Podcast 109: Pay Attention to the Light, a Fun April Fool’s Tradition, and a Demerit for Talking Too Much.

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

Update: My daughter Eliza turns 18 years old! Unbelievable. If you want to listen to Eliza Starting at 16, it’s here; if you want to watch my one-minute video “The Years Are Short,” it’s here. I know now, even better than when I created that video, how truly short the years are.

Try This at Home: Pay attention to the light.

I mention the very interesting book Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick; you can read my interview with Alan Burdick here.

And here’s the beautiful quotation I read: “Light, that first phenomenon of the world, reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors.” –Johannes Itten

Happiness Hack: Our listener Kim suggests celebrating April Fool’s Day with a “Junk Dinner” of junk food.

Know Yourself Better: Do you like seasons, or do you like constant good weather?

Listener Question: Our listener Trish asks: “what is happiness anyway? How do we measure it?”

If you want to read more about this question, I discuss it at greater length in The Happiness Project.

Demerit: In a conversation with a friend going through a difficult time, I talked too much.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the notion of changing doctors.

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #109

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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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  • Jean Marie

    I love changing seasons. Not just the chance to wear clothes that haven’t been worn in a while, but each new season is a mini blank slate. There’s always a fresh start around the corner.

    • And here’s the beautiful quotation I read: “Light, that first phenomenon of the world, reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors.” –Johannes Itten
      Happiness Hack: Our listener Kim suggests celebrating April Fool’s Day with a “Junk Dinner” of junk food.

  • Carlotta Bosso

    I’ve just moved to the north of UK from Italy ( my home).
    I was listening to you on my way to my new job today and I wonder.
    I’m trying to bear with the fact that British as not as warm as Italians ( big surprise!) but I wonder if it is possible that the constant rain and the very short winter days – therefore many dark hours throughout the year! -might have something to do with it.
    love the podcast!

    • Gillian

      I think the difference might be not so much between the British and the Italians but more generally between Mediterraneans and northern Europeans. And I think you are probably right that the weather has a lot to do with it. In the sunny south, you spend a lot more time outdoors, more constantly in contact with other people, and the sunshine and warmth probably make you more outgoing and warm.

      • HEHink

        Interesting idea. I grew up in Minnesota, and have lived in Alaska for the last couple of decades. While I enjoy outdoor winter activities to a point, coping with cold wintry weather does require a lot of energy. If you’re fairly introverted to begin with (as I am), you just may not have enough energy left to be outgoing toward other people after shoveling, hauling in wood for the stove, or driving 20 miles through snow or on an icy road. You might feel more like hibernating (as I often do). I had never really thought, though, about the effect that might have on one person’s personality over the long term, or on the general attitude of the group of people in a region.

  • I lived in Southern California for a few years and I LOVED IT! Definitely miss the constant good weather. Once my husband is done with school, we’re hoping to head back to CA!

  • So many good nuggets of info in this episode. I really enjoyed it.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks! That’s so nice to hear.

  • statmam

    Isn’t that a false choice? There can be good weather in any season.

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent point! So true.

  • ChrisD

    Yes, I’m from London and I love a cloudy dark sky, sometimes. I don’t want it to be cloudy most of the time but I also don’t want it to be sunny ALL the time. When I was in Malaysia for 3 months and then visited Australia, I was so happy to see some thick clouds and have a dull cold day and for it to be cold enough to wear trousers and long sleeves (Melbourne in September). I don’t love really short winter days, but having had to put up with them I love that it’s getting lighter now, and long summer days are nice. I felt really disoriented in that third month in Malaysia when the sun was STILL rising at 7am.

    • ChrisD

      There’s nothing as cosy as sitting inside in the warm and dry on a dull, rainy, cold day.

  • Toun

    Interessting question, I’d love to live in a place where there is a constant good weather.
    It would be easier for clothes and mostly when you don’t have enough place for winter clothes.
    With a constant good weather you can plan outdoor things wich are a good way to spend time with beloved ones without feeling frustrated because of the cancelling risk.
    I live in Paris, in France and it’s very difficult to plan outdoor activities because of the weather (even during summer). Althought the weather forecasts are better nowadays but if I plan something I can’t do it unless I am at 5 days to the event. Lots of people can’t come because they are already taken for something else.
    But the weather issue help me to be more organised : for instance I do all my houseworks, go to restaurants, see movies at the theatre during the week in order to be ready for outdoor activities during the weekend in case of a sudden change, wich frequently happens.

