Tag Archives: habits

What’s a Critical Habit for Happiness? “Remembering the People We Miss Most.”

Interview: Allison Gilbert.

I don’t even remember when or how I met Allison Gilbert. We keep banging into each other in the world of New York area writers, and it’s always thought-provoking and fun to talk to her.

She has a new book that just hit the shelves. Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive is all about how to keep alive our memories of the people we love, after they’re gone — in a way that’s about happiness and remembering, not sadness and grieving. The book is crammed with specific, manageable, creative ideas for holding onto precious memories. (What a brilliant title for this subject, right?)

Given her subject, I was eager to talk to her about habits and happiness.

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

Allison: Being proactive about remembering loved ones I’ve lost.  Honoring past relationships has significant restorative power.  Celebrating what our family and friends still mean to us — even if they’ve been gone one year, fifteen years, or more — makes us happier.  This is because grief, especially when new, tends to make individuals feel out of control. Taking steps to remember leads to empowerment, and feeling empowered is what enables us regain our footing and charge forward.  Absence and presence can coexist.  Moving forward doesn’t have to mean leaving your loved ones behind.

Which habits are most important to you professionally? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

Getting up early to write.  My alarm is set every day for 5:30am, before my husband and our two teenagers begin to stir.   I use this time to think and type without interruption.  Spending these concentrated moments on my writing puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.  I’ve focused on myself — the work I enjoy and need to do — and then I can be more giving to my family.  Getting up early to write it a lot like putting my oxygen mask on first.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

Without hesitation, I am an Upholder.   I’m very good at setting deadlines for myself and meeting them.  I also LOVE to-do lists!

Have you ever changed a habit over a prolonged period of time, after years of struggle?

Yes, over a decade, after several family members died in rapid succession, including my parents. Immediately following each of their funerals, I never had to look far to share a story or hear one.  But a few months later, outside the holidays and other special occasions, I hesitated to bring them up in conversation.  Anecdotes I told my children seemed heavy or forced, and I didn’t want to make my friends uncomfortable. I also had so many questions most of my well-meaning friends couldn’t answer. What should I do with all their belongings— the random collections of loose papers, official documents, silverware, dishes, gardening tools, photo albums, VHS tapes, film reels, and 35mm slides? What should I keep? Where do I even start?  In some respects, because techniques for honoring and celebrating loved ones are seldom discussed, I felt lonelier at that later time than when my parents and other family members died.

Over time, I came to an important conclusion.  Nobody is responsible for keeping my family’s memory alive except me.  For my parents and other loved ones to continue enriching my life—and for my children to get to know their relatives—it would be up to me to develop the habit of integrating them into our already full and busy routines.  So the more I explored ways to celebrate their memory — cooking reminiscent foods, using technology and social media to frame their memory in a contemporary context — the happier I felt.  I embraced the idea that I could move forward, live and rich and joyful life, while keeping the memory of my loved ones alive.  This new habit has been a game changer.  It’s brought immeasurable joy and grace to my life.  In fact, as I was researching and writing Passed and Present I learned something quite astounding:  Taking steps to appropriately remember loved ones has been proven to be essential for healing.  Individuals who keep their loved one’s memory alive almost always fare better emotionally than those who don’t.  Who knew?! A critical habit for happiness is remembering the people we miss most.

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

My mother.   My mother was a top executive recruiter and was often interviewed for magazines and books.  She was an expert source in Dr. Joyce Brothers’ book, The Successful Woman: How You Can Have a Career, a Husband and a Family — and Not Feel Guilty About It.  The book wasn’t relevant to me when it was published (it came out when I was in high school), but now that my mom is gone, I cherish the perspective she offered on habits.  She often used small pockets of time for guilt-free pleasure.  The best such nugget is on Page 113.  In this passage, my mother was asked how she finds time to take care of herself, even go clothes shopping, when she was also running an international enterprise.  Here’s what she said:

“The only time I spend any time going shopping is when I’m traveling on business.  If I’m in Dallas and have an appointment at nine and the next one isn’t until three, there is nothing I can do in between.  I can’t talk with my daughter.  I can’t write a business proposal.  So I go shopping.  It’s the only time I can shop without guilt.”  

This reads a little dated, of course.  My mother offered her point of view before laptops and cell phones. But her thinking still rings very true for me.  And if I’m being honest, the Passed and Present Memory Bash Book Tour might provide just these kind of guilt-free shopping opportunities for me.  I can’t wait to get on the road — meet readers — and also find windows of time to buy some new clothes.  I’ll be enthusiastically celebrating my mother’s memory with every dress I find. (To learn more about the #MemoryBash Movement, read more here.)

Podcast 60: Very Special Episode! Live from the TV Sound Stage Where Elizabeth Is Working.

