I Forgot to Take My Own Advice.

Yesterday was Halloween.

In The Happiness Project, I write about celebrating “holiday breakfasts” — when, for minor holidays, I make breakfast fun for my family by putting holiday decorations  on the table and using theme colors (I dye the peanut butter black, dye the milk green, etc.). I keep it simple, so it doesn’t become a stressful obligation.

In the most recent episode of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my sister Elizabeth and I talked about the fun of holiday breakfasts, and I described my Halloween traditions.

One of the main themes of my happiness project is memory. Time is passing so quickly; I worry that I won’t remember this time of life, what it’s like to have children this age. My shorthand for this worry is The days are long, but the years are short (of everything I’ve ever written, my one-minute video, The Years Are Short, is the thing that resonates most with people).

Celebrating minor holidays is one way to make time stand out. Because this day was unusual, it’s more memorable.

Another theme of my happiness project is light-heartedness. Instead of marching around checking things off my to-do list all the time, I want to take time for silliness, for fun, for adventures.

Holiday breakfasts are fun, make time special, and are manageable.

But here’s the thing. I know all this — and yet yesterday morning, I completely forgot to celebrate the holiday breakfast! That morning, I realized that it was Halloween, but it never once occurred to me to set up the decorations.

After all that discussion — I just forgot.

I realized by mid-day, when my daughters were already at school, so I set everything up later.  But I’m still kicking myself. Breakfast is more fun than dinner! Sheesh.

But oh well. When Valentine’s Day rolls around, I bet I won’t forget again. And I still took photos, and we got to enjoy the skeleton plates and pumpkin heads.

As you can see in the photo, our dog Barnaby was very intrigued by the holiday breakfast dinner decorations.

After the podcast episode, many people sent me photos of their holiday breakfasts, and I’ve loved seeing them (plus I’m planning to steal some of the ideas).

Do you celebrate holiday breakfasts? Or do you do something similar to make time special — in a manageable way?

Revealed! Three Book Club Choices for November. Happy Reading.

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!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.  Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

Essays by Michel de Montaigne

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An outstanding children’s book:

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


An eccentric pick:

D.V. by Diana Vreeland

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.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

A Little Happier: Preparation Is a Key Aspect of Performance.

Did you ever give any thought to how exams were distributed and collected? Or any other aspects of preparation for a task?

I’ve long been haunted by this line: “Be sure to read all instructions carefully; turn over your test papers and begin.” In fact, in my college application essay, that was the final line.

In writing Better Than Before, I spent a lot of time thinking about how beginnings and endings can influence our ability to shape our habits — the Strategy of the Clean Slate, the Strategy of First Steps, and the Strategy of Reward are two strategies where they show up.

Beginnings and endings matter a lot. I pay much more attention to them than I used to do.

Check out Yogi Tea. When it comes to enjoying life, little moments — like drinking a delicious cup of tea — can make a big difference.

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


Happier listening!

Do You Have a Memory That Stays with You? An Unimportant Moment You’ve Never Forgotten?

“Sometimes, very often, a moment all intact comes before my thoughts. It is an early evening in winter. The lamps are not yet lighted. My mother and two other women, finished with their tea, are sitting in the dusk beside the littered tea tray. I watch, and listen to them talk. Lights travel the river, travel the street; sometimes they brush more and softer lights across the ceiling. One of the women wears a sweeping hat. I see her as I saw her then: aquiline profile, dark eyebrow, earring made of pearls. Her hair is gray but she is young. Nobody can tell me her name, but how many hundred times, I wonder, for what reason I can never guess, have my thoughts returned that face to me, and with it the sight of the dim room, the lights brushing the ceiling, and the sound of women’s voices talking quietly because of the dusk. A moment lives again, and will again, and will forever, or at least as long as I do.”

–Elizabeth Enright, “The Walnut Shell, ” in Double fields: Memories and Stories

Do you have odd moments like this, that stick out in your memory for some reason, when other, far more important moments are forgotten?

I have several.

Side note: I’m so happy, because I love the children’s books written by Elizabeth Eright, but I only just discovered that she’s written a few books for adults, too. Enright was one of the very first names I added to my list of my 81 favorite works of children’s and young-adult literature. It took me a long time to decide which of her books was my very favorite.

Podcast 88: Celebrate holiday breakfasts, Keep a Medical Journal, and the Challenge of Handling Criticism.

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

Try This at Home: Celebrate a holiday breakfast. (Pictured is a photo of last year’s Halloween holiday breakfast.) I write more about this tradition in The Happiness Project.

Happiness Stumbling Blocks for the Four Tendencies. If you want to take a quiz for the Four Tendencies, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

If you want to know when my new book The Four Tendencies hits the shelves, sign up here.

Happiness Hack: Buy a journal for each member of your household (including pets) in which to keep medical notes.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Helle pointed to the stumbling block of handling criticism — even constructive criticism.

Listener Question: Julia asks, “I lose my sense of smell when I eat dairy, but I rebel against this dietary restriction.” You can read more about the Abstainer/Moderator distinction, here’s a post.

Gretchen’s Demerit: If you want to listen to Eliza’s podcast, it’s Eliza Starting at 16.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth give s a gold star to her writing partner Sarah, who, after she discovered that she shouldn’t eat gluten for health reasons, has been able to give it up.

If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, check the schedule. 

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #88

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