Podcast 90: Very Special Episode on the “Essential 7” for Happiness and Good Habits.

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

NOTE: This episode was recorded before Election Day 2016, which is why Elizabeth and I don’t mention it. The election has been unusually emotional and contentious. As with any milestone moment, it provides an opportunity for us to reflect about our own values, and how we can serve the highest ideals of our country and ourselves.

Update: To hear the Happiness 911 songs, the link is here, or you can search for “Happier 911” on Spotify. Currently at 397 songs — that’s almost 25 hours of happy music.

podcastt-shirthappierblackIf you want to buy a Happier t-shirt, email us here, and we’ll get your information.

Every tenth episode is a Very Special Episode. For this VSE, we talk about the “Essential Seven,” the seven areas in which just about every desirable habit falls.

Try This at Home: Figure out what you’d do using the Essential Seven, to make your life happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative:

1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)

2. Exercise regularly

3. Save, spend, and earn wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, make purchases that contribute to happiness or habits, pay taxes, stay current with expense reports, take classes to expand career options)

4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (pursue a hobby instead of cruising the internet, enjoy the moment, stop checking email, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car, take time for myself)

5. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, learn a language, maintain a blog, keep a gratitude journal)

6. Simplify, clear, and organize (make the bed every day, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle, give away unused clothing) If you want listen to Episode 10, the clutter-clearing episode, it’s here.

7. Engage more deeply—with other people, with God, with yourself, with the world (call family members, read the Bible every day, volunteer, spend time with friends, observe the Sabbath, spend time alone in nature)

Of course, the same habit might satisfy different needs for different people. For one person, yoga might be a form of exercise (#2), for someone else, a way to find mental rest (#4); for someone else, a spiritual practice (#7). And people value different habits. For one person, organized files might be a crucial tool for creativity; another person finds inspiration in random juxtapositions.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I invoke the False-Choice Loophole to skip the gym.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Adam discussed a renovation decision at length, because he knows that Elizabeth likes to talk things through.

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Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #90

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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.

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  • santaclams

    Loved hearing about the Essential Seven. What is the origin of them? From Gretchen’s research?

    Regarding Elizabeth’s #5 goal of keeping the doctor appointments as scheduled: I’m wondering if grouping doctor appts on particular days would work for Elizabeth (not sure if her doctors are located near each other or not), or assign particular days (of the week or month) to be “doctor days” for one or more doctors, such as the diabetes doctor will be the 3rd Wednesday of the month, barring important meetings. Then she wouldn’t have to think about it so much. I had a colleague who booked all her annual checkups on the same day and took it as a sick day.

    I love this strategy. I have two groups (one is my habits group) that generally meet on the 4th Mon and 4th Wed of the month respectively, and I have a friend with whom I have a standing after-work drink every other Friday (works out to less, as we cancel many). I love not having a bunch of back-and-forths re scheduling!

    In order to be home on my son’s early-out-of-school day, I’m attempting to work at home on Wednesdays (today is the first day!). An add-on strategy: group my doctor appointments, appliance deliveries and such on Wednesdays as well. Am just back from walking to a doctor’s appointment, so off to a good start.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, after a lot of sifting through habits I realized that they all fell into these seven major categories.
      Great idea for “batching” doctor appointments.

  • Jason Boritz

    Thanks for the post in helping to spread good vibes and health and happiness to all.

    More good vibes can be found here: http://www.begnosis.com

  • Beverly Gozzarino

    I wish that you would come right out and say that you are dazed, shaken, and disappointed. Your listeners/readers respect your opinions and I hope are mature enough to respect them.

    • Note that the episode was recorded *before* the election.

    • santaclams

      I think this week’s Little refers to those emotions: “Them stories just gone and shown you how some folks would (will) do.”