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

Episode 60 — that means it’s a Very Special Episode! Our producer Henry and I traveled to the famed Silvercup Studios in Queens, New York, to visit Elizabeth on the sound stage of the show she’s working on. Super-glamorous, I must say. In the photo, in the directors’ chairs in “Video Village,” you can see Elizabeth (near chair), Helen Childress (middle), Sarah Fain (far chair), and Henry (half-hidden in the back row).

Try This at Home: Let people do their job. This relates to the problem of shared work, which we discussed in episode 28.

craftservicesSilvercupInterlude: a trip to craft services. So many tempting treats, all for free, and right at hand! Elizabeth calls it “the bane of her  existence.”

Interview: Helen Childress. Helen is the creator of the terrific-yet-still-unnamed TV show that Elizabeth is working on. She also wrote the iconic 90’s movie Reality Bites. In her interview, she gives many great insights on the nature of writing, creativity, and habits.

 Gretchen’s Demerit: I’ve acquired a Pile o’Papers related to tasks that I need to do — and it just keeps growing. I’ll use Elizabeth’s suggestion of using Power Hour.

ElizabethSarahHenryRecordingSarah Fain’s Gold Star
: We’ve talked about Elizabeth’s writing partner Sarah Fain so many times — it was great to have her on the show. She gives a gold star to her three-year-old daughter Violet, for being such a good sport for moving to New York City for several weeks.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out The Great Courses Plus for a wide variety of fascinating courses taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: free access to one of their most popular courses, for free as part of a 30-day trial, when you sign up. Go to thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier

And check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

We love hearing from listeners:

 

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

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

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.)

1pixHappier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin #60

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.

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.

HAPPIER listening!

Podcast 59: Find a Lucky Charm, Distract Yourself for 15 Minutes, Listener Mantras, and Godparent Guilt.

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

Update: Elizabeth is still in New York City, as she works on her pilot. We also talked about the new mini-episodes I’m doing every Monday morning. Two or three minutes to help you start your week “A Little Happier. (As always, it’s a huge help if you rate or review. Not sure how? Scroll down, here.)

Try This at Home: Find your lucky charm. (Sidenote: I was surprised to learn that Elizabeth wears her wedding ring only occasionally. Do you wear your wedding ring all the time?) What’s your lucky charm? I mention CB I Hate Perfume. Beautiful scents! But alas, I don’t think you can buy the Hay accord online.

craftservicesBetter Than Before Habits Strategy: The Strategy of Distraction. Particularly helpful for fighting cravings. As promised, here’s a photo of Elizabeth at craft services. You can’t see the huge amount of food that’s there.

Listener Answers: In episode 57, we talked about the try-this-at-home of “choosing a daily mantra,” and listeners sent in so many great mantras.

 Gretchen’s Demerit: Elizabeth wants to be a better godparent.

 Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Jamie gets a gold star for knowing exactly how to make me less crabby.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out The Great Courses Plus for a wide variety of fascinating courses taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: free access to one of their most popular courses, for free as part of a 30-day trial, when you subscribe. Go to thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier

And check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #59

We love hearing from listeners:

 

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

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

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.)

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.

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.

HAPPIER listening!

10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Blogging

Unbelievable! I just hit my tenth anniversary for this blog. I can’t believe it. The days are long, but the years are short. 

Certainly, when I started, I had no idea that I was embarking on an project that would become such a big part of my day, my identity, my writing career, and my relationships. In fact, I remember thinking, “Yes, I’m stressed out about writing these first posts, but that’s okay, because no one will ever read them.

That first post, “The Blog Begins,” is here, if you’re curious.

Here are ten things I’ve learned from ten years of blogging:

1. It’s often easier to do something every day than some days.

This sounds counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it to be very true. I write on this site most days, so I don’t debate with myself, “Today, tomorrow? I wrote last week, can I take this week off?” I know I have to write on my blog, so I do. In Better Than Before, I explore this phenomenon more.

2. People like to learn in different ways.

I’m a writer, and I like to provide ideas in text — and no surprise, that’s also the way I learn best. But I’ve found that some people prefer videos, some people prefer audio, some people prefer to get email, some people prefer social media. To reach a wide range of people, we have to think about all of that.

3. People are more wildly creative, insightful, and articulate than I could possibly imagine.

I’m constantly blown away by the comments I get from readers and listeners. Such fascinating stories, such astute comments.  I feel so lucky to live at a time when technology makes this kind of engagement so easy, because it has has deepened my understanding of my subjects immeasurably. To take just one tiny example, when I asked people, “What’s the motto of your Tendency?’ I got brilliant, hilarious answers. My favorite: “You can’t make me, and neither can I” for the Rebels.

4. It’s fun to have a consistent record — any kind of record — of the past.

onesentencejournalimage
I often look back to see what I wrote on my site on this date, some years ago. It’s so fun!  I think this is why my One-Sentence Journal: a Five-Year Record has proved so popular. Most people won’t keep a blog, or write long journal entries, but writing one sentence seems manageable and fun, and is enough to bring back memories.

