Tag Archives: happiness

“I Wish My 18-Year-Old Self Had Realized That Incrementalism Is ‘OK.’”

Interview: Robb Wolf.

I often write about how I eat a low-carb, high-fat diet. As I describe in Better Than Before, I experienced the “Strategy of the Lightning Bolt” after reading Gary Taubes’s book Why We Get Fat, which convinced me of the health benefits of avoiding carbohydrates — I changed practically everything about the way I ate, overnight, after reading that book. (If you’d like to listen to the podcast interview with Gary Taubes, about his new book The Case Against Sugar, it’s here.)

Because of my interest in eating low carb, I got to know Robb Wolf. Robb comes at the issues of diet, eating, and nutrition from the Paleo perspective. It’s a different philosophy of eating, but in the end, we eat mostly the same way, so it’s interesting for me to hear about it.

Robb has a popular podcast, The Paleo Solution, and he has new book that just hit the shelves called Wired to Eat: Turn Off the Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods that Work for You.

Wired to Eat emphasizes that it’s important to figure out how to eat in the way that works for you. It also discusses the importance of things like sleep and movement in trying to eat more healthfully.

As I’ve written and spoken to people about their happiness and habits, the issue of “wanting to eat healthier” comes up again and again as a habit that people struggle with; they’d know they’d be happier and healthier if they ate healthier, but they find it tough. (Sound familiar?)

So I was curious to hear what Robb had to say.

Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded on the subject of habits?

Robb: This may seem a bit far afield to your readers but one of the best insights into habits and human behavior came to me when I started looking at this topic from the perspective of evolutionary biology. If we think about the environment that forged our genetics, we can get a sense of some important “hard wiring” that may seem to defy logic in the modern world. Let’s consider healthy eating as an example. It’s easy to vilify overeating, to make this tendency some kind of character flaw, but in our not so distant past it made good sense to eat anything one could find and then to REST. All organisms that move to eat follow a process called “Optimum Foraging Strategy” which is just a fancy way of looking at the energy accounting an organism must maintain to go on living. If a given critter (in this case let’s say us) consistently burns more energy than it finds in the environment…it dies. So, humans are literally wired to “eat more, move less.” This is a completely normal and even healthy state of affairs when living in an ancestral environment, but with modern culture and technology we can order a nearly infinite variety of foods to our door, and barely expend any energy at all. It is now incredibly easy to overeat and we experience a host of health problems as a consequence. This evolutionary biology perspective can help with habits in that if we are not starting a process from a perspective of guilt or shame (which is common when folks are contemplating diet and lifestyle changes) we stand a much better chance of making that process of change stick.

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

When I start feeling cranky and like life is working against me I have found that a few minutes of gratitude goes a long way towards making me feel better. I do this every night before bed and it is incredibly calming and also keeps me grounded in all the good things I have in my life.

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

Something I wish my 18-year-old self had been aware of is that incrementalism is “ok.” For much of my life I tackled things with a perfectionist attitude and what this did is set me up for failure in anything that I was not inherently good at. If I struggled a bit at something I’d get self-conscious and default back to those things I’m good at. Not a great way to add new habits and skills to one’s life!

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

I’m pretty strongly a Questioner. I love seeking out information from folks that are better versed in a topic than I am but I tend to run their advice or teaching through the following filter: Does it make sense? When I implement the recommendations, does the process work? I rarely, if ever, dismiss something out of hand, but I will stress-test the concept and see if it holds up to scrutiny. I’m also always looking for ways to improve upon the original teaching or advice.

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.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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,  including postage and a digital scale — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

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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 to the award-winning Happier 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!

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.

HAPPIER listening!

For the International Day of Happiness: The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Happiness.

Tomorrow (Monday, March 20), is the International Day of Happiness (there’s a day for just about everything, isn’t there?).

That got me thinking. I’ve been researching, thinking, and writing about it for a decade now: what’s the most important thing I’ve learned about happiness? How can we help ourselves to become happier?

And I realize that my crucial insight is that the answer is…It depends.

It depends on the kind of person we are — our interests, our values, our temperament, our circumstances.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking there’s a “best” way, or the “right” way — but it just depends.

For instance, maybe you know you’d be happier if you exercised regularly, or if you spent less time on your phone, or if you finished your Ph.D. thesis, or if you yelled at your kids less, or if your house were less cluttered.

How do you do that? It depends…

 

And so many other factors.

Very often, though, we’re told we “should” be able to do something, or that something “should” make us happy.

We should be made happier by …

  • travel
  • wine
  • shopping
  • spontaneity
  • music

 

Those aren’t major sources of happiness for me.  I see their value, they do bring me some happiness, I understand that they’re very important to other people, but for me, meh.

If pressed for a universal answer about how to become happier, I do think there are some aspects of happiness that are true for just about everyone.

We need self-knowledge.

This is what I’m talking about above. When we know ourselves, we can shape our lives to suit what’s true for us.

We need relationships.

To be happy, we have to have enduring, intimate bonds with others; we have to feel like we belong; we have to be able to give and get support.

