Podcast 78: Seek Out Silence, Are You Pulled Toward Work or Leisure, and Don’t Over-Plan Your Summer.

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

Update: Our listener Kristen pointed out that when using the Strategy of Pairing (one of the Strategies from my book Better Than Before), it’s also important to be able to unpair activities — such as unpairing the idea that you can’t exercise because it will mess up your hair.

Try This at Home: Seek out silence.

Happiness Hack: When we were young adults, our parents would always cover the cost when we traveled to visit each other.

Know Yourself Better: Do you feel pulled more toward work, or toward leisure?

Listener Question: Alison asks about how to deal with her distress after losing her engagement ring.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I learn that I don’t have enough time in my day to follow through with my entire “design my summer” plan. I had three ways to design my summer, and I can only do two out of three.

Elizabeth'sArtElizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her sister-in-law Michelle, for encouraging her and Adam to buy a piece of art for their walls. As you can see, very California!

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #78

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  • MaggieRose59

    Ah, silence! It truly is golden! I live in a very quiet world and I love it. We live pretty far out in the country and other than normal sounds of nature (birds singing, wind blowing, the water in the creek running, insects buzzing), there isn’t much else going on. I’m not fond of music and I don’t care for radio, so I don’t even play anything during the day. Sometimes you can hear people down the road on a tractor mowing or cutting wood. But mostly, silence!

    • Padma Krishnan

      I love that home. is that yours? animals.
      We visited lake Tahoe recently and were disappointed to find the land cleared and trees felled everywhere, so commercial. the lake is special but the surrounding land is all city like

      • MaggieRose59

        Yes, this is my home in West Virginia. The one I thank God for all the time! It is the place my husband grew up and we refurbished it. I actually grew up in a Chicago suburb and dreamed of a place in the country.

  • Mimi Gregor

    My husband likes to have background noise from news radio when he’s doing any sort of work around the house or yard. I, on the other hand, prefer no noise at all. No music (I don’t even turn on the radio in the car), and certainly no news (I never listen to it, as it tends to depress me. I read the paper, where I can self-censor things that I know will stress me out.) I don’t mind this difference too much, because I know that I will have my “quiet time” after he goes to work in the late afternoon.

    • Padma Krishnan

      ditto ditto
      I actually dont like music.. that sounds so strange. I like silence and my husband who works in IT, has at least three devices running, a tv,his ipad etc even when he is working. he claims that he completely blocks out the noise and can focus but I feel that it must take energy and using his willpower bandwidth to do that…. anyway

      • Mimi Gregor

        One of my husband’s co-workers was without her iPhone for three days, as she couldn’t make it to the Apple store and had to order what she needed online. She said it was the most peaceful three days she has ever spent. Do you think it will teach her to turn the damned thing off once in a while? Probably not.

  • Sara W.

    In regards to the silence portion of this episode, I listened to an episode of “Surprisingly Awesome” a few months ago where they highlighted boredom as the chosen topic. They took two self-proclaimed workaholics who never put down their devices, never had a moment of peace, and never stopped to relax, and put them in a room alone with just one chair for 15 minutes. Both participants said they were terrified of the experiment and thought they would go out of their minds with anxiety, but each came out of the room and were totally surprised with how calm and peaceful they felt for the duration. They thought they’d be bored to death with the silence and lack of devices, and instead they felt rejuvenated. There is power in quiet.

    To Alison: I lost my engagement ring after I had my daughter. I gained too much weight and it no longer fit, so I took it off. Then we ended up moving suddenly and my ring got lost in the move. My husband had lost his wedding ring a few years before. I wore a simple gold band for a while after, and then for Valentine’s Day, my husband and I picked out much less expensive rings together. Mine has a much larger diamond that is actually much lower quality, and his ring is simple carbonite–very light and great to exercise with (we got it off of Etsy!). I loved my engagement ring because my husband purchased it and proposed to me with it, and I love my new ring too. I see the fact that we both lost our wedding rings as just another testament that we are perfectly matched.

