5 Things Making Me Happy


One benefit of having a passion is that we have a reason to go on an adventure. When I read this article about an exhibition of artist and smell researcher Sissel Tolaas’s work at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, I thought, “I want to go to Philadelphia to experience this ‘olfactory landscape’ for myself!”

In the exhibit, twenty works use smells to evoke memories, associations, and emotional and intellectual responses.

I’m reminded me of the five-senses portraits we discussed on episode 387 of Happier. It’s a very creative, stimulating challenge to try to describe a person or memory through the five senses. (I just wrote a five-senses portrait of myself, and it was tougher than I expected.)

If you constructed an exhibition of scents, what would you include? I’d have to bottle the smell at my favorite diner, Winstead’s.


Gretchen Rubin

5 Things Making Me Happy


In the latest episode of More Happier, my sister Elizabeth shared some insights from her very successful “Summer of Health,” especially in dealing with health challenges related to her type 1 diabetes. As someone who’s always interested to learn how someone was able to make positive change, I was fascinated to hear her talk about why the “Strategy of the Lightning Bolt” made such a difference.


When I was traveling recently, I used one of my best travel hacks: To create additional surface space in my hotel room, I set up the ironing board and used it to sort a bunch of papers. Very handy.


One of my favorite books is Christopher Alexander’s strange, brilliant A Pattern Language (Bookshop, Amazon). It uses architecture, sociology, psychology, and anthropology to describe the most satisfying architectural environments. The “patterns” described include: “Half-hidden garden,” “Cascade of roofs,” “Staircase as Stage,” “Ceiling height variety.” My favorite is “Secret place,” and in our apartment, we have many secret places. I will reveal one! We have a wall of fake books that swings open to reveal a set of shelves. As Alexander writes, “Where can the need for concealment be expressed; the need to hide; the need for something precious to be lost, and then revealed?”


I visit the Met every day, and one thing that has surprised me? How many new words I’ve learned. Just on a single visit to the new Tudor exhibit, from reading the labels, I learned three excellent new terms: armillary sphere, peascod, and farthingale. Learning new words makes me so happy.


Speaking of discovering words, the recent discovery of the oldest known sentence made me laugh. Not because it’s eloquent or profound—but because it expresses a practical thought that we still have today. The inscription on the ancient ivory comb reads, “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.”


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Episodes and Articles

A Little Happier

A Little Happier

A Strategy That Works with Children Often Works with Adults, and Vice Versa



David Sax is an award-winning writer whose work on cultural and business trends has been featured in New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg Business Week, The New York Times, and more.

Happier Podcast


404: Holiday Gift Guide, Save Time in a Long Line, and Temple Grandin Talks About “Visual Thinking”


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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.