Podcast 108: Use Your Shower as a “Happiness Booth,” Use Your Smart-Phone as a Magnifier, and a Question from the Movie “Before Sunrise.”

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

Update: Along with her writing partner Sarah Fain, Elizabeth is busy getting ready to launch her new podcast Happier in Hollywood. And by the way, if you love listening to podcasts, this is the month of “#Trypod,” when we’re all helping people discover new podcasts or help show them how to listen to podcasts. So encourage people to #Trypod.

Try This at Home: We got this idea from our listener Rebecca: Use your shower as a “happiness booth.”

If you want to hear our interview with Rosanne Cash in episode 22, and hear a clip from “When the Master Calls the Roll,” listen here.

Happiness Hack: You can use the camera on your smart-phone as a magnifying glass. Who knew?

Know Yourself Better: Inspired by the 1995 movie Before Sunrise, we discuss the question: Do you feel more like Celine, who feels like an old woman looking back on her life, or more like Jesse, who feels like a kid pretending to be a grown-up?

If you’re interested in this idea of “anticipatory nostalgia,” I talk about it at the conclusion of my book Happier at Home.

Here’s my one-minute video, The Years Are Short.

Listener Question: Our listener Cindy likes to go for a walk by herself during lunch, but now her boss wants to join her. How does she maintain her solo walk?

Demerit: Elizabeth has the habit of falling asleep when she’s putting Jack to bed at night, taking a nap, and then staying up for another few hours.

Gold Star: I give gold star to our mother and father related to signing up for exercise training sessions.


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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #108

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Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” The first shows are Side Hustle School and Radical Candor. Elizabeth’s show with her writing partner, Sarah Fain, will be Happier in Hollywood, so stay tuned for that.

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  • Gina

    I experienced something similar to Cindy when I started a new job. A co-worker who I ended up being very friendly with used to ask me to eat lunch with her and others. I preferred to go for a walk on my own rather than eat with a bunch of people I had no interest in being with. Later when we had worked together for a while and were more friendly she said she used to feel so bad for me when I first started – having to eat/spend time on my own. I had absolutely no problem, didn’t feel bad and enjoyed it!
    I was amazed that both of you thought this was such a difficult situation. She should just be honest. Tell her boss that she really needs that time to re-charge. She can say it’s the introverted side of her that need to recharge so she can be more productive for the rest of the day. If she’s not comfortable with being honest, I did like the idea of starting a walking group and then peeling off. She should not come up with excuses. That just looks weak.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great example and great advice!

      Gretchen Rubin

      Visit my blog

      My podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin
      My books:Better Than Before —New York Times bestseller
      The Happiness Project —#1 New York Times bestseller
      Join the discussion on Facebook @gretchenrubin

      • Laura Donnelly

        Yes!!! Just stopped MY solo walk to comment. Presenting a work related excuse (that benefits her work productivity) is how I would handle this!

  • wendybredhold

    Liz – I often fall asleep with my daughter. When I wake up in the middle of the night, if I walk straight to my own bed and don’t pick up my phone, I will fall back asleep shortly. I get into trouble if I start scrolling through my feeds – then I will be up too late. I usually get into “PJ’s” and brush teeth with her so I am ready to sleep when she is.

    • mom2luke

      The phone. Yes, so much self-will involved in NOT picking it up as you try to settle in/read a book to fall asleep. Even if I’m just using it to set the alarm for the morning, it is so hard not to scan the news headlines or see what that facebook notification is about (so I turned off notifications, but then I’m tempted to go on and see if there are any! Ugh). And if I DO give in to my curiousity and read an article or check my friends’ posts, I’m doomed as once you start reading one article, 15 minutes can pass very quickly and dammit. You’ve lost sleep.

      I don’t know why I get so mad at myself about this. I couild pick up the newspaper and read an article until I drop off w/out being annoyed at myself, but if I watch a video clip of The Daily Show or read a NYT article on my phone somehow I feel I’ve failed. Maybe it is because I’m disobeying Arriana Huffington’s very good advice to “escort all your devices out of the bedroom.” But my iPhone is my alarm clock and a convenient/easy to program one so I don’t want to give up having it by the bedside.

      The phone. Blessing and curse. And as we know, by bedtime our self-control/self-will is harder.

      “First world problems” but challenges nevertheless.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I’ve always preferred to shower in the evening. I think of it as washing away all the negativity that may attach itself to me during the day, and starting my downtime out right. Also, my hair looks better after i’ve slept on it — sleeker and less poufy. Plus, showering at night saves time in the morning. I already get up ungodly early — I don’t need to have more things to do to get ready for my day. I would rather have some “me” time in the morning than to spend it showering. I also have noticed that on days when I can’t shower in the evening for some reason, I wake up rather depressed and grouchy. Perhaps negativity is like a psychic static cling, and showering is a powerful way to release it.

