Zoikes, We Got a Dog! Welcome, Barnaby.

Big news! My family got a dog today.

Listeners of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast heard me discuss my inner debate with my sister Elizabeth, about whether or not to get a dog. (Listen here.)

And then I talked about why I decided — yes, let’s get a dog! (Listen here.) In the end, as I tell Elizabeth on the podcast, I decided to “choose the bigger life” — a question I always find helpful when I’m having trouble making a tough decision.

We went to pick him up to day. He’s an eleven-week-old cockapoo. So sweet and lovely.  My daughters chose the name Barnaby.

We’re excited, and truthfully — well, it’s probably more true for me than for the rest of family — a little overwhelmed by the new responsibilities and the learning curve. Wish me luck!

And I’m racing through dog books. Whenever  I need to learn or even experience something, I want to read about it. Any suggestions, please send my way.

I asked for podcast listeners for dog advice, and got so many great insights and suggestions.

Many people encouraged us to get a rescue dog. I have so much admiration for people who do that, and I have several friends who have adopted wonderful rescue dogs.

In fact, for great memoirs on the subject, read my friend Julie Klam’s You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness and  Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself.

But I know myself and my family. For us to get a dog, we needed to know a lot about what to expect.

Also, many listeners suggested getting a dog who had outgrown puppy-hood. While I was out of town, my husband and two daughters went to visit some dogs, and fell in love with this puppy. So — eleven weeks old, it is.

I’ll report periodically on how having a dog has affected our happiness and habits. I predict that for a little dog, Barnaby will make a big splash.

Onward and upward! Advice, suggestions, and reading recommendations welcome!

Podcast 28: Don’t Interview for Pain, Face the Challenge of Shared Work, and Whether to Keep Ice Cream in the Freezer.

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

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 to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin: Episode 28

Update: Elizabeth is an Obliger, and we’re holding her accountable for writing her novel — she explains why, in fact, she has not yet started.

Try This at Home:  Don’t interview for pain.

I’m quoting from Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill Grace’s terrific Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. I love this book.

Here’s the passage I read:

I believe that we live the story we tell ourselves–and others–about the life we’re leading…If you constantly interview your child for pain, your child may begin to hear a story of social suffering emerge from her own mouth. Soon she will begin to believe it and will see herself as a victim….


Please understand that I am not advising you to disbelieve our children, nor am I saying that you should not be empathic…But…don’t interview for pain, don’t nurture resentments, and don’t hold on to ancient history. Kids don’t.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Navigating the challenges of shared work.  This is a very common stumbling block!

Listener Questioner: “My husband loves to have ice cream in the freezer, but I find myself in the kitchen with a spoon at 10:00 a.m. because I just cannot get the ice cream out of my head.” To hear the Abstainer vs. Moderator discussion, it’s in episode 2.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth was so stressed about her family being on time for the first day of kindergarten that they showed up too early.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I love my special drawer. Can you think of a better name? Special drawer is a little…generic.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out  The Great Courses for a wide variety of fascinating courses taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: go to thegreatcourses.com/happier to order from eight of their bestselling courses, including The Science of Mindfulness, and get up to 80% off. Limited time.

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We love hearing from listeners

Tell us — have you ever found yourself interviewing for pain?  In what circumstances? Also, please send dog advice and dog reading suggestions!

There’s lots of ways to share your responses:


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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.  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.

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!

HAPPIER listening!

Revealed! Book Club Choices for September 2015. Such Good Books.

Pardon this moment of book self-promotion: For many people — at least in this part of the world — September marks a time of new beginnings. In my book, Happier at Home, I write about how I did a project from September through May, to make my home a happier place. If you, too, feel like September is the other January, you might like the book. What a joy it was to write! Learn more about the book here.

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 visit the library! Drumroll…

The Diary of Anne Frank

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell — Note: This book is definitely young-adult, not for children.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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 recommendatioms…what did you think?

Agree, Disagree? September is the Other January. Time for a New Start.

Even though I haven’t been in school for a long time, for me, September  marks the beginning of a new year.  Orange is the new black, breakfast is the new lunch, Monday is the new Thursday, pork is the other white meat, and September is the other January. (And yes, it’s still September, even though most schools start in August nowadays — and of course, this is true only in certain parts of the world.)

January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time, but here in the United States, for me, September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.

Because of the new year feeling of September, when I wanted to do a a happier-at-home project, I decided to start it in September.

