Tag Archives: habits

Agree, Disagree? September is the Other January. Time for a New Start.

Even though I haven’t been in school for a long time, for me, September  marks the beginning of a new year.  Orange is the new black, breakfast is the new lunch, Monday is the new Thursday, pork is the other white meat, and September is the other January. (And yes, it’s still September, even though most schools start in August nowadays — and of course, this is true only in certain parts of the world.)

January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time, but here in the United States, for me, September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.

Because of the new year feeling of September, when I wanted to do a a happier-at-home project, I decided to start it in September.

So many of the elements of a happy life come together in the idea of home: marriage and parenthood, in my case, though certainly not in everyone’s case; time; possessions; body; neighborhood; and, perhaps most enigmatically, the idea of now. I wanted to set aside a time to focus on the aspects of my life, to try to be as happy as I could be.

If you’re thinking about doing a happiness project yourself, or you want to work on your habits, now is always the best time to start–but if you do like to pick a particularly auspicious time, September is a good one. Think about it! From September to May, in one school year, you could take some steps to boost your happiness.

Blatant self-promotion: if you’d like to read something to get inspired to do a happiness project focused on your experience of home, try…Happier at Home. What a joy it was to write this book!

One of my specialties as a writer is writing endings, and my best endings are the end to Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, the end of my college application essay, and the end to Happier at Home. I have to say, I love the ending to this book.

“But Gretchen,” you’re thinking, “is there any way for me to learn more about the book?” Well yes there is! You can…

– read a sample chapter on the subject of “time”

– watch the one-minute book trailer, “Ten ways to be happier at home” (Can you guess which suggestion has caused some controversy?)

– request the one-page book club discussion guide

– request the Behind-the-Scenes extra (I had a great time writing this)

Summer is over,  and the fall brings fresh beginnings and new possibilities. Now is now.

This feeling of beginning is a good time to start new habits; we can take advantage of the Strategies of the Clean Slate and First Steps to tackle our habits. In Better Than Before, my book about habit-formation, these two strategies are in the section on “The Best Time To Begin.”

Do you feel inspired to turn over a new leaf in September? Or is this just me? (For readers in other zones, please substitute your beginning-of-school-year time. The same principle applies.)

Do You Do Your Best Thinking in the Bathtub?

Interview: Elisabeth Egan.

I got to know Liz Egan because so many people told me, “You’ve got to meet Liz Egan! ” We knew so many people in common that finally we just had lunch — which was a ton of fun.  She’s the books editor at Glamour and has written for numerous publications, and we have writerly friends in common.

Now she’s also a novelist.  A Window Opens is funny and perceptive novel about a woman who makes a big career change and has to manage that — as well as her family.  Think Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I was interested to hear what she had to say about happiness, habits, and productivity.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Liz: I take a bath every night. I get my best thinking done in the tub, and most of my books have wavy pages from getting dripped on by our leaky shower-head. I don’t have any fancy bathing rituals—I use strawberry Suave in lieu of real bubbles. But closing the door and sitting in one place for a half hour is ritual enough. My kids are constantly shouting questions at me over the sound of the water: More ice cream? New sneakers? Permission to watch a movie? When I’m in the tub, the answer is almost always yes.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Habits don’t just happen, you have to make a decision about what you want to do and commit to it. For instance, I used to be a serial loser of wallets. Every few months, one would disappear into the ether and I’d begin again. This was back in high school, when you’d collect wallet-sized pictures of your friends in little clear pockets, and the thickness of your wallet indicated your position in the social food chain. I wasn’t so concerned about losing my membership card from the Boris Becker Fan Club or ten dollars of babysitting money, but it killed me to have to collect a whole new batch of pictures. I finally committed to a simple habit: glancing over my shoulder every time I left a room, just to make sure I wasn’t leaving a wallet in my wake. You’d be surprised how often I was! I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that wallet retention requires responsibility; it’s not just a matter of luck.

Which habits are most important to you?

I’m committed to habits that give me the illusion of organization. This is why I write everything down, on real paper with an actual pen. I never leave home without two Moleskine notebooks. The black one is my calendar, which shows one week per two-page spread, with space at the bottom for my weekly to-do list. This is command central for everything from high school orientation to work deadlines to my mother-in-law’s birthday. The yellow notebook contains my daily to-do lists, with Glamour things on the right hand side of the page and personal items and notes on the left. I’d be lost without either one of my Moleskines, but the yellow one is the one I’d be embarrassed for someone else to see, since it contains loony ramblings unfit for public consumption.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

My husband’s fitness and nutrition habits are a big influence, mostly in aspirational ways. He’s incredibly disciplined about exercise and is naturally inclined to eat an apple when I’m digging into my second piece of apple pie. His habits are so ingrained, they’re actual facts: he’ll always make time to ride his bike or cook a healthy meal. I intend to do these things but inevitably run out of time because I’d rather call my sister.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

These questions are my lightning bolt. I’m giving up Diet Coke! I’ve had at least one can every day since I was a teenager and it’s a bad habit—and also an expensive one that screams, “I’m an old lady!” Check in with me at 3 o’clock this afternoon and we’ll see how I fare.

Podcast 26: Pick a One-Word Theme for the Year, Take the First Step–and Paper or Digital Calendar?

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

I’m actually on vacation, but am making a brief appearance to post about this episode.

Update: Elizabeth records live from her treadmill desk Which we’ve discussed many times, including in the very first episode. Can you hear it whirring softly in the background?

