Tag Archives: happiness

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

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #108

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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!

“My Highest Ambition Is To Be What I Already Am.”

“Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself–and if I accept myself fully in the right way I will already have surpassed myself.

–Thomas Merton, Journal, October 2, 1958

I love this quotation so much that the first line of this passage is the epigraph for my forthcoming book The Four Tendencies. (Choosing the epigraph is probably my favorite part of writing a book. How I love quotations!)

I’ve spent a lot of time studying Merton, because as a Trappist monk and definite Rebel, he was a fascinating case study. He kept voluminous journals, as well as writing essays and memoirs, so it was possible for me to have true insight into his thinking.

When I first started studying the Four Tendencies, I was puzzled by the not-infrequent pattern of Rebels being attracted to areas of high regulation, like the clergy, the military, and big corporations. Now it makes sense to me. It’s a whole section in my book.

If you’re intrigued by the book The Four Tendencies, you can pre-order it here (pre-orders really help me, so if you’re inclined to buy the book, I very much appreciate a pre-order).

If you don’t know which of the Four Tendencies describes you — whether you’re an  Upholder (like me), Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel (like Merton), you can take the quiz here.

I also love the way writer Flannery O’Connor put it: “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”

These quotations remind me of one of the paradoxes of my happiness project: I want to accept myself, but also expect more from myself.

This tension between “accepting myself’ and “surpassing myself” — how we must accept ourselves in order to surpass ourselves — is something I think about often. What is self-acceptance, really? Or self-knowledge? A mystery.

How do you think about self-acceptance and self-knowledge?

“How Does One Bring One’s Mind and Body Back Together? The Best Means Is ___”

In The Awakened Eye, Ross Parmenter writes, “How does one bring one’s mind and body back together? The best means is a vacation.”

Hmmmm…I think there are many ways a person could answer the question, “How does one bring one’s mind and body back together?”

I think some people would say “Meditation.” As I write about in Better Than Before, meditation wasn’t helpful for me, but many people do find it useful.

For me, I’ve found, I can bring my body and mind together by mindfully enjoying the experience of my body. Which is delightful.

For instance, I take a moment to enjoy my sense of smell. We can enjoy beautiful scents without any time, energy, or money; a scent ties us to the present moment, because we can’t bookmark it, or save it for later, or even continue to experience it for very long. In my book Happier at Home, I write about the power of the sense of smell, and all I did to try to get more good smells into my life (and also get rid of bad smells, very helpful!)

I also deliberately notice the colors around me. I’ve become obsessed with color. So many beautiful colors, so many fascinating aspects of seeing color.

Do you agree that a vacation is a good way to bring your mind and body back together?

How would you fill in the blank?