Podcast 91: Delete a Soul-Sucking App, and a Deep Dive into Happier 911 Songs

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: Elizabeth and I discuss the site Longitude Books: Recommended Reading for Travelers, where you can find books related to your travels.

Try This at Home: Amy suggests “Delete or disable soul-sucking, productivity-depleting, creativity-sapping apps.”

If you want to hear the episode where Elizabeth and I discuss our “preciousssssss,” it’s episode 17.  We picked up this term from The Lord of the Rings. Whenever Gollum refers to the ring, he calls it “my precious.” “Losst it is, my precious, lost, lost! Curse us and crush us, my precious is lost!“ Want to see a ten-second clip of Gollum talking about his precious, from The Lord of the Rings movie The Two Towers? It’s here.

We talk about the Abstainer/Moderator distinction — you can read more here.

What app is your precioussss app?

Happiness Hack for the Holidays:  Make homemade place-cards.

Deep Dive into Happiness 911 Songs: To hear the Happiness 911 songs, the link is here, or you can search for “Happier 911” on Spotify. Currently more than 400 songs — that’s more than 26 hours of happy music.

Elizabeth’s  Demerit: Elizabeth hasn’t been going to the mindfulness class at her son’s school, even though she found it so helpful last year.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: Eleanor’s teacher took the time to send a positive progress notice.

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 to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #91

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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.

HAPPIER listening!

  • Kristina S

    Isn’t there a reason we are so tempted and engrossed in these apps? They are easy to play for short spurts, and designed to be addictive. But if we need these activities as a coping mechanism for the rest of our lives, like the woman who used the games when coping with a family death, we can allow ourselves that time in the day when needed.

    It sounds like rather than eliminate the games, we need should substitute other activities that are just as convenient, or set up a reasonable schedule for ourselves for the alternate activities we want to spend more time on.

  • MaggieRose59

    I agree with Kristina that rather than deleting these apps, we just need to apply some self-discipline. But that word is a no no these days. I like card games, but I only have certain times that I play. It helps me to sit down and be still while I eat my breakfast. Otherwise I would keep moving around the house doing stuff between bites! (really).

    This is Frodo (also known as The Precious). My little Hobbit is gone from me now, but she definitely liked her 6 meals a day (when she could get them) and definitely did NOT like adventures!


  • Jan Steele

    Thank you! I have just deleted 7 different games (including Candy Crush) from my phone that have been causing me low level anxiety. There are so many other things I can do that will fill little snippets of time that are more worthwhile. I feel free! Jx

  • Laura Bailey

    Thank you so much for including my email in your episode! It made me ridiculously happy when I heard my name, I actually couldn’t control my smile and I can’t believe my favourite podcast and favourite band have intersected. Thanks for all your hard work and for helping your listeners stay happy 🙂 Enjoy your week, Laura xx

    • gretchenrubin


  • Jeanne

    I was standing in Safeway in the canned soup aisle and all of a sudden, I heard a song that I hadn’t known before, but jumped right out at me now… “We’ve come a long long way together, / Through the hard times and the good, / I have to celebrate you baby, / I have to praise you like I should…” Every year I make my husband of 36 years a card for our mutual birthday. I’m gonna use these lyrics in this year’s card. My hub is an Obliger, so I’m always sure to give him lots of gold stars.

    • gretchenrubin

      I feel exactly the same way about that song.

  • Maria

    After listening to this episode, I deleted my Preciousssss – Instagram! I am hoping to report an increase in productivity because it has been my “go to” for zone out time.

    • gretchenrubin


  • Sean Riley

    LADIES! I’m caught up. I just finished listening to episode 91 after bing-listening for 3 weeks. Loved every one. Now I’m sad that I have to wait for each release…thanks for making my commute happier!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! thanks for listening!

  • MaggieRose59

    Okay, I just read in Food Network magazine that eating more vegetables increases happiness. It is so effective that it is on a par with going from unemployed to employed! Just thought I would share that. Think I’ll go have some asparagus.

  • Hil

    I did it! Thank you, Elizabeth, for mentioning Soda Crush. I like it more than Candy Crush. You inspired me to just delete it and CC! I need to declutter my home much more than I need to spend time on my phone. I’m sure I will find other ways to entertain or distract myself when needed. Thanks for your honesty on the podcast. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin


  • Julie Quates

    Hi! Love the podcast and am digging the Spotify 911 playlist. I just listened to the podcast about the soul crushing apps. I am a stay at home mom of a 2.5 year old and found myself getting lost on social media (Facebook & Instagram) as a way to escape. So much time was being spent on social media, taking me away from my son and family. I kept telling myself it was my way of staying connected to friends, family and the world but after time I found that I felt less and less connected to those around me. I made a few failed attempts at deleting the apps and going cold turkey but it always crept back in during times of stress. I finally made a rule for myself that I could continue to use the apps but could only use them while standing or pacing. Not leaning, not sitting, standing or walking only. I was shocked to see how painlessly I cut back my time on the apps immediately. It’s just not as enjoyable to scroll the apps when you’re standing versus laying on the couch. I also found that this meant I had more conversation with my husband when we were driving or eating (sitting…no apps!). This was a few months ago and have found that I rarely reach for the apps anymore during times of stress or when I want to relax. I have filled that time with other more meaningful, positive things. This week I deleted the apps entirely and am giving it a go. Easier than going cold turkey but still effective. I don’t want to encourage your sister to play Candy Crush but I bet she’d play it a lot less if she had to do it while standing. I hope this can help someone.

