Tag Archives: change

Research shows that September Really IS the Other January.

I’ve written many times about how for me, September is the other January — a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to use new pencils, fresh notebooks, and begin again.

In fact, in my book Happier at Home, I did a happiness project that stretched from September to May, to take advantage of September’s clean slate.

So I was fascinated to read a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, “Now Is the Real New Year” by Anne Marie Chaker.

Some interesting points about why people make resolutions in September:

  • with the start of school, families get back into routines, and that helps people get organized and set goals
  • January is a tough time for resolutions, because of post-holiday exhaustion
  • summer efforts can get derailed because of vacation
  • September is one of the biggest months for enrolling in weight-loss programs, going to the gym, and cooking at home
  • people often change their hair style in September
  • people often take steps to change careers in September, and work on household budgets
  • September is now bigger than June as a time to get married; it’s second only to October


How about you? Do you feel like September is a time for a fresh start?


Podcast 71: Choose a Signature Color, and Ask “Am I an Alchemist or a Leopard?” Plus FOMO.

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

Update: We’ve heard from people about how they’re designing their summer. Great ideas.

Try This at Home: Choose a signature color. This is a big commitment! I’m not sure I can make the jump, but I’m intrigued. What’s your color? How did you choose it?

I mention the Time article, “How Your iPhone Photos Make You Happier. ” And I also mention Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

Below is the photo from my friend with her collection of things in her signature color.
Signature Color

 Know Yourself Better: Are you an alchemist or a leopard? My first Personal Commandment is to “Be Gretchen.”

Listener Question: Bethany asks about FOMO — “fear of missing out.”

If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth screamed at Adam when he didn’t like any of the fabric choices for their new banquette.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give myself a gold star for managing to stay calm and enjoy Eliza’s prom experience. If you want to listen to Eliza’s view of her junior prom, you can listen to her podcast, Eliza Starting at 16.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out Headspace. Experience the benefits of meditation in your busy life. Download the Headspace app for free, and begin their Take 10 program for ten days of guided meditation. Go to Headspace.com/happier.

Also check out Stitch Fix — clothing and accessories hand-selected by a personal stylist, especially for you, and delivered right to your door.  Sign up at Stitchfix.com.



1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #71

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Featured image by Emily Orpin.

Why Joining a Habits Group Can Help You Change Your Habits — and How to Start One.

One of the best ways to build good habits and happiness effectively – and also one of the most fun ways – is to join or start a group for people who want to change their habits.

I get a lot of requests for the starter kit, from people who want to launch a Better Than Before habits group, where people work on their habits together. Want one? Request it here.

These Better Than Before habits groups swap ideas, build enthusiasm, give energy and encouragement, and – probably most important – hold each other accountable. (Think AA and Weight Watchers.)

No surprise, many of these requests come from Obligers, who now see that external accountability is the key to sticking to their good habits — they want to form the group that will give them that crucial accountability. Which is a great idea.

Some solutions for accountability — like hiring a coach, working with a trainer, or taking a class — work extremely well, but they carry a cost; starting a habits group is free. And it’s fun.

Group members don’t have to be working toward the same aims; it’s enough that they hold each other accountable. My sister told me about her friend who’s in an accountability group where she’s being held accountable for working on a novel, while another member is being held accountable for getting massages, going to movies, etc. This may sound preposterous, but it’s actually brilliant — if you find it impossible to make time for yourself unless someone else holds you accountable, figure out a way to get that accountability!

Also, while accountability partners can also work well, pairs don’t offer the same stability of accountability. If your partner loses interest, gets distracted, or is absent for a time, your accountability vanishes.  With a group, you’re not as dependent on one person’s engagement.

If you’re part of a habits group, I’d love to hear about your experiences. What works, what doesn’t work? Are there resources I could provide that would be helpful?

For instance, I’ve been considering making a video that talks about groups, and why they’re so effective, and how to build them.

Sidenote: If you’re reading the book in any kind of group, and your group would like signed bookplates to make the books feel more personal, request them here (I’m so sorry–I can offer this for U.S. and Canada only, because of mailing costs). Or request a bookplate for yourself, or a gift, if you want.

Keep me posted about your group! I’m wildly interested to hear what everyone’s doing. Comment below or email me to let me know.

Determined to Keep Your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions? Here’s How.

I love making New Year’s resolutions. Yes, January 1 might be an arbitrary date, but I think it’s good that we all have a cue to ask ourselves, “What would I like to change about my life? How could it be better than before?”

Most of us have a list of things we’d like to do better — and very often, those things involve habits. Exercise, sleep, fun, eating, relaxing, and so on.

