3 Things My Puppy Taught Me About Happiness.

Tomorrow is our puppy Barnaby’s first birthday! But tomorrow we’ll be driving my daughter to summer camp in Maine, so we’re celebrating today.

(Quick question: When is a puppy no longer a “puppy?” When he’s a year old?)

As I wrote about here, and talked about on the podcast in episodes 24 and 27, I really debated about whether to get a dog. My daughters desperately wanted a dog, my husband was game, but I wasn’t sure.

In the end, I decided to follow my own advice, and to “Choose the bigger life.”

And I’m so happy I did! Barnaby makes us very happy.

I’ve thought about three things, in particular, that Barnaby taught me — or more accurately, highlighted the truth of — since he joined our family.

1. Give warm greetings and farewells.

In my book Happier at Home, I talk about why I resolved to give people in my family a warm hello and good-bye, every time they came and went from our apartment. I was surprised by how much this small change boosted our sense of love and attentiveness. But if I ever forget the wisdom of this effort, boy, Barnaby reminds me. Dogs are so happy to see you when you come through the door! Barnaby jumps to his feet, he wriggles, his tail wags. And it’s so, so nice. It really makes a difference when you feel like someone or some dog is truly happy to see you.

2. Go outside.

Since Barnaby arrived, I’ve spent a lot more time outside. And I love it: experiencing the weather, observing the patterns of my neighborhood, watching the days grow longer and shorter. I feel more connected to the natural world and to my environment. Now, I’ve known for a long time that going outside boosts happiness, but that knowledge didn’t make me go outside more often. But Barnaby needs to go outside! So we go. Interesting fact:  dog owners tend to get more exercise, and to enjoy it more, than people who go to the gym.

3. Shake it off.

Taylor Swift sings about this, and Barnaby actually does it. At first, I wondered why he kept shaking as though he was trying to get water out of his fur, when he was dry, but I learned that this is a stress reaction in dogs — when they’re anxious about something, they literally shake it off. Perhaps weirdly, I’ve tried this myself. When I feel a rush of stress about something, I do some jumping jacks. It really works.

shakeitoff

If you have a pet, what has your pet taught you about happiness?

Podcast 70: Very Special Episode–What’s the Best Advice You Ever Got?

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

This is episode 70, and every tenth episode is a Very Special Episode. This episode is all about advice! Our listeners sent in so much great advice that they’d received.

HenryRecordingLibraryUpdate: This is our last episode with our beloved producer Henry Molofsky, who’s taking a new, exciting job — news that’s both happy and sad. We’re excited for him, but we’ll miss him. We’re looking forward to working with Kristen Meinzer.

Try This at Home: On the advice theme — remember to ask for advice. People can really be helpful.

Advice: So much great advice! Our listeners passed along terrific advice about work, relationships, and life.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I keep forgetting to do my #GretchenRubinReads Facebook post on Sunday night. I love doing this, to show the books that I finished that week, but I often forget to do it.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth had a great time at Medieval Times.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #70

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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.

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Darn It! I Missed the Longest Day of the Year. Again.

I love koans, paradoxes, teaching stories...and short passages from novels that seem to have a meaning just outside my understanding. I love collecting these.

One of my favorites is from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. When  Nick meets Daisy for the first time, she tells him, “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.”

Ever since I first read The Great Gatsby in high school, I’ve been haunted by that line. And I always watch for the longest day of the year — and I usually miss it!

But this year, I was determined to remember and notice this day. Somehow, I got it in my head that June 21 is the longest day of the year in my part of the world. Well, today is June 21, but when I just went to go double-check, the New York Times informed me that sometimes, in these parts, June 20 is the longest day of the year.  And in 2016, it was June 20.

So I watched for the longest day of the year, and then missed it! Yet again.

Also, following the American folk superstition, I try to remember to say “Rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of every month, for luck. This would be easy, except that to get the luck, you have to say “Rabbit, rabbit” before you say any other words. And that’s tough.

I like practice likes this, because they help me notice time as it passes. I’m so absent-minded; I tend to walk around in a fog unless I do things that connect me to the seasons, the passage of time, the weather, what’s actually happening around me. Like noticing the longest day of the year!

BarnabyWalkingonLeashI will say that having a dog has helped me tune in to the natural world. I take Barnaby out for his first walk at about 6:00 a.m., and I very much notice the longer days of summer. In the winter, it was full-on dark when we went for our walk, and it has grown lighter and lighter, and this morning it was bright day. Because it’s the second-longest day of the year…yup.

Other quotations that haunt me:

From Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas: “I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.”

When I was writing The Happiness Project, I was obsessed with a Spanish proverb quoted by Samuel Johnson in James Boswell’s Life of Johnson: “He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.” 

And also this line from G. K. Chesterton:  “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

Now, maybe I’ll watch for shortest day of the year.  Which, I just learned, is December 21.

Do you wait for the longest day of the year? Or say “Rabbit, rabbit,” or any other practice like that?

A Little Happier: A Lucky Charm That Works Even If You Don’t Believe In It.

Back in episode 59 of our podcast, Elizabeth and I talked about the value of giving yourself a lucky charm.

