Tag Archives: leisure

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?

“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?

Podcast 101: Do Something for Your Future Self, How Flying Wish Paper Eases Heartache, and “Integrator” or “Compartmentalizer?”

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

We’re having so much fun with our Instagram project. Join in, post photos of whatever makes you…happier! Use the hashtag #Happier2017 and tag us — I’m @gretchenrubin and @lizcraft.

As we discuss, 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.

Try This at Home: We got this suggestion from our listener Nikki: Do something for your future self.

Here’s the post where Nikki got the idea: “Do something kind for future you” on Wil Wheaton’s blog.

If you’re an Obliger, what accountability strategies work for you? There’s a wide range of strategies that work for different Obligers.

Happiness Hack: In episode 97, we talked about the challenge of dealing with the pain and anger of a break up.

Our listener Donna had a great approach, by creating a ritual using flying wish paper:

I was sad, angry and regretful.  I knew the break-up needed to happen, but was having a hard time processing the emotions that came after.  I purchased some flying wish paper and I wrote out all of the things I wanted to release about the situation – using one piece of paper for each thing.  I then took the paper, matches and a glass of wine outside to my patio, put on some nice music and lit the papers one at a time.  As the papers burned down, they lifted off into the air.  It felt like a tribute instead of a catharsis.  I was acknowledging that these feelings had been a part of my life, but were no longer serving me and so I was letting them go.

If you’re curious about flying wish paper, you can check it out here — it comes in all sorts of colors and patterns. (in our family, we use flying wish paper to makes wishes for the new year, and I’ve also used it as a fun activity at a birthday party.)

Know Yourself Better: Are you an “integrator” or a “compartmentalizer?” Kathleen wrote:

I’ve noticed in the workplace that folks tend to fall into one category or the other when it comes to how they deal with the crossover between work and life.  For example, some people seem perfectly happy to answer emails on the weekends, to work on projects late at night, etc., all while they integrate fun into the day (social lunches, coffee breaks, extended online shopping or social media sessions).  I think of these folks as integrators — folks who, seemingly quite willingly, blend work and life together.  They don’t seem to mind switching between the two.

 

Some of us, on the other hand, are compartmentalizers.  I fall squarely into this camp. Work is work, life is life, and I strive to keep the two separate in terms of time allocation.  I can’t enjoy a coffee break or a relaxed dinner when I know there’s a big project waiting for me to return (as intellectually engaging as that project may be), so I’d rather plow through the work first, then get to the fun as a reward.  I cut the fat from the workday, with the aim of making weekends and evenings — as much as humanly possible — work-free.  (I’m a lawyer at a big firm, so it’s often not possible, but it’s a goal worth chasing!)  I also seem to be one of the few professionals I know who won’t put her work email on her personal iPhone, instead preferring to keep the old firm-issued Blackberry as a second, separate device.

 

On the whole, the compartmentalizer approach makes me happier, because it means personal time is truly distinct and enjoyable, and the jarring transitions between life and work are minimized.  But I get that others work better when the boundaries between work and life are more fluid.

Listener Question: Whitney asks, “I have a  hang-up with the idea of a one-sentence journal. I feel like it would be stressful to try to distill my day into one sentence! Any tips for how to do that?”

Demerit: Years ago, I started a terrific system for keeping my daughters’ mementos in  a highly organized file box (I used this one), but I didn’t maintain it. Now I need to go back and get everything organized.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the enthusiastic, friendly, energetic crossing-guard in her neighborhood.

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.

Remember,  I’m doing 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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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #101

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A Little Happier: During the Busy Holidays, Create Time for Quiet and Rest.

During the busy holiday season, when we’re spending a lot of time with family and friends, it can be particularly important to find ways to get some restorative silence and calm.

Have you learned any great hacks for getting some quiet over the holidays?

Check out LOFT.com — it’s a great go-to spot to pull together modern,  feminine outfits for all your holiday adventures.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Happier listening!

“I Try to Make a Regular Custom of Listening to Music for 20-30 Minutes Without Any Other Distractions.”

Interview: Steven Johnson.