    Lastly: I’m not going to tell Elizabeth to stop sleeping with the TV on, I’m just going to leave this… right here. And add, WWAHD? (What Would Arianna Huffington Do?) https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/lights-out-good-nights-sleep.

  • Jennifer Betsworth

    I’ve been mulling over this week’s “Know Yourself Better” since I heard the podcast, and I’m still not sure where I fit!

    I have a job that I love, but I almost never take work home. So, arguably, I feel more drawn toward leisure. However, my husband thinks my home life and “leisure time” looks a lot like work! (This might also relate to the fact that I’m an upholder and my husband is a rebel) I’m a board member for a non-profit I love and dive into its projects. I volunteer for a historic site, sign up for various classes, am always planning fun weekend trips, and especially this time of year fill my evenings with gardening and freezing and canning the harvest. We’re also planning a 130-mile thru-hike this fall that has required a lot of training and logistics. I have been feeling the need for a few hours of quiet with myself lately, so perhaps not all is lost!

    • Gillian

      I haven’t listened to the podcast yet so don’t have the full picture. However, i would say that you are “drawn to work”. Or perhaps the better way to put it is that you are drawn to productive, purposeful activity rather than to activity the sole purpose of which is relaxation.

  • Molly

    I crave silence and stillness, and the older I get, the more I crave it. I live out in the country, which is peaceful, but not the profound silence that I love finding. Here are some places I go to find deep stillness and silence: big cathedrals (I’m not religious, but I work near a big Catholic Cathedral. If you time it right, it’s just you and the building, and it’s a big lovely silence.)

    I have found a secret hallway/corridor in the building where I work- I go there when I have a gap in my schedule and sit in silence or do a little yoga.

    My favorite “profound silence spots” are in nature, in places like Canyon de Chelly (AZ), or the mountains out west. Regardless of where you live, you don’t have to go too far off the beaten path to find a quiet place- a spot by a river, under a big tree in a secluded park, a big well insulated room somewhere. I would encourage you to go seek “your spot”, which is fun in and of itself!

  • Jen from NC

    I value my quiet time so much, but I struggle with being afraid I’ll miss something if I’m completely unplugged. A lot of times I keep my phone on silent mode. This makes me feel more relaxed, as my peace and quiet are not interrupted every time my phone dings, rings, or chirps. Even if I end up checking it every ten minutes, I’m doing so quietly and on my terms.

  • Denise Bell

    The Ring – a sweet and much less expensive replacement may be found at a museum store or gift shop. My husband and I purchased our gold wedding bands (Posey rings) that were inscribed with the saying “of my love be sure” in French at the MFA store (located all over the country and online). This was our second marriage for both so we also purchased the rings in silver for our kids and presented to them at the wedding ceremony.

  • Vicki Hamill

    I have a happiness hack for going to the gym and not having to wash your hair! I have really long thick red hair, that I only wash once a week, even though I do a couple of really hardcore, REALLY sweaty one-hour work outs at least twice a week. What I do is tie it up really high on my head, then wrap the ponytail around into a bun, and secure it with a bobble/hair elastic around it – so basically it kind of looks like a mini pineapple right on the top of my head. The hair elastics I use are the only type that keep my thick hair up and secure – Scunci No Damage Thick Hair Elastics – they are amazing. I couldn’t tie my hair up without it falling down before I discovered these – I think everyone with thick hair should know about them! While my scalp may get a bit sweaty, the rest of my hair doesn’t and looks almost the way it did before the work out when I take it back down with a little bit of styling. May not work if you have thinner hair as I think the thickness hides any grease/sweat but works a treat for me!

  • LadybugOR

    I had an epiphany while my husband was out of town for business for 5 weeks. I had planned to “get back to my authentic self” during this hiatus. I read a lot, binging on Netflix, long talks with girlfriends, lots of yoga and hiking with my dog. I also had weekends of no tech gadgets–difficult, but very doable.

