Tag Archives: spirituality

Revealed! Book Club Choices for November. Excellent Reading.

First, a moment of self-book-promotion — feel free to skip.

I’m excited, because the Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal just hit the shelves. Part resource, part tool, part keepsake — it will help you change your habits. To watch a short video where I show the book and describe its design, go here.

Now, for the recommendations! Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library! Drumroll…


A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature

Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton (a journal)

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An outstanding children’s book:

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I was astonished to realize that I haven’t yet recommended this book, one of my all-time favorites. Also the inspiration for some of the best writing I’ve ever done in my life, on the last page of Happier at Home.)

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An eccentric pick:

Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind : The Life and Letters of an Irish Zen Saint by Maura O’Halloran

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

And please, send me your recommendations! Recently a reader told me about a a Noel Streatfield book that I’d somehow missed, and another reader gave me many science-fiction entries for my library list. I love getting suggestions.

Podcast 16: Imitate a Spiritual Master, Try the Strategy of Monitoring, and Acknowledge the Pink Eye.

It’s Wednesday — which means it’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Did I mention that according to BuzzFeed, the podcast is life-changing? Oh right, maybe I did. Anyway, check out 10 Life-Changing Things to Try in June.

Coming up: To celebrate our 20th episode, we’re going to do an episode that features our listeners. So call, email, post your response by June 24, 2015, to one of these questions:

— if you could change one aspect of a relationship, what would you change? Huge, trivial, any relationship.

— what happiness demerit would you give yourself? what gold star would you bestow?

Thanks so much to the folks who have already sent in comments. Fascinating.

henrymolofskyExciting big reveal: Listeners, “Henry Molofsky” is no longer just a name that we list in the credits at the end of the show. Our producer/captive audience Henry steps up to the microphone to share what he’s tried at home, and what works for him.

Try This at HomeImitate a spiritual master. My spiritual master is St. Therese of Lisieux, and her spiritual memoir (if you’re curious) is Story of a Soul. I was surprised to hear the person that Elizabeth picked as her spiritual master! Hint: that person’s autobiography is called Audition. (Sorry, I promised to post a photo of my shrine to St. Therese, but I’m in Australia now, and I forgot to take the picture before I left town.)

Better Than Before Habit Strategy: We discuss the power of the Strategy of Monitoring. Elizabeth explains why this strategy is particularly helpful to her as a type 1 diabetic.

Listener Question: “How do you remain happy through a transition?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: I ignored my pink eye.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s friend Mindy Wilson gets a gold star for giving Elizabeth a cookbook – with the knowledge that Elizabeth is an Obliger, and is much more likely to cook if she knows Mindy (and we) are expecting it.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Check out Smith and Noble, a solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and a free in-home consultation. Limited time.

And Framebridge.com — a terrific way to get your art and photos framed, in a super easy and affordable way. Use the code HAPPIER at checkout to get 20% off your first Framebridge order.

We’d love to hear from you — who is your spiritual master, and how do you imitate that person? Comment here, or even better, post a photo of it on Facebook! Also let us know your questions and any other comments, especially for the Very Special Episode.

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: (774 HAPPY 336).  Facebook Page.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click here to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

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!

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. Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you want 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.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. 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.)

HAPPIER listening!

“Instead of Feeling That I’m Never Going to Finish…I Can See Large Chunks Getting Done.”

I’m writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we make and break habits– an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here.

To hear when Better Than Before goes on sale, sign up here.

This week’s story comes from Nyssa Hattaway.

I am a devout member of my church.  All of my life I have been taught to develop the habits of church attendance, tithing, daily prayer and daily Scripture study.  I have easily been able to practice all of them except the Scripture study.  I am an avid reader, but for some reason I just hadn’t found my groove on this one. 

My cohorts had given lots of advice informally and from the pulpit.  Read a chapter a day.  Just read a verse a day.  Study by topic not chronologically.  Set a time for 10 minutes and read what you can in that time, and so forth.  You can imagine in my 20+ years of adulthood how many unsuccessful starts and stops I have had, and you can probably guess the guilt that accompanies it.