Relying on lucky charms is superstitious, but in fact, it actually works. Researchers have found that people who believe they have luck on their side feel greater “self-efficacy”—the belief that we’re capable of doing what we set out to do—and this belief actually boosts mental and physical performance. Many elite athletes, for instance, are deeply superstitious, and in one study, people who were told that a golf ball “has turned out to be a lucky ball” did  better putting than people who weren’t told that.

Any discussion of superstition reminds me of this perhaps-apocryphal story, about physicist Niels Bohr. I love this story!

Most of us aren’t superstitious—but most of us are a littlestitious.

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Check Out These Examples of the Four Tendencies in Movies, TV Shows, & Books. Send More Examples!

Yes, I continue to be obsessed with the Four Tendencies framework I created.

Just last night, at a dinner party, I expounded on my theory to both dinner partners, separately (one Upholder, one Questioner). Am I becoming a bore? Perhaps.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can find out here whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

One of my favorite things has been to gather mottoes for the Four Tendencies. So many hilarious, brilliant ones! (If you want a mug with your Tendency and its motto, you can buy one here.)

Now I’m collecting movies, novels, and TV shows that illustrate the Four Tendencies. And I need your help. I have many examples, but I want more. Please send your suggestions — especially for Rebel. I’m surprised that I don’t have lots of fictional examples of Rebels, but so far, I don’t.

Upholder:

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling — Hermione is a textbook Upholder. She constantly (and annoyingly) reminds Harry and Ron about the regulations and laws of the magical world, she never falls behind on her homework, and she becomes very anxious when anyone breaks a law or even a school rule. Nevertheless, when she becomes convinced that official expectations are unjust, she crusades against them, even in the face of others’ indifference or outright disapproval, as she did in her campaign to improve the poor treatment of house-elves. In her final year at Hogwarts, she quits school and opposes the Ministry of Magic in order to fight the evil Voldemort.

The Bridge on the River Kwai — The character of Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guiness) is a magnificent portrait of an Upholder, with all the strengths and terrible weaknesses that accompany the Tendency.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer — A thoughtful reader wrote to me to say that she thought Buffy from the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an Upholder— but shockingly, I’ve never watched that show, so I don’t have a view myself. What do you think? Is Buffy an obvious Upholder?

Game of Thrones series — When Lord Stannis Baratheon and his men were besieged during war, they were saved when infamous smuggler Davos Seaworth brought supplies through the blockade. After the war, Stannis knighted Davos for his act—but he didn’t forgive Davos’s earlier crimes; he enforced the law by chopping off the tips of the fingers on the outlaw’s left hand. Later, when his older brother King Robert Baratheon dies, Stannis believes the crown should pass to him, as the next-oldest male in line. So he fights to assume his rightful place, and sacrifices everything he values along the way—even though he doesn’t even seem to want to be king. (I’m going by the TV show here; I haven’t read the books in a while.)

Questioner:

Parks and RecreationRon Swanson (Rick Offerman) is an outstanding example of a Questioner. He willingly upholds rules and expectations that he thinks makes sense—such as gun licensing laws—but ignores rules that seem unjustified—such as the building codes for his woodworking shop.

The X-Files — I haven’t watched the series in a long time, but I think I’m correct in remembering that Mulder and Scully are both Questioners, right?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre is a Questioner. In fact, on the very first page of the book, Jane’s hateful aunt Mrs. Reed literally calls her “Questioner” to explain why she finds Jane annoying: “Jane, I don’t like cavillers or questioners.” (I had to look up “caviller”; it means “one who quibbles.”)

Obliger:

It’s a Wonderful Life George Bailey (James Stewart) is an Obliger who, at every juncture, meets outer expectations but not  inner expectations. The movie shows both the risks and the rewards of the Obliger path.  Note that when George finally drops into Obliger-rebellion, it’s aimed at himself, as so often happens with Obliger-rebellion. It makes me sad to reflect that most Obligers don’t have a Clarence to help them.

Before Midnight — Céline (Julie Delpy) expresses Obliger frustration and is shown progressing into full Obliger-rebellion.

27 Dresses — Obliger Jane (Katherine Heigl) satisfies everyone’s expectations, until her deceitful sister Tess pushes her too hard, and she rebels with a dramatic, destructive, ugly gesture (spoiler alert: it involves a wedding slide show). When her best friend Casey questions her actions, Jane defends herself, saying, “You’re the one who is always telling me to stand up for myself!” Casey answers, “Yeah. But that’s not what you did. What you did was unleash twenty years of repressed feelings in one night.” Yup. That’s Obliger-rebellion.

Rebel:

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen — Lady Bertram is a thorough Rebel; she’s also a good example of how Rebels may appear proper and conventional — until closer consideration reveals that they do only what they want to do.

Do you have any examples to add? Do you disagree with any of my categorizations?

It’s funny to me that I, as an Upholder, have lots of examples of Upholders, and the fewest examples of the Rebel Tendency, which is the opposite of the Upholder Tendency. I’m sure there’s a lesson in that. So suggest more examples!