Tag Archives: memories

Do You Pull April Fool’s Day Pranks? I Pranked My Daughters–But Not for Long.

In The Happiness Project, I write about one of my favorite resolutions — to celebrate minor holidays — and Elizabeth and I have also talked about this a few times on the Happier podcast. I’ve been gratified to hear that many people also have fun celebrating these little, colorful-yet-not-much-work occasions. (I love it when people send me photos.)

Today is April Fool’s Day, and I played a trick on my daughters (my husband is traveling for work). It’s a Saturday, and they’ve been on spring break, so I went into their rooms at the time when I wake them up on school days, and went through the whole morning routine as if it were Monday morning.

For a few minutes, I managed to fool them in their grogginess, but pretty quickly they realized what I was up to.

Reflecting on my last few years of April Fool’s Day pranks, I’ve learned something about myself: I do better with a sight gag, like the time I dyed the milk in the carton bright green, and then poured it over my daughter’s cereal (see image), than I do when I’m misleading them. I’m a terrible liar and can’t fool them for long.

I love these kind of easy, fun traditions. They build happiness because they mark the passage of time in a special way, they’re memorable, they’re light-hearted, they contribute to a sense of group identity.

Do you play April Fool’s Day pranks? What are some good ones? I’m already collecting ideas for next year.

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 Happy Memory: the “Stripey House” of Kansas City.

Gosh, I don’t remember much of my life. I constantly work on keeping mementos and photographs, because it seems like other people are so much better at remembering the past than I am. And I love to remember the past.

And it’s funny what I remember — the weirdest, most random moments and thoughts.

Some memories stick in my mind from sheer repetition, and for some reason, while I was walking home from the subway today, I was hit by the memory of the beloved “Stripey House.”

In Kansas City, there’s a mall called Ward Parkway where we often use to go, and on the way home, we’d pass the “Stripey House.” We didn’t know anything about it — who lived there, why they’d decided to paint their house in pastel stripes like a pack of FruitStripe Gum.

And we loved it — my sister Elizabeth and I always looked for it, and called out “Stripey House!” as we passed by.

Remembering that funny house brought back happy memories, of all those car trips to the mall with my sister and mother (not my father; my father avoids the mall whenever possible).

I was just back at Ward Parkway at Christmastime, but alas, the Stripey House is not longer stripey.

When I was very young, I vowed that when I grew up, I would paint my house purple. Living in an apartment building has excused me from that vow so far — but one day, I hope that I’ll keep it — or maybe I’ll take it up a notch, and go for stripes.

Especially now that I’m obsessed with color, I’m enchanted by the idea of painting a house a really striking shade(s).

Do you have a funny memory like that, from childhood? Something that you always looked for, with delight?

7 Tips for Having a Happy Thanksgiving with Your Difficult Relatives.

In the United States, Thanksgiving is approaching.

For many people, Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday; for many people, Thanksgiving is a dreaded holiday. One factor that can make it tough is spending time with difficult relatives. Here are some strategies for keeping Thanksgiving dinner — or any holiday gathering, at any time of the year — pleasant:

1. Before you join the group, spend a few minutes thinking about how you want to behave. Don’t just react in the moment; consider how you want to act — in every way from how you’re going to talk to Uncle Bob to how much dessert you’re going to eat.  This is using the Strategy of Safeguards: plan ahead, anticipate challenges, think about what you want.

2. Remember that topics that seem innocuous to you might upset someone else. You may think you’re showing a polite interest, but some questions will rub a person the wrong way: “So do you have a boyfriend yet?” “When are you two going to get married/start a family?” “Didn’t you give up smoking?” “Can you afford that?” “When are you going to get a real job?” Show an interest with more open-ended questions, like “What are you up to these days?” or “What’s keeping you busy?” Also…

3. Avoid strife. Some families enjoy arguing passionately; however, most don’t handle arguments very well. If you know Uncle Bob’s views on the recent election are going to drive you crazy, don’t bring it up! And if he brings it up, you don’t have to engage. Try to make a joke of it, and say something like, “Let’s agree to disagree,” “Let’s not talk about that, and give the rest of the family something to be thankful for,” etc. There is absolutely a time and a place for political debate, but Thanksgiving may not be the best time for that.

4. Play your part in the tradition. For some people, traditions are very, very important; for others, no. You may feel irritated by your brother’s insistence on having exactly the same food every Thanksgiving, or by your mother’s extreme reaction to the possibility that you might not come home for the day. Try to be patient and play your part. In the long run, traditions and rituals tend to help sustain happiness and family bonds. On the other hand, if you’re the one who wants everything to be perfect, try to ease up on yourself and everyone else, so that you can enjoy the day, whatever happens.