  • Jeanne in New Zealand

    I was a Candy Crush addict, too! Looking back, I played it hardest when my life felt out of control the worst, and I am sure it is because the game provided me with a much-needed sense of control, simplicity and accomplishment when things were the opposite. I had to delete it entirely in order to get away from it because even though it provided distraction from pain and anxiety, it didn’t actually move me FORWARD in any productive way. It became a monster! (I think it is so deliciously ironic that it is called Candy Crush, because isn’t that what it is? I felt CRUSHED by it, and it provided no inner nourishment, only the illusion of it, just like candy, enticing me to have more, more, MORE, my preciousss.) I felt SO relieved after deleting it! The funny thing is, I can play Bejewelled when I need some mindless destressing and I can put it down without it swallowing me. I actually only play it once every 2-3 months or so, which makes me realize that perhaps I am incorrect in assuming after Candy Crush that I simply have an addictive personality. That is empowering!

  • Kimberly

    The flood of post-political articles on Facebook made me realize that I wasn’t using Facebook in a way that made me happy or productive. The day after the election results came in, I felt like I needed to read everything to digest why things turned out so differently than had been predicted. Then the day after that, I started in again, and then had an epiphany that getting information (especially speculative and/or angry information) on Facebook was not how I wanted to spend my day. I unplugged from technology and got out in nature to a new park, and it was fabulous! I still didn’t know how to act on my new realization because Facebook is how my family communicates updates, and is a great way to keep in touch with friends.

    When I was listening to your Podcast, I had the idea to pair using my Facebook app only with strolling on our treadmill, or watching my kids play at the park (after we walk there). I also made it more inconvenient to get to my Facebook app by moving it from the front page on my iPhone to the third page, buried in a “button” with a nine other apps in it. My other strategy was to go into any news on my feed (apparently they are not always accurate anyway and they stress me out) and block them from my feed, so looking at my feed takes much less time and is much more positive. So far, it has been great! I really feel like I can focus and be more productive and present at home now (looking back I almost feel like I was going ADD checking Facebook throughout the day). It also motivates me to get in some extra steps because I do want to see how my friends are doing. I hope this hack helps other listeners with similar issues who don’t want to or can’t realistically delete an app that is dragging them down.

    • Doctor Zil

      Wow, I feel like you are talking to me! ADD with FB is the right way to describe how I’ve been acting. Today’s my birthday and I’m trying to give myself the gift of staying off social media. But already (it’s not even 10AM) I am feeling an itchy trigger finger to get back on FB since I know I will have some nice birthday greetings. Thanks for these ideas. I want to be informed but the addictive nature of this constant need for “news” is indeed soul-sucking. Good luck to us all.

  • Another contribution to the Happiness 911 songs – maybe an unusual one! “Feel Good Feelings (James Brown vs. Flo Rida vs. Black Eyed Peas)” by DJ ShyBoy on the “Best of Bootie 2” album. It’s a mashup of three songs (as the title implies), and full of the good feels!

  • Nadine Holland

    I live in the UK, just outside of London, and have been listening to the podcasts from the start, love them ladies, thank you! This is my first ever comment, but I’m loving the Happiness playlist. I started creating my own back in the summer on youtube, but this is just great to have so many songs, and so many different genres but that all have the same feel good vibe!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! that’s great to hear!

  • I’ve never played Candy Crush and with my addictive love of those kind of games (let’s not mention the dark “Bejeweled” period of my life), I should never start.

    How about reading books that are set in where you currently live? Last year I lived in Irvine and read a book, Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz, that was set in Irvine and talked about Jamoboree Rd & the 405 Highway (right where I lived) and scenes from Balboa Island (where I used to hang out). Reading this while living there provided a deeply richer experience and increased my enjoyment factor of the book by 10.

    Just a thought, I truly love your podcast Gretchen & Elizabeth!! Thank you!!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific idea!