5.For creativity, it’s better to pour out ideas rather than to dole them out with a teaspoon.

When I started blogging — and I confess, I still have this thought, sometimes, ten years later — I’d think, “This is a great idea. I should hold it back, so in case I ever run out of ideas, I’ll have something in reserve.” No! I have to trust in myself, trust that I’ll get more ideas. The more I do, the more I can do.  It’s one of my Personal Commandments: Spend out.

6. As a writer, the biggest challenge is to make readers aware that a book exists.

There’s so much to read, watch, and listen to these days — how does a person hear about a particular book? I’ve found that it’s very helpful to have my own way to connect with an audience that’s interested in my subjects.

7. An atmosphere of growth makes me happier.

In my Eight Splendid Truths about Happiness, the First Splendid Truth is:  To be happier, we must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. We’re happier when we’re growing: when we’re learning something, helping someone, improving something, making things better. With my blog, and also social media and my podcast, I have the feeling of learning new things, engaging in new ways, learning new skills, meeting new people, adding new identities to my sense of myself. Along those lines…

8. Novelty and challenge make me happier.

When I was writing The Happiness Project, I needed to use myself as a human guinea pig for the notion, often suggested by scientist, that novelty and challenge make people happier. I thought, “Well, that might be true for most people, but not for me.” To test the idea, I decided to start a blog — which seemed very novel and challenging to me. I figured I’d give it a short for three or four weeks, decide that it didn’t work, and abandon it — the way I abandoned my gratitude journal. But no! I realized that even for someone like me, novelty and challenge did make me happier. Of course, they also gave me moment of anxiety, frustration, and anger, but those feeling paid off. If you want to read about this, check out the chapter for March, “Aim Higher,” in The Happiness Project.

9. It’s true, as research suggests, that we’re happier when we have many aspects to our identity.

Having many identities protects us: if you get fired from your job, you can think, “People think I’m doing a great job at the church finance committee”; if you can’t play tennis anymore, you can think, “Now I have more time to garden.” Adding the identity of “blogger” (and then “podcaster”) to my professional identity was enormously energizing, interesting, and reassuring.

10. Don’t get it perfect, get it going.

The longest journey starts with a single step. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. All these proverbs are true. When I was starting this blog, I was paralyzed by the desire to do everything right — and there were so many decisions to make! Finally, I decided, “I’m going to talk to a few smart people with blogs, and do whatever they do. I can change things later, if I want.” That was a great way to get started. It’s one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary, I’ve pulled together a short e-book that features my favorite posts from the last decade. It was so much fun to choose what pieces to include.

You can order it here, for $1.99.

Sidenote: I just realized that my blog anniversary is the same day as the wedding anniversary for both my parents and my in-laws. That seems auspicious! Both couples have been married for more than fifty years.

Smart Signage Aimed at All Four Tendencies–Brilliant and Fun!

I continue to be obsessed with my Four Tendencies framework — lucky for me, given that I’m writing a book on the subject! (To hear when that book goes on sale, sign up here.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on the prowl for signs aimed at a particular Tendency, or that do a good job of appealing to all Four Tendencies.

Before I get to the signs, if you need a quick overview of the Four Tendencies:

In a nutshell, it distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

 

To take the online Quiz to determine your Tendency, go here.

Last week, I posted about signs that seemed aimed at a particular Tendency. So fascinating.

This week, I want to highlight two signs that, I believe, do a good job of appealing to all Four Tendencies. See if you agree.

1. Food Attracts Ants

antssignnysl

I spotted this sign at my beloved New York Society Library, where I  go when I’m doing serious writing, or of course when I want to check out books.

This sign does a great job of appealing to all Four Tendencies.

It appeals to Upholders: here are the rules, follow them.

It appeals to Questioners: the reason for the rule “No food or drink” is that food and drink attract bugs, and indeed we have bugs, and bugs damage books, and so we need to keep food and drink out of the library.

It appeals to Obligers: because we have ants, the librarians know that people have been breaking the rules,  so stop!

It appeals to Rebels: the people using the Reading Room have bookish identities and value the library, so they’d choose to act in a way that protects the collection and acknowledges the request of respected librarians—plus, who wants to work in a place that’s crawling with ants?

2. Help Conserve Water

hotellaundrysign

I found this notice in my room at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. I think it does a good job of appealing to Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Here’s what we’d like you to do; here are the facts about why we’re asking you to do it; you can lighten people’s work load and conserve valuable resources; but hey, go ahead, do whatever you want. Smart last line — and it’s even in big type!

I get such a kick out of looking for these signs. If you see any, please send them my way.

Also, have you ever seen a sign that made you so nuts, that you deliberately ignored it or did the opposite of what it was asking?