    • mom2luke

      Ditto me, except replace the word “shower” with “bath”… a warm bath is such a treat at the end of a long day. Once I had kids, I never again had time to shower (and jog) before work in the mornings. I switched to walking (not breaking a sweat) to the metro to get my exercise in the a.m./evenings.
      But recently since I quit my FT job, I’ve started swimming with my (autistic) son almost every day , after school/before dinner … “pairing” spending quality time with him, getting my/his shower out of the way afterward. That works well for me in that it also means he (and I) can get to bed sooner with his shower out of the way.

  • Gillian

    The question about the lunch-hour walks is very much an introvert/extrovert issue. I think Cindy should be straight forward with her boss – tell her that she is an introvert and really needs that hour alone to recharge. Depending on the boss’s reaction, she could use this as an opportunity to point out that there might well be other introverts on the team and that introverts have different needs in order to perform at their maximum. She could then recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet – as I’ve said before, it should be mandatory reading for all supervisors/managers.

    I can recall a couple of times when I’ve been in similar situations and honesty worked well in both.

    In 1984, I started a new job. My boss was a very nice man who was a devout born-again Christian. I was not, and am not, religious. One day, shortly after I started, we went for lunch together. He invited me to join his church group. The very idea horrified me! I didn’t want to be rude and didn’t want to offend him but I couldn’t accept his offer. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of thanking him for the offer but it really wasn’t for me. He accepted the refusal graciously and we always had a good working relationship.

    More recently, I ran into a neighbour, whom I know casually, at a community event. She mentioned that she often saw me walking in the neighbourhood, that she wanted to get into walking, and perhaps we could walk together. Again, I simply told the truth and pointed out that it was absolutely nothing personal but that I really preferred to walk alone. Again, she accepted my response graciously.

    I believe that as long as the negative response is given thoughtfully, and it is made clear that it is not a personal put-down but simply a result of your own needs, most people will accept it and prefer honesty over a contrived excuse. Excuses can so often backfire.

  • Nancy G

    Its so funny that Elizabeth mentioned the Stitch Fix jeans. I’ve been doing Stitch Fix for a few years and love it. It’s amazing but the pants they send me always fit perfectly – especially the jeans! I can try on a 100 pairs in store and walk out with nothing but they seem to have the secret sauce!

    • mom2luke

      Interesting as I find ALL jeans uncomfortable (or at least way, way less comfortable than my universal black leggings with elastic waistband).. I haven’t had a comfortable pair in decades (certainly not since I had children as I have looked slightly pregnant ever since so nothing but maternity jeans fit over my belly. I also have big calves that feel so constrained in skinny jeans or tight leggings) I should give Stitch Fix a try!

  • mom2luke

    I’d ask boss if we could walk together on Fridays. Good time to chat and you WANT FaceTime with your boss. I’m introvert and prefer my lunch hours to myself too except for Fridays when for some reason I welcome company.

    • Heidi McCarthy

      Yes!! I love this! Even every other day. She needs to keep her precious walks to herself but can share one or two days with her boss.

  • Amy!

    Hi Liz & Gretchen! I just had a comment about the magnifying glass/camera thing. I used to use my camera – but setting it up on your iphone (in settings under “accessibility”) is SO much better. I’ve been showing all my friends how to set it up. You can triple-click your home button to get there fast! You don’t even have to put in your passcode or thumbprint. I use it all the time to read pill bottles in the store, menu’s or any other tiny writing. It’s much faster than opening the camera, plus the slider button to zoom is easy and it has a light on (dont’ have to change camera settings and all that).
    Love the show.

  • Maura Baklinski

    RE: a walk with my boss but I couldn’t help going back to Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability and “being worthy of love and belonging”. If the solitary walk is something that is really helpful, being vulnerable and asking for that is integrity. It’s saying, I am a person and I have value seperate and distinct from my boss or my work. and am not “owned” or “subject” to my boss. I am worth asking for this time that I need. I believe that each of us believing in our worthiness and speaking from vulnerability is one of the main keys to making our society less “numbed”, happier and more integrated.

  • Beth

    I sympathize with the listener who wants to continue her solo walks but I also feel for her coworker who is trying to form healthier habits. Quitting smoking is SO hard.

  • Carol

    Regarding lunch hour walks, the co-worker could tell her boss that she can join if there is a no talking rule because she uses these walks to clear her head so she can better focus on her work.

  • Cate

    So it made me really sad that Gretchen land Elizabeth struggled with how to advise the woman who was asked by her boss if she could welcome her during her lunch time walk. Jeeez. The woman is trying to adjust to not being a smoker. Where is your compassion? All 3 of you?!? She did not ask the listener to move in, or keep her company on Friday nights. She just wants a little help to get through this transition. Giving up solitude a few lunch hours per week doesn’t seem like too much to ask of a human being ( shockingly a ‘Catholic’). I usually live you two – but happiness comes through helping others. I know you two know this.

