Podcast 79: Revive a Dormant Friendship, a Selection of Yearbook Quotes, and a Gold Star for Making Phone Calls.

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

Update: It’s almost September, and for many of us, September is the other January. If you get a clean slate, start-over feeling in September, check out my book Happier at Home. I spend a school year — from September though May — going deep into the project of becoming happier at home. If you’re not happy at home, it’s hard to be happy.

Try This at Home: Revive a dormant friendship.

I promised to post a photo of Elizabeth’s Smith and Noble window treatments, but Elizabeth decided that her house just looks too torn up — she doesn’t want to send a photo yet! The window treatments are the only thing accomplished at this point.

Happiness Hack: Todd asks, “Our household receives a lot of reading material in the mail, but we never know when everyone’s done reading something, so don’t know when to throw things away. Any ideas?”

Deep Dive: In episode 74, we suggested the Try This at Home of “Pick a quotation for your senior yearbook page.” Listeners sent in their choices — so many great ones.

Listener Question:  Jenny asks, “Can an Abstainer indulge in chocolate, in moderation?” Jenny is asking about the Abstainer vs. Moderator distinction — and here’s a post about planned exceptions.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth has fallen behind on her pledge on GoodReads to read 75 books this year. If you want to work on the habit of reading more, you can get my one-page “Reading Better Than Before” guide here.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I managed to make some phone calls.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. Tune in this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And if you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Also check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 25% off window treatments and a free in-home design consultation.

And don’t forget to check out Trunk Club. Get hand-picked outfits shipped right to your door–chosen by your very own personal stylist. Go to TrunkClub.com/happier to learn more.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #79

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  • Kate

    Hi Gretchen – a response for your abstainer listener who struggles with chocolate:
    I am absolutely an abstainer too, so I understand the quandary. Like you Gretchen, I aim to stay HFLC and to not eat sugar, and find that with my food choices, abstaining is FAR easier for me – and I’ve got to say it was such a relief when I realised this about myself.

    With chocolate, however, it’s a bit of a strange one. I find that I can very easily eat 1 or 2 squares of very dark chocolate (85%+) every few days absolutely fine, without it breaking into an all or nothing scenario, as it so often does if you are an abstainer. What I attribute this to, is that I’m not craving the addictive sugary part, but enjoying chocolate just for itself and that I feel satiated after just a small amount.

    So whilst all-in-all, I am an abstainer and this applies to all of my habits, I do think there are things going on physiologically, at the same time, which can help or hinder your habits. Having broken the sugar-addiction, chocolate is now not something I need to monitor, or abstain from 🙂


    • Caroline Tobin

      I have exactly the same experience as Kate. There are things I absolutely have to abstain from, French fries being my long term nemesis. But I can have one square of lindt 85% dark chocolate and be completely satisfied. (Until I’m down to the last two squares when my finisher tendency takes over.)

      • Sue Z

        I’m right there with both of you – abstainer, LCHF and dark chocolate (Lindt is one of my favorites). Thankfully my husband is a moderates’ moderate and he will hide other types of treats and only gives me one when he gets one (and he often forgets his own treats). If I don’t want to wait for him this is what I do:

        I only buy my chocolate at a specialty store that I go to maybe twice a month. I only buy one bar. If I happen to binge it’s gone and I don’t get any more and it’s not so much that I feel awful for eating the whole thing in one go.

  • Lori D

    Hello Gretchen and Elizabeth – Love your podcast.

    Elizabeth, I find Goodreads a useful tool for keeping track of quantity and titles of books, reviews, ratings etc. but don’t beat yourself up over this. Just login and revise your goal to reflect a more reasonable number. You will be much happier!

  • Ruth Carter

    Todd, you could try this. It was a system used in an office I once worked in. The first person to read the article/magazine writes everyone’s name on the top. As people read it they cross out their name. Once everyone’s name has a line through the article/magazine can go.

  • SamnAnna

    Hey, guys – just wanted to point out something about the topic of reviving friendships. You mentioned friendships falling by the wayside when you have kids, and wanting to revive them a few years later when things are less hectic. That’s understandable, but please think about it from the perspective of your friends who don’t have children. This happens all the time – someone has a baby, disappears, makes other “mommy” friends, then wants to pick up the friendship where it left off when it’s convenient for them. It can be very hurtful. We all know babies can be all-consuming, but if you’re going to try to revive a dormant friendship that ended because you had a baby, please be considerate of how the other person may have felt during this time and don’t assume it will be exactly the same relationship you left. Better yet, plan social time into your schedule even when your baby is young. I know lots of people who have done this very successfully – each spouse takes the baby for one night a week so the other can see friends, for example. Those are the friendships that have grown and strengthened even when the lives of the two friends are on very different paths.

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent point.

