Podcast 88: Celebrate holiday breakfasts, Keep a Medical Journal, and the Challenge of Handling Criticism.

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

Try This at Home: Celebrate a holiday breakfast. (Pictured is a photo of last year’s Halloween holiday breakfast.) I write more about this tradition in The Happiness Project.

Happiness Stumbling Blocks for the Four Tendencies. If you want to take a quiz for the Four Tendencies, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

If you want to know when my new book The Four Tendencies hits the shelves, sign up here.

Happiness Hack: Buy a journal for each member of your household (including pets) in which to keep medical notes.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Helle pointed to the stumbling block of handling criticism — even constructive criticism.

Listener Question: Julia asks, “I lose my sense of smell when I eat dairy, but I rebel against this dietary restriction.” You can read more about the Abstainer/Moderator distinction, here’s a post.

Gretchen’s Demerit: If you want to listen to Eliza’s podcast, it’s Eliza Starting at 16.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth give s a gold star to her writing partner Sarah, who, after she discovered that she shouldn’t eat gluten for health reasons, has been able to give it up.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. 

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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.

Also check out Texture. Get access to all your favorite magazines — including back issues and bonus video content — in one super-convenient place. Try the app Texture for free by going to Texture.com/happier.

And check out The Great Courses Plus today and you’ll get a month of unlimited access to thousands of fascinating lectures taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Get a free month when you sign up at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier.


1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #88

We love hearing from listeners:


To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

HAPPIER listening!

  • Trudy Pomerantz

    How weird! I am looking forward to listening to this episode since just this week I realized I needed to take a small journal along to my doctor’s appointment which was last night. I could never remember all the supplements and medications that I take (and I don’t take that many but under the stress of being asked I always blank out) or when I was last at the doctor and why or whether I am due to have blood work so a medical journal was my solution. Then to come here and see the latest episode with the same suggestion was amazing.

  • Carmelita Scott

    In the last 10 years of my mom’s life I took her to hundreds of medical appointments, many hospitalizations, and 3 stints in nursing homes for rehab. I used a document for her that started out as a medications list with names, doses, notes on start dates, etc. I eventually added discontinued meds so I could answer when docs wanted to know if she had been on something before. Then I added medication allergies and cautions; hospital, doctor, pharmacy phone numbers, insurance info, a list of all her existing medical conditions, dates and reasons of hospitalizations and surgeries. And I added my name and phone numbers. She had live-in caregivers and if some emergency happened and they had to call 911, they could hand over the document to the medics and that answered most of their questions until I could get there. It was also very handy every time she needed to see a new specialist and you have to fill in forms before they will see you. And of course it was a great memory aid for me when doctors asked me questions. I need to at least create the same type document for me and my husband, but I think a journal would also be helpful to remember how often we get sick, when we last saw the doctor for this or that, and how long a problem has been an issue, etc.

  • Sara W.

    Re: the happiness stumbling block of criticism–
    I have found criticism (which is not the same as a critique or complaint but rather an ad hominem attack) to be poisonous in my friendships, family, and marriage. Research supports this (further reading: Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”). Since we’ve no power over the behavior of others, I have found that what I can do to encourage others to find more effective means of communication is to excuse myself from any conversation that involves criticism. The most powerful experience I had with this tool was during a girls night a few years ago. Friends and I were sitting around having drinks and chatting and watching bad TV when some girls started being critical of a friend who wasn’t there. I said nothing about how uncomfortable I was with their commentary and instead said good night and excused myself for the evening. It worked so effectively that I got a message the next day from one of the girls involved in the conversation apologizing for what she had said about our other friend–without me having said a word about why I left. It never happened again.
    You are under no obligation (unless in a professional environment where it might be unavoidable) to stay for criticism–whether it’s aimed at you or at another! Some options include saying, “I’m uncomfortable with the critical turn this conversation is taking, and I’m choosing to excuse myself,” or simply leaving without explanation. It sends an incredibly powerful message and will encourage more efficient communication. I use this in my marriage, with my friends, and with my family and it’s only had positive effects.

  • Analise Brower

    Hi Gretchen! I have so many fond memories of holiday breakfasts from my own childhood, and they were often a lot like the ones you and Elizabeth discussed in this episode. Mom would dye our scrambled eggs green on St. Patrick’s Day, for example, or put a candy heart on each of our plates on Valentine’s. I don’t have kids (which some might see as a prerequisite for this kind of thing), but this morning, I made “boo-berry” pancakes in the shape of ghosts for my husband and me. It was so much fun! It didn’t take much time at all (the family pancake batter recipe comes together in 5 minutes), and it was delicious. Cheers and happy Halloween!