    • gretchenrubin

      Interesting! This is a viewpoint not many have raised. Great to have this perspective represented as well.

    • mom2luke

      I agree. And life/work being the way it is, it is unlikely the boss will actually be available EVERY day at the exact same time worker has sneakers on and is ready to go. I would not draw a bright red line /made a hard date everyday NOR would I refuse to go. She can do it a few times and help the boss start walking … it’s easier to keep doing something after you’ve done it a few times. First time is hardest.

      I would def. not blanketly turn down my boss on such a request (not at first, anyway) but would support her to get into the walking habit. The boss probably will like it and then she too might enjoy the time away from her employees. Even extroverts need some alone time.

  • Karen

    I thought your advice to Elizabeth to brush her teeth before laying down with her son was good advice as that might help her to avoid eating when she wakes up later and makes her way to bed. Most people don’t like to eat shortly after brushing their teeth. Also, because she is walking a longer distance during the day at her desk, she is likelier to be thirsty rather than hungry when she wakes up and so she might want to try water first. She can always get up and eat if she is truly hungry.

  • Thank you so much for using my idea of the Shower Positivity Booth – it was so wonderful to hear both of you discussing it in such considered detail. I like the term ‘happiness booth’ : ) And the idea of washing away projections was brilliant. I had forgotten to add something along those lines – that not only are you adding in positivity, but washing away the other stuff too! Thank you so much – Rebecca x

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks again for sending us the idea! Seems like it has struck a chord with a lot of people.

  • Lucy Pritchett

    My thought about the boss wanting to go for a walk at lunch is she could say it is ok, but set parameters. I used to go on positivity walks and gratitude walks. During “posivity walks” me and my partner would only say positive things, and if we complained or said something negative, we would gently remind each other to focus on positive or happy thoughts. During “gratitude walks” we would each say 3 things we were grateful for or as many as it takes to complete the walk. Another idea is to say what you don’t want to talk about, like, no discussing politics, religion, or… work!

    • LoriM

      Maybe this would help with my husband (of 15 years) walks. I love walking alone and listening to podcasts; when I walk with my husband, I just get stressed out because IF he talks at all, he wants to talk about things I have no interest in. I can’t seem to get him to talk about things I AM interested in. I have had some luck saying OK, I’ll walk, but No Talking (and then usually I slowly ease in to some kind of conversation). I feel like such a Bad Wife. It’s nice he wants to walk together! I just usually don’t enjoy it if we’re talking about things that are boring to me or I have no opinion on (finances, home improvements-believe it or not, he is the decorating person in the family).

  • Amy Zarndt

    My daughter is now 16, and I no longer have to lay down with her when she goes to sleep! But I remember those days, and my daughter often took a very long time to fall asleep. Sometimes my husband would lay down with her to read and then to be with her while she fell asleep, but most often it was me. Sometimes it would seem to take forever and I would be going nuts if I didn’t fall asleep, or I’d fall asleep but she’d still be awake! Eventually she would fall asleep and I would go back downstairs and watch some TV with my husband. I wasn’t working at the time, it didn’t matter too much if I stayed up a bit later, but I have never been a real night owl. So I’d have some down time with my husband and then go to bed. I like the idea of getting yourself ready for bed when your son gets ready and then going to bed yourself, if that works for you. And otherwise I don’t really have any great suggestions. But I will offer something I often did in “those days,” with things that were hard for me to cope with on a daily basis. It is perhaps another version of Gretchen’s “the days are long but the years are short.” I would ask myself: “Will I be doing this with her when she’s 16? No. Will I be doing this with her when she’s 13? No. Will I be doing this with her when she’s 10? Probably not.” And in that way I’d help remind myself that it was just what was right “for now,” and wasn’t something that would last forever. And it would help me. And yes, I do look back on those days of laying down with her to fall asleep with such fondness. And now, for several years, I have made a very regular habit of going to bed at 10:00pm (or earlier!), even though my daughter usually stays up later. And then I am up early to get things in gear to get me going and her off to school. And that will not last forever either. Good luck!

  • Kaitlin

    Love the advice about using the time in the shower to increase happiness. I am currently at home with my 6-month-old son and rarely take the time for self care. I joined our local YMCA a couple months ago to start swimming again, and they provide childcare for up to 2 hours. I’ve discovered that not only do I love swimming (I find it’s as good as meditation for me because all I do is concentrate on the stroke and my breathing – no distractions), but I love having time afterwards to go in the steam room and take a shower. There is nothing particularly luxurious about the showers at the gym, but I’ve found that just having that short time to myself in the middle of the day is such a gift.

  • Dee

    Gretchen, can you share the details to get to your Spotify playlist for Women’s History Month? I can’t find it.