    • Mimi Gregor

      It’s kind of an extrapolation of when one is very young, gets a boyfriend, and demotes one’s friends to “second string”. Or, I have procured my three parrots from women who started spitting out kids and decided they no longer had time for their once beloved pets. The rest of the world is not on hiatus because you decide to procreate. If this is in your long-term agenda, maybe you should get a self-reliant cat instead of a needy parrot, or find a way to see your friends even though you have a baby. (I’ll bet your husband didn’t give up his friends when he became a parent.) This really ticks me off, but from a slightly different perspective: when I was taking care of my mom, who had Alzheimer’s, friends stopped calling me, even though I would have loved to have even just talked or had a short visit. Then, once she died, they wanted back into my life. Nah, nah, nah! Mimi remembers.

      • Gillian

        Could it be that your friends just thought that you were very busy and didn’t want to intrude and be in the way when your priority was your mother? People often simply misjudge such a situation.

    • Louise

      I totally get what you’re saying and on some level I also very much agree. I would still like to point out though that the same goes for the friends without the kids. If they truly wish to keep the friendship alive and not have it fall by the wayside they also need to not assume that the friendship will be exactly the same. Maybe time together does not necessarily have to be lunch dates and the like where the mom has to leave the kids at home (that would not have worked for me when my children were babies) but in stead it can be chatting together for half an hour at the park while the toddler plays in the sand box, drop by the house for a single cup of coffee on the way home from work or schedule regular errand dates.

  • Lynda Tsay

    hi all! i really enjoy your podcast. i was inspired by this episode that i texted 2 friends hello. we didn’t really get a long conversation going but i got to see pictures of one’s newborn, and i made plans to catch up with another at an upcoming event we are both going to. thank you!!

  • Jeanne

    Is it just me, or did the podcast just abruptly end with no gold star or sign off?

    • gretchenrubin

      No one else has had trouble–and it was fine when I heard it.

  • carolineeeeeeee

    Tell Elizabeth to just take a close up of only the windows. Curtains closed if she feels the windows are dirty. I came here specifically to see those pics, lady!! 😉 😉

    • Marcia @ Organising Queen

      HA! I love it. I also want to see those photos 🙂

  • Regarding the abstainer who wished for the stash of chocolate – here is my solutions for that. I can not have a bag of chocolates in my desk because I just eat them all. I abstain from break room snacks since I can’t moderate; however, there are days when I just want a little chocolate, so I have a work friend who hides my chocolate from me and gives me the one piece I need to satisfy my craving. This outer accountability of having a co-worker give me my treat keeps me consuming the entire bag of chocolate in two days and allows me the ability to indulge every once in awhile.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great solution! Brilliant.

  • Mel

    Here’s an idea for Jenny. Does she have a close friend that lives nearby and is a chocolate moderator? I can’t speak for everyone, but as a successful chocolate moderator myself, if I had an abstainer friend like Jenny I’d be happy to let her store her chocolate stash at my house. It wouldn’t tempt me one bit, and I’d be glad for my friend’s increased visits as she popped over for a bite of chocolate.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great suggestion – have someone else hold the stash.

  • Louise

    I have a suggestion for listener Jenny: The Kitchen Safe Time Locking Container! I’m an abstainer as well, and if I for some reason have chocolate in the house, I store it in my time locking container and set the time for a planned exception. If I decice I can have a chocolate a day, I set the time lock to open after 24 hours – and immediately (and this is VERY important, abstainers!!!) – close the container and program the time lock for another 24 hours. It sounds utterly ridiculous but it actually works 🙂

  • Kate

    After listening to this I Skyped a friend I hadn’t talked to in several months. I was blessed to be virtually present for an incident involving her 2 year old son, their dog, and a dirty diaper. I am sure she was thrilled 😉

  • Lia Almeida

    Hi Gretchen, listening to this podcast as you talked about the issue of an abstainer keeping chocolate at her desk I thought what if she bought a bag and gave to a moderator coworker who would only give her a piece of chocolate every couple of days? Maybe that is a way to stay in check.
    By the way, I love your podcast and recently learned that I am a moderator. I grew up often frustrated with my abstainer family members, but now I can understand them much better! Thank you.

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  • Imogen_Jericho

    I would love to hear a deep dive on just why it is so dreadful to make phone calls and make appointments. Two separate issues, perhaps, but both are things I go to great lengths to avoid!

  • Linda

    Gretchen, I moved from Buffalo, NY 5 years ago to Myrtle a Beach. I visit Buffalo several times a year because my kids are there. The last time I visited, I made plans in advance to have lunch or dinner with 3 old friends. These were women I went to high school with, and we had drifted apart. It was wonderful! We picked up where we left off as though those many years apart meant nothing. I have you to thank for this, even though the podcast on this topic came out afterward. Thanks to you I’m more intentional about my friendships and realize I must make an effort if I wish to nurture them. Thank you!!!

  • Olivia Brubaker

    Hi Gretchen & Elizabeth, thank you for this episode! I specifically chose it because I noticed that you were going to talk about reviving a dormant friendship. One of my good friends from college does not have kids – I have two little ones now. I haven’t seen her in over a year even though we live in the same city. I was starting to think, “Maybe it’s not worth the effort. Maybe we don’t have enough in common anymore.” But it’s true that relationships are one of the most important things we can cultivate for a happier life. And it really wasn’t that hard to send her an email arranging a coffee date. Ultimately I do want diversity in my friendships – some with kids and some without. Your podcast was the nudge I needed. Thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      Fantastic! great to hear.