Somewhere along the way, someone gave me booklet with a 40 day reading plan.  Assignments are made daily and by the end of the 40 days, the entire volume of Scripture is complete.  I decided to try it.  Instead of just giving a little, this program requires 5-6 chapters daily, somewhere between 45-60 minutes of reading.  Instead of feeling that I’m never going to finish and that I’m slowing plowing through the book, I can see large chunks of it getting done.  I am already half way through the volume!  I never thought that by committing to MORE I would have more success, but it demands planning, time and commitment, and that is where I was falling short in previous attempts.  I think this strategy could be applied to many habits and wondered if you have encountered it?  I will continue to study the Scriptures in this way even after the 40 days as I finally have a habit that works for me.

This example illustrates one of the most important things I’ve learned about habits — actually, the most important thing I’ve learned. The secret to good habits is to know what works for you.

Using the Strategy of Distinctions allows us to figure out how we’re different from other people, how we might tackle habits in a way that suits our particular idiosyncrasies. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: we’re more like other people, and less like other people, than we suppose.

One distinction is: Do you prefer to aim big or aim small?

Some people have better success changing a habit when they start small. A series of small but real accomplishments gives them the energy and confidence to continue. For instance, a person who wants to write a novel might resolve to write one sentence each day. Or a person who wants to start running might resolve to run for one minute.

This approach is often emphasized as the best way to form a habit. But in fact, as the example above illustrates, some people do better when they’re more ambitious.

Sometimes, counter-intuitively, it’s easier to make a major change than a minor change. When a habit is changing very gradually, we may lose interest, give way under stress, or dismiss the change as insignificant. A big transformation creates excitement and energy and a sense of progress, and that helps to create a habit.

As Steve Jobs reflected, “I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why.

How about you? Do you do better with small changes or big changes?


Secret of Adulthood: Sometimes, Material Desires Have a Spiritual Aspect.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:


Agree, disagree?

This reminds me of another Secret of Adulthood: Sometimes, you can minister to your spirit through your body.

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Questions for You: What Habits Most Affect Your Spiritual Life and Work Life?

Have I mentioned that I’m writing a book about how we make and break habits? Oh right, I think I have. Before and After will hit the shelves in 2015 (sign up here to be notified when it’s available).

Most of us — well, perhaps not the Rebels — have habits that we’d like to add or drop, and I’d like to ask you readers:

1. What habits would you like to make or break that affect your spiritual life? Maybe you’d like to read holy books for thirty minutes every morning; or meditate; or observe the Sabbath; or give up alcohol; or fast or abstain during Lent, Yom Kippur, or Ramadan; or attend services regularly.

Also, how do other people’s habits affect your spiritual life–for good or for ill? We’re very influenced by other people’s habits; for instance, if one family member begins attending services, others are more likely to go. Has someone’s spiritual habit rubbed off on you?

Do you have any habits that interfere with your spiritual life? Any habits that consistently make it hard to have the spiritual life you want?

2. What habits would you like to make or break that affect your work life? Maybe you’d like to file expense reports every day, or do a better job tracking billable hours, or talk more to your co-workers, or stay on top of your emails, or stop putting off work until the last minute. Or maybe you’d like to do a better job of maintaining certain general habits while you’re at work. For most people, habits such as exercise or eating healthfully are issues for work life as well as for private life. My sister the sage is much stricter about her eating habits at work than she is at home, because work contains so many more crazy temptations (you wouldn’t believe what was in the office kitchen!), and she spends so much time at work, she figures that if her work-eating habits are very good, her home-eating habits can be looser.

How do other people’s habits affect your work life–for good or for ill?  Has someone’s habit at work rubbed off on you? Someone started going to the weekly programming seminar, so you started going, too. Or a co-worker is constantly behind, so you’re persistently behind in your own work, because you have to help him finish. (Speaking of my sister the sage, one of my favorite words of wisdom from her is “Your lack of planning is not my emergency.” But that can be hard to enforce, in practice.)

People’s habits can cause conflict, when they’re incompatible. For instance, Marathoners like to work steadily, well in advance, while Sprinters like to put in a burst of work at the end. Both strategies are effective, but it can be hard when teams include people of different styles. And Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers have very different work habits.

Do you have any habits that interfere with your work life? Any habits that consistently make it hard to have the work life you want? You stay up late watching TV, so you oversleep and are consistently late for work.You check your emails while you’re spending time with your kids.

I’m very curious to see people’s answers. Feel free to take a very loose view of the definition of a “habit.” I do! Anything that you’re “in the habit of” doing.

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