  • Jessica Feldmann

    I love the idea of Elizabeth’s to not buy new books until she has read the ones she has. Although I also struggled with coming across ones I wanted to read before I was finished with the ones I had, I came up with a solution that works really well for me. When I’m at a book store or traveling and come across a book I want to read, I take a picture of it on my phone. Then when I am looking for a new book or at the library, I pull up my pictures and pick one out. This also works great if someone wants ideas of what to get me for a gift. I’ve also used this for movies to add to my Netflix list, when the list gets low I scroll through my phone and add to my list, then delete the pictures.

  • Beverly G.

    May I suggest entering the book titles on your Amazon wish list, and then at your leisure going through the list, checking as to whether your library has them, or whether you want to purchase, after maybe reading the reviews.

    • santaclams

      Love it. That is what I do!

  • Julia

    Thanks for the great episode. I have been focusing on number 1 and 2 mostly, trying to keep a food journal and eat healthier, and exercise every day even for just 10 minutes. I was given your Habit journal for my birthday this year and its been helping a lot!

  • Susan B

    Why is it that some of your iTunes episodes cut off before the podcast is over? This week iTunes ended at 35:00 but the actual podcast went to 38:50 plus a few seconds of silence.

    • gretchenrubin

      Are you listening using Overcast? People have been getting episodes cut off, not sure what the problem is.
      Oh, but you said you’re using iTunes. Hmmmm…I’ll investigate!

  • Kelley

    Gretchen, I love guacamole too. Nigella Lawson has a fantastic recipe for a guacamole that includes blue cheese, called Roquamole. Here is the link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/roquamole-recipe.html
    It is so good! I can eat the whole thing by myself!

  • Super easy guacamole recipe: Mix avocados with chunky salsa. Done.

    Want to make it better? Mix in chopped garlic and cilantro, and some lime juice.

    • gretchenrubin

      Delicious! Thanks!

  • veronicakrestow

    These are very effective points which helps us to maintain a good health and happiness in our daily life. Thanks for it.


  • Kristin Wellsand

    I too struggle with booking airline tickets. Such a commitment and a large amount of money! One thing that has worked for me is I always purchase tickets from Southwest (it helps that it is usually the cheapest option between me and my parents). On Southwest, you can rebook your flight without penalty. So if you decide you want to book for a day later, you can easily change the flight online and pay the difference or are given the difference as a credit to be used within a year. I have only changed flights a couple times, but knowing that I can has really helped me book early!

    • Kylene Cardon

      This is exactly why we fly Southwest too! I’m just listening to the podcast and had the exact same thoughts. Great minds think alike. 🙂

  • Emily

    Wonderful episode! I am working on #6. I am a very organized person and my outer order definitely contributes to my inner calm 🙂 However… our basement has become a dumping ground for everything that doesn’t have a home. Even though I don’t see the mess everyday I know it’s there and it really drags me down. I am committed to cleaning it out and keeping it that way. Wish me luck.

    On to avocados! I LOVE avocados and eat one a day when I have them in the house. I whipped up a tasty bowl of guacamole just the other day and I received rave reviews from my friends.
    Mix together: one ripe avocado, 1 clove freshly crushed garlic, dash of lemon or lime juice (fresh is best), pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper. Mash together with a fork and tuck in!

    Thanks for the show, it’s changed my life!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific, thanks!

  • Knowles Harper

    Easiest and best guacamole can be made with Frontera’s Original mix from Rick Bayless. The liquid mix comes in a little pouch and is added to 2 avocados. I order them from amazon by the box!

  • Lynn

    I enjoy all of your podcasts. I especially appreciate the candor, and when you make each other laugh.

    I also was thinking about Elizabeth’s goal of the doctor appointments. Pairing is a great idea if it involves something which would not add on extra time. She could pair the travel time with an audio book which she is looking forward to, and thereby handle 2 goals at once.

    Oh, and also….to be quite retro….I think that email and texted thank-yous are just fine for a kid’s party in this high-tech world we live in. Hand-written notes are, of course, always lovely to receive, but that standard was set when there was no other option. In this era, there is absolutely nothing wrong (I think!) with taking advantage of an easier, faster, and more convenient medium. The important thing is that gratitude is expressed, that sincerity is evident, and that the gift-giver was acknowledged. My two cents.