 

If someone asked you, “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about happiness?” what would you answer?

 

What Healthy Treats Do You Give Yourself? (Note the “Healthy.”)

In my book Better Than Before, I describe the many strategies that we can use to change our habits. We all have our favorite strategies — but I think most of us would agree that the Strategy of Treats is the most fun strategy.

“Treats” may sound like a self-indulgent, frivolous strategy, but it’s not. Because forming good habits can be draining, treats can play an important role.

When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command—and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits.

Studies show that people who got a little treat, in the form of receiving a surprise gift or watching a funny video, gained in self-control. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish.

When we don’t get any treats, we begin to feel burned-out, depleted, and resentful.  We start to feel deprived — and feeling deprived is a very bad frame of mind for good habits.

When we feel deprived, we feel entitled to put ourselves back in balance. We say, “I’ve earned this,” “I need this,” “I deserve this” and feel entitled to break our good habits.

So we need treats.

But it’s crucial to give ourselves healthy treats, because unhealthy treats are often bad for us. We don’t want to give ourselves something to feel better that just makes us ending up feeling worse. Like a costly splurge, an extra glass of wine, a big brownie.

All of us should have a long list of potential healthy treats. That way, when we think, “I need a treat,” we have ideas.

For something to be a treat, we have to think of it as a treat; we make something a treat by calling it a “treat.” When we notice our pleasure, and relish it, the experience becomes much more of a treat. Even something as humble as herbal tea or a box of freshly sharpened pencils can qualify as a treat.

For instance, once I realized how much I love beautiful smells, a whole new world of treats opened up to me. If I need a treat, I visit my “collection of smells” in my apartment or I stop by a perfume counter.

At the same time, it’s important not to call something a “treat” if it’s not really a treat. It may be good for you, and it may even feel good, but it’s not a treat if you don’t look forward to it with pleasure. So a yoga class could be a treat for someone, but it’s not a treat for me. I do it, and I’m glad I do it, but I don’t think, “Oh, yay, time for yoga!”

Sometimes, treats don’t look like treats. For example, to my surprise, many people consider ironing a “treat.”

Here are some other treats I’ve heard about:

  • crossword puzzles
  • looking at art books
  • shopping at a very expensive store (no possibility of buying, so just enjoy looking)
  • translating Latin
  • breaking codes
  • manicure (I never get manicures and dread them; the opposite of a treat for me)
  • visiting camping stores
  • online shopping (I heard from many people who enjoy online shopping with no plan to buy–they have fun filling their cart, then abandon it)
  • choosing plants and seed for the garden
  • video games and phone games
  • getting a massage
  • taking a bath, especially if with special bath salts
  • buying yourself flowers
  • visiting a special place (a park, sculpture, or museum)

 

If you want to hear me and Elizabeth talk about why you should treat yourself, listen to this episode of the Happier podcast.

And if you want to hear Donna and Tom of Parks and Recreation talk about their annual Treat Yo’ Self day, watch the hilarious clip here.

What healthy treats are on your list?

Podcast 108: Use Your Shower as a “Happiness Booth,” Use Your Smart-Phone as a Magnifier, and a Question from the Movie “Before Sunrise.”

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

Update: Along with her writing partner Sarah Fain, Elizabeth is busy getting ready to launch her new podcast Happier in Hollywood. And by the way, if you love listening to podcasts, this is the month of “#Trypod,” when we’re all helping people discover new podcasts or help show them how to listen to podcasts. So encourage people to #Trypod.

Try This at Home: We got this idea from our listener Rebecca: Use your shower as a “happiness booth.”

If you want to hear our interview with Rosanne Cash in episode 22, and hear a clip from “When the Master Calls the Roll,” listen here.

Happiness Hack: You can use the camera on your smart-phone as a magnifying glass. Who knew?

Know Yourself Better: Inspired by the 1995 movie Before Sunrise, we discuss the question: Do you feel more like Celine, who feels like an old woman looking back on her life, or more like Jesse, who feels like a kid pretending to be a grown-up?

If you’re interested in this idea of “anticipatory nostalgia,” I talk about it at the conclusion of my book Happier at Home.

Here’s my one-minute video, The Years Are Short.

Listener Question: Our listener Cindy likes to go for a walk by herself during lunch, but now her boss wants to join her. How does she maintain her solo walk?

Demerit: Elizabeth has the habit of falling asleep when she’s putting Jack to bed at night, taking a nap, and then staying up for another few hours.

Gold Star: I give gold star to our mother and father related to signing up for exercise training sessions.

 

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here. Remember, it really helps us if you do rate or review the podcast — it helps other listeners discover us.

I do weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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,  including postage and a digital scale — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also check out StitchFix, an online personal styling service with real stylists who handpick clothing for you — your taste, your schedule, your lifestyle, your budget. Sign up at StitchFix.com.

And check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and free in-home or on-phone design consultations and free professional measuring.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #108

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 to the award-winning Happier 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!

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.

HAPPIER listening!