Fifty years ago this month, legendary author Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, hit the shelves. King has written more than fifty books; I’ve read at least eight of his novels and short-story collections, plus his excellent non-fiction book On Writing. Most recently, I read and loved Fairy Tale, and I have special affection for his novel The Stand—years ago, I called in sick and stayed home from work to read it, because I just couldn’t put it down. What a storyteller!

Because I’ve read so much of his work, I recognize the truth of an observation King makes about himself in On Writing. From his childhood, he notes: “A block down the hill, not far from Teddy’s Market and across from Burrets Building Materials, was a huge tangled wilderness area with a junkyard on the far side and a train track running through the middle. This is one of the places I keep returning to in my imagination; it turns up in my books and stories again and again, under a variety of names.”

It’s an interesting question: What landscapes recur in your imagination?


5 Things Making Me Happy​

After my sister Elizabeth remarked that she liked the shrill pulsing buzz of cicadas, because that sound reminds her so much of summertime, I realized how much I like that sound, too. But it turns out that this year, in a few weeks, up to a trillion cicadas are about to emerge in the United States. That’s a lot of cicadas. It’s a phenomenon called a “dual emergence” (sounds like the title of a sci-fi novel) which last happened in 1803. The good news: cicadas don’t bite, sting, eat plants or leaves, or carry disease; they aerate the soil and their bodies act as natural fertilizer; and they’ll be around for only about six weeks. But I imagine that they will be very loud.

Last week, I was in Chicago seeing some old friends, and we went on a Chicago architecture boat tour, which I’ve always wanted to do. During the tour, I was particularly intrigued by the description of 150 North Riverside. This building has an uncannily narrow base—our guide compared it to a pencil standing on its point or a ballerina standing on her toes—which means that the 54-story skyscraper would have a problem with the challenge of wind loads pushing on it. To reduce the sway, the upper floors of the building have giant tanks holding 160,000 gallons of water. Apparently when the wind pushes the building in one direction, the water sloshes around in the opposite direction, which reduces the movement. This struck me as a surprisingly primitive solution for a newfangled problem.

Image Source: Goettsch Partners, Inc.
Image Source: Goettsch Partners, Inc.

Because I love children’s literature, I can’t wait to visit “The Rabbit hOle,” a newly opened museum in Kansas City that merges the worlds of children’s literature and interactive exhibits, creating a “radically immersive” environment where visitors can experience beloved picture-book stories in life-sized, detailed settings. I tried to go on my most recent visit, but the timing didn’t work out. Next time! One thing I’ve learned about myself: I love anything immersive.

Image Source: The Rabbit hOle

Image Source: The Rabbit hOle

Image Source: The Rabbit hOle
Image Source: The Rabbit hOle

I was mesmerized by this video, taken by a drone in January 2024, of hundreds of six-month-old emperor penguin chicks jumping from a 50-foot cliff in Antarctica. Typically, a penguin chick’s first jump into water is a drop of only a foot or two, but this group somehow ended up on a cliff’s edge. Yikes.

I close the end of each “More Happier” episode by saying, “The best time to start a happiness project is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.” When I spotted this clock on a friend’s kitchen counter, I thought, “What a great reminder.” As Emily Dickinson wrote: “Forever-is composed of Nows-”


Finally stop spam texts with Incogni data removal service.

Spammers sent out 19.2 billion texts in February—that’s 19 texts per person in the US. Data brokers sell your address, phone number, SSN and make the opt-out process very difficult. Remove your data from over 180 data brokers automatically with Incogni. Sign up now with code Gretchen55 and get 55% off.

This week on Happier with Gretchen Rubin


We talk about why it’s so enjoyable to read a book that sheds a light on how things work. We also share a hack for making driving more pleasant, as well as an easy and fun hack for sparking creativity. Plus we ask: Does your sleep feel heavy or light?

Listen now >


Michael Norton

Michael Norton is a behavior scientist, Harvard Business School Professor, and speaker who researches and writes about human behavior and well-being. His latest book, The Ritual Effect: Unlocking the Extraordinary Power of the Ordinary is available now.

Q: Can you suggest something we might try to help ourselves to become happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

For over a decade, I’ve been researching the important role that rituals play in our emotional lives. Not so much rituals like “people in robes chanting with candles”, but the small, everyday rituals that people come up with themselves. Think of the particular way you get ready in the morning (always brush teeth first, always use the same mug for my coffee, always kiss my spouse in between brushing teeth and drinking coffee); or the way that you psych yourself up before a big meeting or game (heading to the bathroom to look in the mirror and tell yourself, “you got this”; the specific sequences of songs, books, and stuffies you use to help your toddler get to sleep. In all of these, and so many other domains of  life, we are using rituals as a tool to change our emotional states.

There are two suggestions that come out of our research. First, take a moment to do a “ritual audit” – how exactly do you get ready in the morning? What books and stuffies do you use at bedtime? Recognizing and reflecting on our existing rituals helps to increase their emotional resonance. Second, if your audit comes up empty, consider experimenting with adding rituals in your life, to see if they can work for you.

Q: In your own life, have you found ways to tap into the power of your five senses? (For instance, I often take a sniff of a spice jar as I pass through my kitchen to help ground me in the present moment.)

The five senses are in some sense the building blocks for unlocking the potential of our rituals. If we feel like pie, we can just buy a slice at the store. But instead, we sometimes bake an apple pie using the same recipe that our grandmother used when we were little, in order to recreate that smell, and that taste, and using those to help bring her briefly back to us. When we engage in greeting rituals – with a handshake, a high five, a hug, a kiss (on one cheek in some places, both cheeks in others) – we are using the sense of touch to create connection. Rituals are highly emotional, and our senses are critical inputs into heightening those emotions.

Q: Is there a particular motto that you’ve found very helpful? (I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

This is a bit embarrassing to admit for a supposedly learned university professor, but the motto that comes to mind very frequently, in life at home and at work, came from watching Daniel Tiger with my daughter: Enjoy the wow that’s happening now. It’s an excellent reminder to take even just a few seconds to appreciate the good things that happen in our lives, and savor them for longer.

Listen to the Happier podcast?
Click here to read the show notes.

You signed up to receive this newsletter at

{{ }} {{ organization.full_address }}

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.