    • gretchenrubin


  • Rachael J

    Thank you for your inspiration for keeping days special….reducing https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2241ef79d36b187f6dfea416ac764811f3594dd98528de75c47bdaa856b57bbe.jpg too many plain ordinary days. Our kids are grown and out of the house, so its easy to slip into routines & ruts as the kids were often the point of many celebrations.
    But your podcast jerked me back to think of making it fun just for my husband too. His workday breakfasts are always in the car, that’s how he likes it, a nutrition bar & a banana for his drive. So this is what it looked like today when I tucked it in his bag–

  • Joni

    Alzheimer’s also runs in my family, so I’d love to know more about what could be causing inflammation for me. Can you tell us more about the food sensitivity test Sarah did, or what kind of doctor she saw to do it? I’m curious whether it was a simple elimination diet with a reintroduction period, or if there are other kinds of tests out there.

  • Nagina Sethi Abdullah


    Thank you for such a wonderful idea for a holiday breakfast + holiday bathroom! These were small actionable tips that I felt I could easily do in my busy life.

    I had not made the time to decorate my home like I wanted to, and didn’t know where to start. I surprised my 2 kids on Halloween morning by decorating our bathroom and giving them a breakfast of homemade pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and apple sauce from our local farm. I also dressed up in my Darth Vader costume and woke them up like that.

    We all had SO MUCH FUN! I think this starts a Halloween tradition. I look forward to making their childhood rich with more holiday breakfasts. Thank you for making our holiday happier and more memorable.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bf23975ed8b2bb904993aaf5646b32c86996e4810adff29d9d035313c4722b60.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cfab9a789e1b9e05572ed9b9db7235408396dd8a2c1cf1e6e03bb4fd74d858ca.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d0dc4197162726129ce8a7915ba51eb428db055685b46192312cafa08ce5af53.jpg

    • gretchenrubin


  • Gina

    I haven’t tried the special holiday breakfasts but one thing we do is hang streamers from the door to my kids bedrooms on their birthday- kind of like 70s beads in the doorway. I keep a supply of streamers on hand and it’s an easy thing to do either after they go to bed or before they wake up. I usually hang the number of streamers that correlates to their birthday – i.e. 7 when they turn 7 etc.. They look forward to this tradition on their birthday morning.

  • Dael Devenport

    I discovered I was lactose intolerant, too. I don’t feel restricted though b/c there are so many great non-dairy options available now and more will keep appearing since the majority of humans are lactose intolerant. My favourite cheese ever is the Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf from Miyoko’s Creamery. The Kite Hill cream cheeses are the best I’ve ever had. I love trying new things, so I see it as an adventure experiencing all the different types of milks and yogurt and picking my favourites.

  • Pingback: I Forgot to Take My Own Advice « Positively Positive()

  • LoriM

    Re: Medical Journal. I just turned 57 and I’m pretty healthy, but I’m also more forgetful than I used to be.  I’ve been keeping a little notebook with my weekly weigh in results since I went on Weight Watchers a couple years ago. Even though I also kept track on line (now with MyFitnessPal app), I liked keeping it in my bathroom drawer where I could quickly look at it and flip back and figure out (where was I this time last year? Or when I wore that formal dress last – now it doesn’t fit, what was I weighing when it DID?)

    Last year I started keeping track of other things in there, like the dates of the head colds I get. I’ve found myself saying “I hardly got any colds last year” and then, curious person that I am – I want to know – when was the last one? How long did it last? My doctor recently diagnosed me as an asthmatic and so colds are more troublesome than they used to be – ha.

    I’ve even added things like “when I opened a new mascara” and “when I got my hair cut/tinted”. I have little codes that help me find the info quickly.

    I’m sure there are apps – online calendars would work the same way and be searchable – but I like my little notebook. A pocket calendar or bullet journal would be another place to keep this info, too, of course.

    I do have my and my husband’s medications in a Google document, I think, but I need to keep all this info together and check the meds, esp., regularly to make sure they’re up to date. Another option (for meds and medical activities like asthma checkups) is my general practitioner’s web site, but I’m not sure I can add stuff in there. My online pharmacy, of course, has records, too.

  • Sara Halgrimson


    I took your advice to celebrate a minor holiday – and bought the gel letters for the bathroom mirror since I too am gone before everyone gets up. To my surprise the letters are still up long after Halloween and it has become a new unplanned game to see how many new words we can make with the gel letters! Thanks for the idea.