In my book Better Than Before, I list all twenty-one strategies that we can use to make or break the habits that shape our lives. All the strategies are powerful and effective, but some are more universal than others. Here are some of the most popular ones, to start you thinking.

1. Be specific.

Don’t resolve to “Eat more healthfully.” That’s too vague. What are you really asking of yourself? Resolve to “Eat breakfast,” “pack a lunch,” “stop eating fast food,” “cook dinner at home,” or “no more sugary soda.” That’s the Strategy of Clarity.

I did this with reading. I love to read, but I wasn’t spending enough time reading. So I resolved to “Quit reading a book I don’t like” (which changed my life), “Do ‘study’ reading on the weekend,” and I also monitor my reading — see below.

2. Monitor your resolution.

If we monitor something, we manage it much better. Just simply tracking how much you are — or aren’t — doing something will push you in the right direction. That’s the Strategy of Monitoring. With reading, I’ve started to post a photo on my Facebook page every Sunday night to show what books I’ve read that week. I find this very fun and satisfying, and I have to say, it also helps me push myself to find more time to read.

3. Figure out your Tendency.

There are Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Take the quiz here.  This is the Strategy of the Four Tendencies.

4. Give yourself external accountability. 

Now that you know your Tendency, if you’re an Obliger, to keep a resolution, give yourself external accountability. This is key. Tell other people about your resolution, work out with a trainer, take a class, do something with a friend, hire a coach.

Or start a Better Than Before Habits Group, where people hold each other accountable. Everyone can be working on different resolutions — what matters is that they’re holding each other accountable. To get the “starter kit” for people launching an accountability group, request it here. This is the Strategy of Accountability.

Note: the Strategy of Accountability can also be helpful to Upholders and Questioners — but it’s often actually counter-productive for Rebels.

5. Treat yourself!

This is the most fun way to strengthen your resolutions. When we give ourselves healthy treats, we boost our self-command — which helps us keep our resolutions. When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. But make sure they’re healthy treats. Food and drink, shopping, and screen time are often unhealthy treats. This is the Strategy of Treats.

6. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Thank you, Voltaire.  If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow.  Try to use your slip-up as a lesson in how to do better next time. Although some people assume that strong feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who feel less guilt and who show compassion toward themselves in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel deeply guilty and full of self-blame struggle more. This is the Strategy of Safeguards.

7. Sign up for the 21 Days, 21 Strategies for Habit Change.

To thank people who pre-order the paperback of Better Than Before, I’m giving them this email package for free. Each morning for twenty-one days, I’ll send you an email that describes a different strategy that you can harness to master your habits. If you’re determined to keep a New Year’s resolution this year, I hope you’ll get lots of ideas about how to do that.

What else? What are some strategies you’ve discovered, to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions?

Eager to Change Your Habits? This Will Make It More Convenient.

I’m very excited to announce that Better Than Before: A Day-by-Day Journal has hit the shelves!

I really love this journal.

Many people have told me that once they read Better Than Before, they were eager to get cracking on their habits — so eager, in fact, that the process could seem a little overwhelming. So much to do, and to try.

That’s where the Journal comes in handy. By organizing your thoughts, it makes the process much easier.  The Journal will help you identify what habits you want to change, figure out what strategies to use, track your progress — and actually change your habits.

There’s  a lot of tips and information meant to make habit-change easier, plus room to write your own comments. Using the Journal will make it easier to apply the ideas and principles from Better Than Before to your own experience. It’s a companion book that will deepen your understanding.

Many people have told me that the “don’t break the chain” system works well for them, so the Journal’s “Habit Tracker” allows you to mark that chain as you go. (If you want to read more on this subject, it’s in Better Than Before, in the chapter on the Strategy of Starting.)

Don’t worry about starting on January 1. The Journal starts at “Week 1,” and you fill in the dates. So you can start at any point. Remember,  as the Habits Manifesto states, once we’re ready to begin, we should begin now.

One of the most powerful strategies is the Strategy of Convenience. By making it convenient — and pleasant — to keep track of how you’re doing, you make it easier on yourself to keep up with it.

The Better Than Before Journal a tool, and a resource, and it’s also meant to be a kind of memento! Your record of how you’re better than before.

It really is worth tackling our habits. After all, about forty percent of our daily lives is shaped by our habits. Habits shape our existence–and our future. If we change our habits, we can change our lives.

Order now from Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Indiebound

For you library fans and audio-fans…this isn’t that kind of book. For this, you need ye olde paper. To see the inside, click here to watch a quick video I made. 

Have you ever used a journal — or any kind of record-making — to help you change your habits in the past? Was it a useful exercise?