In episode 24, I asked people to weigh in about a huge, life-changing decision I have to make: Should my family get a dog? We heard from so many people — it has been fascinating, and so helpful. You can listen to what people had to say in a montage of opinions. Also check  happierpodcastdogs.tumblr.com, to read people’s comments and see the photos of people’s adorable dogs. Thanks, listeners — and keep those insights coming.

Try This at Home: Pick a one-word theme for the year — the school year, that is. For Elizabeth and me, September is the other New Year. If you’re interested in this subject, I write more about it in Happier at Home.

Call us to let us know what one-word theme (or short phrase) you choose. It’s so interesting to hear what people pick.

Better Than Before Habits Strategy: The Strategy of First Steps. Practically always, the best time to begin is now. We need to resist “tomorrow logic,” which is the fantasy that everything will be easier–tomorrow.

Important note, in this episode, I misspoke, because I casually said that it would be tough to start a new habit when you were in the middle of moving — actually, that’s a great time to start a new habit, because of the Strategy of the Clean Slate. Stay tuned to hear more about that!

Listener Questioner: “I’m an anxious procrastinator…how do you get started when you’re terrified?”

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth isn’t doing the very simple steps that would clear up her blepharitis.

filofaxgretchensarchivesGretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to my mother, for giving me my beloved Filofax. Here it is — plus my binders of archived calendar page stretching back many, many years.

Very fun to have this record.

filofaxmineHow about you? Paper calendar — or digital? Weigh in!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors.

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We’d love to hear from you. Did you pick a one-word theme for the year? Call us and tell us what you chose. And weigh in on the great paper vs. digital calendar debate.

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or sign up here.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier 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!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!

Video: “I Can’t Stick to My Good Habit, Because I’ll Inconvenience Someone Else.”

In my latest (bestselling) book, Better Than Before, I identify the twenty-one strategies of habit-formation, and one is the Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the ten categories of loopholes. I love studying loopholes, because they’re so funny. And ingenious! We’re such great advocates for ourselves — in any situation, we can always think of some loophole to invoke.

Well, what is a “loophole?” When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.

In Better Than Before, I describe all ten categories of loopholes; in this video series. I’ll describe them, one by one.

Sixth of ten loopholes: The Concern for Others Loophole. We tell ourselves that we need to break a good habit out of concern for someone else.

 

Other examples?

Other people’s feelings will be hurt if I don’t partake.

I can’t ask my partner to stay with the kids while I go to class.

At a business dinner, if everyone is drinking, it would seem weird if I didn’t drink. (Somewhat to my surprise, this loophole comes up a lot with drinking. Teenagers aren’t the only ones to feel peer pressure to drink, it seems.)

For some people, this loophole is a major challenge. Relationships are a key to happiness, and if a particular habit makes you feel very awkward about being out of sync in a social situation, or you worry that you’re hurting other people’s feelings or making them feel uncomfortable, this is a real factor in the formation of a habit.

By identifying the loophole, you can identify possible solutions. “Everyone else is drinking, so I’ll order a sparkling water, and no one will know what’s in my glass.” “Everyone else is ordering a drink, so I’ll order a glass of wine, but I won’t drink it, I’ll just leave it on the table.” “My grandmother gets upset if I don’t take seconds, so I’ll take a very small portion the first time, so she sees me go back for more.” “I’ll talk to my partner about whether this new habit is actually inconvenient, and if so, how we can work out a schedule that works for both of us.”

Sidenote: when you’re forming a new habit that feels awkward to others, give them time to adjust. Any change feels awkward at first. But if you keep starting and stopping, no gets used to a new pattern. For instance, a friend wanted to go for a run on weekend mornings, but her family complained that she wasn’t around to get the day started — so she immediately stopped. She started again, and stuck to it, and after the first few weekends went by, everyone got used to starting the day on their own.

Is this a loophole that you invoke? In what situations? I love studying loopholes! They’re so ingenious.

Podcast 23: Choose an Office TV Show, Do You Savor or Spree, and Keeping Good Habits While Traveling.

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

Update: Elizabeth clarifies that Adam is protective, but not over-protective (she felt that she was a bit harsh in episode 20).

Try This at Home: Choose an office TV show. Elizabeth’s office watches Game of Thrones, and everyone has fun discussing it.  Or maybe a family TV show–my family’s TV show is The Office. (Listen to the bonus clip.) Or you could have an office podcast!

Know Yourself Better: Do you prefer to savor or spree when you’re enjoying certain pleasures? This is related to, but not exactly the same as, the abstainer vs. moderator distinction, which relates to how you most easily resist a strong temptation. I write a lot about this kind of distinction in Better Than Before.

Listener Question: “How do you cultivate healthy habits while traveling?” One answer: avoid loopholes! Here are the 10 categories of loopholes, including the travel favorites, the “this doesn’t count” loophole and the “lack of control” loophole and the “planning to fail” loophole.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth regrets that she didn’t make a bigger effort to make friends with the very nice parents at her son’s pre-school. Now he’s off to kindergarten, so the opportunity has passed.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I gave a gold star to my husband, for being super lovely-dovey — which, if you met him, might come as a surprise. He doesn’t seem like he’d be a big “mushball” (Elizabeth’s term).

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Wish you cooked more? Get all the delicious, fresh ingredients you need to make great meals, delivered to your front door. Check out BlueApron.com/happier to get your first two meals free.

Also, thanks to Audible.com, with more than 180,000 audio-books and spoken-word audio products. Get a free audio-book of your choice by visiting Audible.com/happier.

We’d love to hear from you: What’s your office or family TV show? What loophole do you invoke–while traveling, or generally?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page. To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier 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!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!