      • Thanks Gretchen! I’m pulling up the Happiness 911 Spotify list now 🙂

  • Joni Koehler

    The happiness 911 song idea couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Our family does a three dollar gift for Christmas, in which we buy the same three dollar gift for every family member. This year, I’m making them all a happiness 911 mix CD. I don’t want to give away the surprise, so I’m trying to pick songs that represent each of my loved ones by researching songs that were popular during their teen years, or listening to songs from musicians I know they like.
    Hopefully, I’ll be able to hit just the right combination of songs, and there’ll be something on the CD that appeals to each of the recipients. But I also like the idea that they may be surprised by what they enjoy, both as individuals, and also which groups of people are drawn to which songs. It would be fun to think of my Dad connecting with my niece through their mutual admiration of Freddie Fender and the Texas Tornadoes, or my husband and my son-in-law bonding over a shared love of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way.”
    Making the CD has also been a happiness hack, because I hate the Christmas season. When my mind starts to dip into the overwhelmed feeling the holidays produce, I start thinking of those happy songs, and which ones will make the final cut. Thanks for the great idea, and for something that will keep my mood on the right track during this difficult season.
    Thanks for spurring the idea. I love your podcast. It makes me …Happy.

  • THANK YOU for the Longitude Books site!! I love to pair my reading with where I am traveling, so this is a great resource.

    I love when Gretchen talks about her “precious” – makes me laugh every time! I also love when Gretchen gets laughing so hard she can’t catch her breath – thanks for the laughs!

    I have a confession to make re: apps –

    My name is Sue and I do not have a smart phone.

    (I can hear the gasps from here). Nope, just a regular cell phone for texting & talking. No smart phone, no tablet, no apps. I’m not a luddite – I have a laptop that I spend way too much time on, but it is much easier to limit than a smart phone. I write 2 blogs, have 2 Twitter accounts, and manage several Facebook pages & groups, so I’m on social media and am not anti-tech. We (my husband doesn’t have one either) have not gotten smart phones mainly because of the cost – especially the monthly cost of data (I have no idea how so many people afford them!) – but I really don’t feel like I’m missing out. I just don’t want to be THAT connected all the time.

    I close my laptop by 7:30 every evening to spend time with my husband – we watch 2 TV shows together & then read for an hour before bed. My laptop stays home when we go camping, to visit family for a weekend, or on vacation. I just took a week-long vacation with my family totally tech-free (my kids had their phones, but they are not bad with them). It was a lovely week and soooo relaxing. Really gave me pause to think about how much time I spend on my blogs & social media. Everyone should try unplugging like that for a short time – it’s very freeing!

    Anyway, I’m sure I will someday get a smart phone but am happy without one right now…and I don’t have to worry about game addictions – lol

    Very much enjoying the Happier 911 Playlist! I have something similar on my iTunes/iPod – I call it my Cheer Up Playlist. Some of my faves include I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor, River of Dreams by Billy Joel, Best Day of My Life by American Authors, and yes, Happy by Pharrell Williams – that last one might be trite but it still puts a smile on my face! Enjoying listening to others’ Happier 911 songs…though I was a bit puzzled that listening to The Bitch is Back makes someone happy! haha

    Great podcast, as always –


    Book By Book

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for listening!

  • Christine Hannon

    Thank you both – and your team – so much for your podcast! About deleting a soul-depleting app, I knew I had to take a decisive step then write to let you know….then you talked about the progress report Eleanor received! Two things…First (trumpet fanfare): I deleted Facebook from my iPhone!!!! Oh my gosh. There are a couple of closed groups I belong to who are over the top positive and encouraging. And I love seeing pictures of family members. But now the time spent on FB is more intentional.
    Second, in the way back machine, my school district had pre-printed pink slips..Demerit Reports. One of my teachers crossed out the De and sent out merit reports on the pink form. I’ll never forget when my mom pulled the pink paper out of an envelope from Thomas Edison Jr Sr High School. Holy Pink Slip! She started yelling before she even looked at which teacher wrote it! 8^) It’s all good. I am a cap-R Rebel, so even on high honor roll, the possibility wasn’t out of the question! Kudos to Eleanor’s teacher for making the time and recognizing her to her family!

  • Helena Wood

    Hi. I finally deleted most of the games on my phone after listening to this podcast. My husband has been at me to do it for ages but I would get defensive and say that I needed them to fill my time while breastfeeding the baby. But honestly it was an addiction. I didn’t have time to do anything else and I wasn’t paying enough attention to my kids. So I deleted all but 2 very boring games and it’s been great. I have actually been knitting again. Before I had my eldest 3.5years ago I would knit every day. After a traumatic birth and untreated post natal depression I used my apps as a way to escape. But after my youngest was born 8 mo I am working on my mental health and now that I have deleted my games I am actually knitting again!

    Thanks for the push I needed.

  • Vanessa King

    I know in the live event in Seattle you said you didn’t think Happy by Pharrell Williams was quite the thing, but have you seen the UK Institution of Civil Engineers’ video showing “The civil engineers behind some of London’s most iconic infrastructure
    projects have put on their dancing shoes to show the public – young
    people in particular – how happy they are to be engineers and the
    diverse and exciting careers on offer through choosing maths and science”? Search “Engineering Happiness” on Youtube. I think it’s hilarious, but I’m an engineer so just might be biased

  • No

    I’m behind on podcasts and just listened to this one a few days ago.
    Parody ad for if mobile games told you the truth.