week!

  • Sunny Reed

    I am loving this podcast! So many things I have to say but I’ll be short.
    1) Please don’t take away demerits! I REALLY love how you handle them. I”m overly critical of myself your system gives me a framework to handle my own issues. Plus its so great to hear how both of you struggle with similar issues.
    2 ) I treated myself to finally look at your site and comment! I treated my kids by doing all their Saturday chores for them, when they returned home from camp. A real rarity around here, as everyone is accepted to pull their weight.
    Thanks for being honest, thought provoking, and encouraging.

  • Kimberly R-A

    Please don’t take away demerits!

    In working on my own “happiness project,” I have found that focusing on improving my demerits is a big boost to my happiness. Some of the demerits that are easiest to overlook are the same habits that boost happiness the most, such as getting enough sleep or making sure I don’t get too hungry. Hearing your weekly demerit gives me time to pause and reflect on things I can do to improve.

    Thank you! I love listening to your weekly podcast!

  • Shari D

    Surprise treats: I love to garden and have lots and lots of flowers most of the year. I often cut them and make up small bouquets and leave them on friends’ or neighbors’ doorsteps. It makes me happy and I think most of them like it.

    On thank you notes: I like receiving them. Either in the mail or a personal email. I don’t like getting an electronic “card” (not sure why).

    I also like writing them and I raised my kids to write them (which took a lot of support and involvement on my part). The thank you notes brought HUGE happiness to all the grandparents. All of them have privately thanked me for making sure the kids sent them. They’re young adults now and I hope they still do it.

  • Laurel

    I’m a few weeks late in listening to the podcasts, but I sent a surprise treat to my mom this week. Backstory: my parents live in Texas, I live in DC, and they still struggle with the distance between us. My mom’s big complaint is that, in the age of digital photography, she never has photo prints to put in frames anymore. I had several photos on my phone that I knew she’d want prints of, so I downloaded a photo printing app, uploaded the photos, and had them mailed to her. It took me all of 4 minutes from start to finish, and I know she’ll be thrilled to get a surprise envelope in the mail with pictures, ready to be framed.

  • RoriESQ

    Took the advice of giving someone a surprise treat. Sent my aunt a gizmo she admired in my bathroom. It is a rubberized matt/holder for a flat iron that temporality attaches to the bathroom counter. I am a bit obsessed with stuff like this from The Grommet right now! She loved the “late aunt’s day” surprise!

  • LS Thomas

    Thank you for the Moby interview! I did not know much about him and always assumed he was English. I might have missed the part where he mentioned his tendency. It is really comforting how he dispels the myth about creativity being tied to poverty by commenting on the continuity of work. Rich or poor he keeps creating. Go Moby! Go Gretchen & Elizabeth!
    BTW, are you going to produce audiobooks of your previous works on Churchill, fame, etc.? It would be another income stream and make them available for people who prefer listening to reading.