  • Shannon Brown

    Gretchen read a beautiful quote about finding a object and the power it has to stir up long lost memories. What were the exact words? I would love to have it!

    • gretchenrubin

      I think this is the one you mean:

      “Yet occasionally, we discover in the folds of an old handkerchief a shell or an insignificant stone that had once embodied our happiest of afternoons.” (from “Just Kids” by Patti Smith – a terrific book)

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  • Annie

    This is in response to Gretchen’s “to do” list the night before in order to get everything done. Have you heard of the bullet journal? I can’t remember how I came across it but it’s an analog system for keeping track of your life and it has profoundly changed mine. I am in no way affiliated with the bullet journal person or people, btw. I sing its praises because it has helped give me the external accountability that I (obliger to the core) need badly, improve my productivity, track my habits and record daily life happenings both big and small. I am definitely more analog than digital so this was perfect for me. I have so many journals and lists and little pieces of paper with stuff written on it and it was all scattered. This system allowed me to streamline everything. It’s a technique/system. The website provides a tutorial on how to keep a bullet journal. All you need is a pen and a journal. It’s flexible and simple. I love it! It serves as a sketchbook, a calendar, to do list and diary all in one. Once it is filled up, you have historical documentation of the minutia of your daily life! I can’t even tell you how much I love this system. There is a bit of a learning curve but the great thing is you build it as you go along so you can always make changes to suit your needs as you use it more. There is a whole bullet journal community out there on Instagram and in the blogosphere, where people share their layouts and discuss the best pens and paper to use (I am a pen lover, especially fountain pens, so I geek out to this in a big way). People get pretty elaborate with their layouts. I have chosen to keep mine really simple. The beauty of it is that you can customize it. I started mine in July with a blank journal I had lying around and I use it every single day. Anyway, here is the link:
    http://bulletjournal.com/. Happier hack 100%!

  • DawnDay

    I have to say that I absolutely loved Gretchen’s gold star. I heard it and thought it was a great way to get the calls done, so I had made the list with all the notes, and just finished up my 6 calls. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • gretchenrubin


  • Leanne Sowul

    I have the same trouble as Elizabeth with Goodreads- not with setting a goal for the year, but of keeping track of my books. Three things now keep me accountable. One, I only update the list once a week (Friday) and I actually put it on my calendar or set an email reminder to do it. It only takes a minute to add and remove books to the “currently reading” shelf. Two, I use the app, which is much easier and faster than the website. And three, I don’t make myself write a review. I just choose a number of stars, and that’s it. It actually makes me read more because I get a little thrill of moving things off my “currently reading” shelf, and friends comment that I seem to read a lot because they get all the updates from my reading activity on that one day per week! I’ve been faithful to this system for at least a year now, and I love going back to look at what I’ve read!

  • I’m a questioner with some Rebel tendencies. Because of the rebel in me, it’s crazy hard to revive and keep a friendship. Doing so makes me feel like I have to be consistent with doing things – ie: commitment.There’s nothing I have a harder time with than making appointments and committing to getting together since I like many things ‘my way’. (Unfortunately). I honestly wish I could keep a friendship. I have many many acquaintances and love the idea of not getting too close to anyone in order to avoid strong commitments of any kind. What does a Rebel really do for this? I at least have my sister whom I super close to and I’m thankful that she knows me and my much-of-the-time distant tendencies. Does this sound like a normal aspect of being a Rebel? If so, for the most part anyway, what angle can a Rebel really come into reviving a friendship? Part of it too is that I’ve been burned by about 90% of my ‘best friends’ sometime in my life. Not sure, but this may be part of the reasoning for my Rebel tendencies. Is someone born with this or can past experiences really construct the Rebel tendencies? It’s often a frustrating obstacle. Maybe I should purchase this book finally… 🙂 Love both of you and an avid listener!!

  • Kris

    This is for Elizabeth and reading…I went low tech. I have a small pretty notebook by my books that is my reading log. When I finish a book I write the title, author, and month I finished reading in the notebook. After reading 5 books I reward myself buy purchasing a book I’d really like to have. I used to do this for my child and one day decided I should use the method to encourage myself. It is also fun to look back on what I have read and how long it takes me to read. I have found my reading pace to be 2-3 books a month. It also encourages me to finish a book or abandon a book intentionally rather than have 5 books started and do no reading at all.

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  • NC Eakin

    Just listened to this episode because I had downloaded some back episodes to listen to in the car and it was so oddly timed because my ex partner just reached out to me over the weekend and we’ve been reconnecting. I live in SF now and she lives in NYC still but it’s been a really pleasant surprise to reconnect with her. I’m skeptical of her intentions (as one maybe should be when an ex reaches out) but overall really glad that maybe we can now be friends.