    My epiphany came when I implemented silent mornings into my recharge: yoga, meditation (if even for 5 mins), and contemplation with my coffee. I had forgotten that I once had this quiet time when my children were young. After they had gone to catch their school bus, I would have about 30 mins with my coffee and bask in the sun drenched kitchen table and the silence. You can call it prayer, meditation or contemplation (may a little of all three), but it prepared me for my day before I headed out the door to my corporate job. It was sheer bliss.

    My husband has been back from his trip, and I still have my quiet time in the mornings. I get up a little earlier, but it’s worth the bliss.

  • Michelle Potter

    I agree with Karen about the struggle of hygiene vs exercise. It took me forever to work out a solution where I can exercise every day, feel clean, but not feel like I’m being inefficient. (It makes me crazy that I sweat in an outfit for an hour, and then it needs to be washed and I have to change into something else for the day! But I can’t stand to wear the same exercise clothes twice.) But I love exercise, so instead of skimping on that, I forced myself to find a way to make it work.

    Silence is definitely a necessary thing. I often complain that I never get to listen to music that I like, because my husband and my kids are always playing “their” music in the car. But when I drive alone, I’m just as likely to leave the radio off and enjoy the silence. I did try listening to podcasts in the shower, but discovered I’d rather have the quiet.

    And to Alison, how absolutely heartbreaking about your ring! Definitely allow yourself to grieve the loss, but I also think the suggestion to buy a less expensive replacement is a good one. It can’t ever really replace the ring you lost (even if you bought an identical replacement), but it can serve as a symbolic reminder of your husband’s love, and even remind you of your old ring in a happy way. It’s not the same ring, but it’s carrying on the spirit of the old ring, like a passing of the Olympic torch. You can still look at it and remember all the good times, all of the love of your husband saving up for so long, and everything that has happened in your marriage since. And how that marriage is continuing, and going strong, surviving both the good times and the bad, into the future forever.

  • Michelle Potter

    Gretchen, have you considered having weekly, or even biweekly lunch dates instead of daily? In planning my fall this year, and as part of my resolution to be more social (I have social anxiety), I decided to plan a lunch date with a friend every two weeks (coinciding with our pay schedule). Every pay day, I call a friend and schedule a lunch. Then I can set aside money for it. It’s not too often to be overwhelming, but I already feel like I’m deepening friendships with people I just don’t see often enough!

    • gretchenrubin

      Everyone has to do a happiness project in the way that’s right for THEM. Biweekly is great if that’s what works for you!

  • Lyndsey Lyman

    I was intrigued by Gretchen referring to silence as “restorative” during the podcast. Recently, I heard someone on another podcast say that she has given up on “self-care,” which feels like another to-do list item, and is trying to identify the things that are restorative for her, instead. I think this is such a better frame of reference! I know silence is restorative for me, and I’m trying to figure out what else is restorative to me because I know that these practices bring me a lot of peace and, subsequently, joy. One example this woman gave was reading novels, which is true for me, too. I’d love to hear what other folks find restorative aside from being in silence!

  • Linda

    I just listened to this episode and my heart went out to the woman who lost her engagement ring. I’ve got a new baby and found I kept misplacing my rings (though haven’t lost them outright). I searched around for a solution and someone suggested http://www.saferingz.com/ I ordered two of the rings which I wear all the time and now I love them. I shared this on my facebook page and two of my friends bought the rings for their wedding (as the husband hates wearing jewellry). They’re very practical and low cost and I love wearing them! It definitely is the symbolism that is meaningful. Hope this could work for you and your fiance.

    • Linda

      Another idea people suggested is tattoos on your finger as well.

  • Linda

    Thanks for the pairing tip – I’m a new mum in my 40s (in Australia) and always struggle with motivation to do housework (it’s been a problem for years). I notice when I am listening to a podcast or audio book I’m often motivated to stick at it for longer. I’ve decided to pair these two things everytime and see how I go.