So many of the elements of a happy life come together in the idea of home: marriage and parenthood, in my case, though certainly not in everyone’s case; time; possessions; body; neighborhood; and, perhaps most enigmatically, the idea of now. I wanted to set aside a time to focus on the aspects of my life, to try to be as happy as I could be.

If you’re thinking about doing a happiness project yourself, or you want to work on your habits, now is always the best time to start–but if you do like to pick a particularly auspicious time, September is a good one. Think about it! From September to May, in one school year, you could take some steps to boost your happiness.

Blatant self-promotion: if you’d like to read something to get inspired to do a happiness project focused on your experience of home, try…Happier at Home. What a joy it was to write this book!

One of my specialties as a writer is writing endings, and my best endings are the end to Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, the end of my college application essay, and the end to Happier at Home. I have to say, I love the ending to this book.

“But Gretchen,” you’re thinking, “is there any way for me to learn more about the book?” Well yes there is! You can…

– read a sample chapter on the subject of “time”

– watch the one-minute book trailer, “Ten ways to be happier at home” (Can you guess which suggestion has caused some controversy?)

– request the one-page book club discussion guide

– request the Behind-the-Scenes extra (I had a great time writing this)

Summer is over,  and the fall brings fresh beginnings and new possibilities. Now is now.

This feeling of beginning is a good time to start new habits; we can take advantage of the Strategies of the Clean Slate and First Steps to tackle our habits. In Better Than Before, my book about habit-formation, these two strategies are in the section on “The Best Time To Begin.”

Do you feel inspired to turn over a new leaf in September? Or is this just me? (For readers in other zones, please substitute your beginning-of-school-year time. The same principle applies.)

Do You Do Your Best Thinking in the Bathtub?

Interview: Elisabeth Egan.

I got to know Liz Egan because so many people told me, “You’ve got to meet Liz Egan! ” We knew so many people in common that finally we just had lunch — which was a ton of fun.  She’s the books editor at Glamour and has written for numerous publications, and we have writerly friends in common.

Now she’s also a novelist.  A Window Opens is funny and perceptive novel about a woman who makes a big career change and has to manage that — as well as her family.  Think Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I was interested to hear what she had to say about happiness, habits, and productivity.

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

Liz: I take a bath every night. I get my best thinking done in the tub, and most of my books have wavy pages from getting dripped on by our leaky shower-head. I don’t have any fancy bathing rituals—I use strawberry Suave in lieu of real bubbles. But closing the door and sitting in one place for a half hour is ritual enough. My kids are constantly shouting questions at me over the sound of the water: More ice cream? New sneakers? Permission to watch a movie? When I’m in the tub, the answer is almost always yes.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Habits don’t just happen, you have to make a decision about what you want to do and commit to it. For instance, I used to be a serial loser of wallets. Every few months, one would disappear into the ether and I’d begin again. This was back in high school, when you’d collect wallet-sized pictures of your friends in little clear pockets, and the thickness of your wallet indicated your position in the social food chain. I wasn’t so concerned about losing my membership card from the Boris Becker Fan Club or ten dollars of babysitting money, but it killed me to have to collect a whole new batch of pictures. I finally committed to a simple habit: glancing over my shoulder every time I left a room, just to make sure I wasn’t leaving a wallet in my wake. You’d be surprised how often I was! I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that wallet retention requires responsibility; it’s not just a matter of luck.

Which habits are most important to you?

I’m committed to habits that give me the illusion of organization. This is why I write everything down, on real paper with an actual pen. I never leave home without two Moleskine notebooks. The black one is my calendar, which shows one week per two-page spread, with space at the bottom for my weekly to-do list. This is command central for everything from high school orientation to work deadlines to my mother-in-law’s birthday. The yellow notebook contains my daily to-do lists, with Glamour things on the right hand side of the page and personal items and notes on the left. I’d be lost without either one of my Moleskines, but the yellow one is the one I’d be embarrassed for someone else to see, since it contains loony ramblings unfit for public consumption.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

My husband’s fitness and nutrition habits are a big influence, mostly in aspirational ways. He’s incredibly disciplined about exercise and is naturally inclined to eat an apple when I’m digging into my second piece of apple pie. His habits are so ingrained, they’re actual facts: he’ll always make time to ride his bike or cook a healthy meal. I intend to do these things but inevitably run out of time because I’d rather call my sister.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

These questions are my lightning bolt. I’m giving up Diet Coke! I’ve had at least one can every day since I was a teenager and it’s a bad habit—and also an expensive one that screams, “I’m an old lady!” Check in with me at 3 o’clock this afternoon and we’ll see how I fare.