Tag Archives: gratitude

Podcast 31: Observe a Threshold Ritual, Choose Your Personal Symbols, and Check Your Passport.

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

Bonus: Noises from Barnaby the puppy!

Update: In episode 30, one of our Very Special Episodes, our special guest was my daughter Eliza. She asked, “Do you have advice for a sixteen-year-old like me?” Thanks to everyone for sending in such thoughtful advice. Keep it coming.

Try This at Home: Observe a threshold ritual. As promised, I’ve posted a photo of Elizabeth’s sign — actually two photos, from where she kept the sign in two different (more…)

Do You Keep a Contented Heart? I Work at This.

“This day by God’s mercy I am 29 years of age, and in very good health, and like to live and get an estate; and if I have a heart to be contented, I think I may reckon myself as happy a man as any is in the world, for which God be praised. So to prayers and to bed.”

Diary of Samuel Pepys, February 1662

I love this passage, and it inspired the resolutions for the month of November in The Happiness Project. I resolved to “keep a contented heart,” because I realized that no matter what’s happening in my life, I’m going to be happy only if I “have a heart to be contented.”

One of my most frequent faults is fretfulness — annoyance and complaints about minor inconveniences or little mistakes or oversights by others.

You can hear Elizabeth and me talk about this issue on the podcast, episode 20...when she mentions a time when I complained to my husband about the onions he put in the frittata. I complained — but then I did eventually remember to keep a contented heart, and I apologized for my carping.

One of my main aims is to remember how happy I already am. Do you struggle with this?

Can the Simple Act of Making a List Boost Your Happiness?

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Can the simple act of making a list boost your happiness?

When I was in college, I took a class on the culture of Heian Japan,  and the one and only thing I remember about that subject is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. This strange, brilliant book has haunted me for years.

Sei Shonagon was a court lady in tenth-century Japan, and in her “pillow book,” she wrote down her impressions about things she liked, disliked, observed, and did.

I love lists of all kind, and certainly Sei Shonagon did, as well. Her lists are beautifully evocative. One of my favorites is called Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster:

Sparrows feeding their young

To pass a place where babies are playing.

To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt.

To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy.

To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival.

To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure.

It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

Other marvelous lists include Things That Arouse a Fond Memory of the Past, Things That Cannot Be Compared, Rare Things, Pleasing Things, Things That Give a Clean Feeling, Things That One Is in a Hurry to See or to Hear, People Who Look Pleased with Themselves, and, another of my very favorites, from the title alone, People Who Have Changed As Much As If They Had Been Reborn.

Making lists of this sort is a terrific exercise to stimulate the imagination, heighten powers of observation, and stoke appreciation of the everyday details of life. Just reading these lists makes me happier.

How about you? Have you ever made a list of observations, in this way?

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Now for a moment of sheer self-promotion: For reasons of my own, which are too tiresome to relate, I’m make a big push for Happier at Home. If you’ve been thinking about buying it, please buy now! If you’d like a little more info before you decide, you can…

Read a sample chapter on “time”

Listen to a sample chapter

Request signed, personalized bookplates for you or for gifts (U.S and Canada only, sorry)

Request signed, personalized “Tips for Happiness in Your New Home” card for you or for gifts (U.S and Canada only, sorry)

Watch the one-minute trailer–see if you can guess what item has proved controversial

Request the book club discussion guide

Get the behind-the-scenes extra

Final note: I love all my books equally, but my sister the sage says that Happier at Home is my best book.

Stock up now! Okay, end of commercial. Thanks for indulging me.

Story: My Sister Wasn’t Sorry To See Me Go, But She Was Glad I Came.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: My sister wasn’t sorry to see me go–but she was glad I came.


Can’t see the video? Click here.

What does this story mean, exactly? I don’t think I captured it in my summation in the video. I meant to say: sometimes, even when we don’t enjoy something, or feel grateful for it at the time, we’re grateful for it later. So when I’m the person who’s giving that not-particularly-welcome help, I have to remember not to expect gold stars; the important thing is to be helping someone I love over the long term.

This can be hard for a gold-star junkie like myself! Do you ever battle this? Feel annoyed or disappointed when people don’t seem grateful, even if you know that in the long run you’re helping? This is particularly difficult, because sometimes people honestly aren’t grateful, and would prefer that we not “help.” In this case, it was clear that my sister did in fact welcome my help. And at the same time, she was glad to see me go!

If you want to read more along these lines, check out…

Taken for granted? 5 tips for dealing with feeling unappreciated.

Want to be free from French fries? Or, why abstaining may be easier than you think. [This isn’t related to the subject of the video but contains words of wisdom from my sister the sage.]

You can also read more about this in Happier at Home.

Find the archives of videos here.  More than 1.3 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe!

A Trip to the Pediatrician’s Office Reminded Me of This Important Truth.

This week, I took both my daughters to the pediatrician for their annual check-ups. I was a little late, but the need to turn in camp health forms got me to schedule the appointments, finally.

As I walked out of the second appointment this morning, I found myself thinking, “Good! That’s another thing to cross off my to-do list.”

But this afternoon, another thought occurred to me. At various points, several of my friends would have joyfully given all they possessed for a fifteen-minute appointment with the pediatrician that ended with the cheerful words, “Everything looks great! See you in the fall for flu shots.”

Once again, I remind myself: The things for which I’m most grateful are often the things that I take for granted.

One day, we all have that bad visit to the doctor’s office, but this week, our visits were good. And I want never to lose sight of how very, very grateful I am for that.