Steven Johnson has written many fascinating books, such as How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World. (which is also a PBS series). I absolutely love the title (and argument) of his book Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter.

His most recent book just hit the shelves: Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World, for which there’s also a podcast. Wonderland is all about how playful aspects of life — like fashion, shopping, music, illusion, games, taverns, parks — have had a big impact on our history.

I was eager to hear what Steven Johnson had to say about habits and happiness.

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

Steven: I think the most interesting finding is really closely connected to what you’ve tried to wrestle with in The Happiness Project — that we are surprisingly creative and innovative when we’re having fun, when we’re in a playful state. There are probably a hundred different stories in Wonderland that showcase how an idea that came into the world originally in the form of a toy or a game or a new fashion ended up laying the groundwork for a “serious” revolution in science or technology or politics. The best example of that is the industrial revolution. When we were kids, we’d read accounts of why industrialization happened, and it would always be about these brilliant engineers and early capitalists building steam engines and designing the factory system. But if you go back and look at the sequence, what really started the whole process was the moment of delight that Londoners experienced (mostly women) encountering the soft, beautiful fabrics of calico and chintz for the first time. That obsession with imported cotton ended up triggering a huge backlash because it threatened the existing wool industry in Britain at the time, but eventually it lead to the inventions of the industrial age. You see that again and again in history: interests and passions that start out just as seemingly idle pursuits end up changing the course of history.

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

Working on a book every day. Or even better, working on two books every day. I like to have one active book that I’m focused on writing, and then another one that’s in the background, that I know I am going to write eventually, that I’m researching and thinking about in the gaps between working on the main project. I try to write 500 words a day when I’m actively writing a book, which is really not very many words — it’s like three paragraphs. You can write them in an hour or two if you’re well prepared. So I rarely have that feeling of sitting down at the computer in the morning and thinking, oh my god, I have so much writing to do. But I’m pretty rigorous about hitting that target. And if you write 500 words a day for 4-5 months, you’ll have a book. Or at least enough words for a book.

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

One of my rituals that is very important to me — that I have preserved from my teenage years — is that I try to make a regular custom of sitting and listening to music for twenty or thirty minutes without any other distractions. Not background music as I work, music that I am listening to without any distraction, no screens, no other people in the room with me. The only distraction, I suppose, is that I usually have a glass or two of wine while I do it. It is very soothing as an experience, even if the music is not, but it’s also a very creative time for me: my mind wanders over different ideas, digests the day’s work. I sometimes get a comparable experience going out for a long walk in Brooklyn, or a hike in California — sometimes with headphones on, sometimes without a soundtrack. Just giving yourself that continuous time to let your mind wander, with some kind of sensory accompaniment — either the scenery or the sonic landscape, or both — is incredibly valuable, I think.

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

My wife and I have a wonderful shared quality in that we both are entirely happy to stay home every single night of the week. We have no compulsion to be social and always have something on the calendar. When we are out in California we often have stretches of 10-15 days with literally zero social events on the calendar — no dinner parties, no drinks, no lunches. And it’s always a terrifically productive time for us. When we are in NY the calendar fills up a lot more easily, but I’ve gotten very good at just saying no to things because I know that if I have a week with a ton of meetings and evening events, I’m not going to be happy. And it has a nice positive effect when we actually do go out: we’re both like, “oh it’s so fun to hang out with friends! we should do this more often!”

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

I was always a very habitual person, with very fixed tastes and attitudes about things — though not a particularly organized person, I should say. I would drink a certain kind of coffee, and only eat certain dishes, and could only write in certain environments. For like fifteen years, the only kind of alcohol I would drink was low-sugar red wines. But one of the strange things that happened to me becoming a middle-aged person (I’m 48) is that I started shaking things up. I’m still very habitual; I just keep changing my habits. We moved to California full-time for three years about six years ago for no other reason than it would be change of pace. I started drinking white wine almost exclusively like two years ago. I suddenly decided I like spicy food about six years ago. It’s a good antidote to getting old, I suppose: don’t let yourself get settled in your ways. Invent new ways!