  • Gillian

    I love the variety of the change of seasons and day-to-day changes in the weather. A bright sunny day is much more of a treat following a wet and dreary spell – especially in spring and fall when sunshine is accompanied by pleasant temperatures, not excessive heat. Following a sunny spell, I’m happy to see the rain return. And a sunny, cold, crisp day in winter is wonderful – especially if there’s a bit of snow on the ground. And as ChrisD writes below, it is so lovely and cosy to be indoors when the weather outside is dreary. It is the contrast to what came before that makes each type of weather a joy. I have no desire to live somewhere that has only one season.

  • Angela Loomis

    Loved how changing your eye Dr. made you happier. I have a story about that in my own life – one year ago i switched to a new eye Dr. because she was one of the parents I knew from my son’s friend group. The glasses she prescribed turned out to be just awful but I didn’t realize it until months later because I got the prescription at the beginning of winter. I paint outdoors in good weather, and when the spring arrived, I realized I really couldn’t see detail in the distance. UGH. I suffered with those awful glasses until about 13 months after I got them I SAT ON THEM AND DESTROYED THEM LOL. At that point, I went back to my previous eye doctor and got a fantastic prescription that is good for close up and for distance. Why did it take me so long to replace those awful glasses? Too busy, but now I am so much happier knowing I can see better since painting season is approaching soon here in New England.

  • Kate

    Really enjoyed this episode! For the listener who was asking about a way to quantify her happiness, I have found a way that works for me. The weekly snapshot. I have a list of the areas of my life that I would like to improve in (or just the things that are important to me) and each Monday morning I start the day by marking down the numbers in each area. For instance, I am trying to pay off some credit card debt, because having it makes me less happy, so each Monday, I check my accounts and write down my balances. Seeing them go down lets me know that I am heading in the right direction and looking forward to making even more progress the following week makes it easier to get past the unpleasant moments that sometimes go along with aligning with your true values (like when I see a super cute dress and manage to tell myself that I will be happier seeing more $ in my account on Monday than I will be having the dress). Other examples for me are : # of times I had contact with a good friend, # of days I exercised, my weight, the number of people who viewed my website (trying to grow a business) etc. etc. If happiness is knowing that you are living your life according to what is important to you, this is a great way to keep tabs on that.

  • Suzanne

    I live in Northern California, and I feel distinct season changes at every season. It is a combination of temperature, moisture in the air, and quality of light. I understand why many people don’t feel we have distinct seasons, but with a high degree of sensitivity, they are hard to miss. My sensitivity to weather changes made the summer I lived outside of Boston particularly difficult, since the weather changed about every three days, humidity, rain, “normal” summer days. Needless to say, despite enjoying my adventures on the east coast, I was happy to return to my California home.

  • Darlene Smith Pugsley

    What is happiness, and how do you measure it? Ohhh, no- the hard questions also deserve attention. I want, someday, for standards of care to include meaningful quality of life measures that take into account individual differences. Will it be easy? No. But the journey is worthwhile. PS- this is Luke, who lost his speech with regressive autism. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a0966c53f7e3f2c274ceb0aa50dcc07972dbccb693d4591831cf5ea090626c09.png

  • Monica Requejo

    To me light and seasons are closely related. We live in Mexico City, so like Liz does in L.A., we have good weather year round. But the light, oh the light! It changes with the seasons. The sunshine in winter is totally different from that of summer and also from spring and fall. That is how I know the seasons are changing! I´m glad there is good weather almost year round because I am very sensitive to weather, a couple of days with no sunshine and I feel out of sorts.

  • Bridgette

    Re: Gretchen’s happiness demerit. I think you should reach out to the person and say you realize you talked too much in your conversation. If it’s framed as a question, “Did I talk too much?” then it is self-centered because it seems like you are fishing for reassurance that you didn’t. If is a statement of acknowledgment and/or an apology, it’s less so. I think this is important because recently a friend shifted the focus to herself for most of an evening that was supposed to be about me. When I called her about it the next day, she said she left the dinner feeling bad and later realized it was because she had been talking too much. While I appreciated her belated self-awareness, I would have appreciated her reaching out to me even more. In your case, not reaching out means this person may hesitate to turn to you in the future because she fears that the next conversation will be a repeat of the last one.

  • Reena

    Elizabeth, I loved your gold star about changing doctors — and I would also add that this applies more broadly as well. Being a musician, I would tell anyone who takes private music lessons to really consider whether their teacher (or their child’s teacher) is the right one. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered in my life who say “I used to love music as a child, but then I had this terrible piano teacher and I quit.”

    I think the difference between a lifelong love of music/dance/soccer/tennis etc has so much to do with a student’s connection to a teacher or coach. Also, often the one that is the most ‘prestigious’ or has the most star-studded credentials isn’t always the best fit for you or your child. Taking the time to find the right teacher can change your life, and is well worth whatever upheaval it causes.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great further point.

  • Ruth Fox

    For Trish, I recommend using ‘level 10 life’ – and adapt ot for yout own needs 🙂

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