  • Julia Rogers

    I realize that others have suggested something similar but I have 2 suggestions:
    1. Gretchen- put books in your wish list cart on Amazon! Then pick one when you finish another and it will arrive in 2 days!
    2. Elizabeth- pair the drive to the doctor with an awesome new audio book!! I love Audible and have greatly increased my reading during my commutes!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great suggestions.

      • Deborah Levine

        I just wanted to echo the “read in the car to and from doctors appointments” for Elizabeth. I know it’s not the satisfaction of buying a physical book, but I do “read” way more than before I got into audiobooks and podcasts (mostly yours!) on my commute. Seriously, listening to “The Happiness Project” while driving home for Thanksgiving (yes, 10 hours round trip) made the drive not only bearable, but surprisingly pleasant. Be the happiness bully here and puts her to try audiobooks!

    • SaudiScrapper

      I have a Kindle and when I hear of a book I want to look into or read, I download a sample onto my Kindle. It doesn’t cost anything, I don’t loose track of a book I might like, and I can read a chapter before I buy to see if it’s for me. On Kindle I can also look at reviews and comments about the book. When I’m ready to purchase, I can buy the Kindle edition right then or buy the paper version in a bookstore.

  • Jenny

    Hi, great episode!
    Just a note on avocados…though delicious and healthy they’re drama queens. It’s not easy to grow them, they need ridiculous amounts of water which is usually rare in the places they’re cultivated. As they’re so delicate they need tons of packaging for transportation. So they’re expensive, cause huge amounts of waste, increase water scarcity and increase CO2 emission. Recently heard this on a radio show and have decided to reduce avocado consumption but to reality enjoy them once in a while!

  • Jennifer

    My killer guacamole recipe: plenty of chopped onion, avocado, a little garlic, a few drops of tabasco, salt and pepper, lemon juice. NO TOMATO!

    If you want to eat more avocados and want to make it even easier, just slice them up, salt and pepper them, and squeeze some lemon juice over them. Yum!

    • gretchenrubin


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  • LS Thomas

    Instead of Elizabeth using Goodreads to beat herself up, it is a perfect place for keeping track of books in the “Want to Read” section, without any retail pressure or temptation to indulge in convenient Internet commerce. I find it works better than keeping up with lists of book suggestions. Once I transfer the information to Goodreads I can forget about it for years. When I start reading a book, I enter it on Goodreads. That way, if I stop reading it for any reason–such as returning it to the library, I can go back, see it and decide if I want to finish it, or delete the entry because I am no longer interested in the book.
    As for the pressure of keeping up with the “Number of Books You Want to Read This Year” feature, I ignore it and do not participate. This is because I consider it meaningless, since it does not include categories. Sure I could read 100 romance novels or other fiction books a year, but what I want is to finish reading is at least one math or physics book per month in order to finish 12 of these types of books in one year, but Goodreads does not differentiate between “junk food” reading and real reading. However, it is helpful for the other things, I mentioned above.
    I have a suggestion for Elizabeth’s quandary of having so many books that she does not know where to start reading. First, run around and collect all of the books, stack them up and then make a numbered list of them. Put some numbers up to the total number of books on separate slips of paper, place the folded papers into a bowl or hat or whatever container. Draw one slip of paper out of the container. Refer to the list, the title that matches the number is the book that you will finish that calendar month. Read only that book for one hour or one chapter before reading US Magazine. Also keep that book with you in your purse in case you have a spare moment. Choose another number from the container and keep that book in your bathroom. If the bathroom book gets so exciting that you want to read it all of the time, you can switch it with the monthly book. Viola. I hope this will help you to make progress on your reading list.
    P.S. Go on a book buying moratorium for the rest of the year or another significant date way into the future. If you see any books you want to buy, either photograph them with your phone or copy the info, then add it to your Goodreads’ “Want to Read” list.