5. Don’t drink much alcohol. It can seem festive and fun to fill up your glass, but it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re drinking. Alcohol makes some people feel merry, but it also makes some people feel combative, or self-pitying, or lowers their inhibitions in a destructive way. I basically had to give up drinking because alcohol makes me so belligerent.

6. Don’t stuff yourself. Research shows that in fact, most people add just one pound during the holidays – but then they never lose it. You’ll have more fun if you’re not feeling uncomfortably full and then guilty about having eaten too much. Think about strategies for staying in control of holiday eating; feeling bad about having eaten too much can make you feel irritable and angry, which spills over into your interactions with other people.

Note on #5 and #6 — on the other hand, if people tell you, “No more wine for me, thanks,” or “I’m going to skip dessert tonight,” don’t press them to partake. Don’t lead them into temptation, if they’re trying to eat or drink in a way that’s healthy for them. It can feel loving and festive to urge people to indulge, but they’ll be happier in the long run if they do what’s right for them.

7. Remember it’s THANKSGIVING. Be thankful that you get to cook, or that you don’t have to cook. Be thankful that you get to travel, or that you don’t have to travel. Be thankful for your family or your friends. Find something. Studies show that gratitude is a major happiness booster.

Wait, you might be thinking, these strategies don’t tell you how to deal with your difficult relatives — they tell you how to behave yourself. Well, guess what! You can’t do anything to change what your difficult relatives are going to do; you can only change yourself.

Also, in many situations, people behave a difficult way in reaction to something else. So you may think your niece flies off the handle without any reason, but she’s furious because she thinks you’re needling her about her appearance. If you behave differently, she will too.

Have you found any helpful strategies for dealing with a difficult holiday situation? What more would you add?

Why the Smell of a Hallway Taught Me Something Important about Myself.

Yesterday, I went to the Panoply offices to record an episode of the Happier podcast in the studio there.

As I walked down the hallway to the water fountain, I was suddenly struck by a “Proustian memory” — a flood of remembrance triggered by a smell or taste.

For some reason, this hallway smelled exactly like the hospital where I worked as a candy-striper in high school. I hadn’t thought of that experience in years, and suddenly it came flooding back to me. (Gosh, what a funny term, I realize, so 1950’s–I just looked up the definition, and a “candy-striper” is a teenage girl who does volunteer nursing in a hospital. Yep, that’s what I did.)

And the strongest aspect of this memory was a sense of tremendous discomfort and a longing for release. At the time, I wouldn’t have said that I intensely disliked being a candy-striper, but looking back, I understand that I did.

I was constantly worried that I’d make a dangerous mistake (I didn’t realize that they never asked me to do anything that actually mattered). I wasn’t interested in medicine. I didn’t learn anything.

That scent in the hallway brought back so many memories…the cafeteria where I ate my lunch, the look of the elevators, the noises of the machines, the feeling of dread, all of it.

And those memories made me think of the Four Tendencies — after all, everything reminds me of the Four Tendencies these days.

I’m an Upholder, and we Upholders find it pretty easy to get ourselves to do things, even things we don’t particularly want to do.

This is one of my favorite things about myself. It’s one of my greatest strengths.

And, I’ve learned, it’s also one of my greatest weaknesses.

Sometimes I’m too good at getting myself to do things that I don’t want to do.  Even though I don’t want to do them, I push myself, instead of thinking, “Hmmm, maybe this isn’t what I should be doing after all. Maybe I should do something else.”

That’s what I’ve seen, more and more clearly, with the Four Tendencies — and with all aspects of human nature. Our strengths are our weaknesses. Our gifts come with a shadow side. The more I can recognize that in myself, the better off I’ll be.

How about you? Do you find that your strengths are the same thing as your weaknesses?

I continue to be fascinated by the sense of smell. So often overlooked, so powerful.

Speaking of the Four Tendencies…

Don’t know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel? You can take the Quiz here. More than 500,000 people have taken the Quiz.

–Are you as interested in the Four Tendencies as I am? Want to learn about how to harness it to manage yourself better — and to manage other people better?

Check out my app, Better!

Go here or search “Better Gretchen Rubin” in the app store. Lots of info about the app here. And if you need accountability (Obligers!), you can join an Accountability Group within the app.

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