I love my hometown of Kansas City, and I was thrilled when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl — and I was devastated to hear the news about the terrible shootings that occurred at the Super Bowl victory rally. My heart goes out to those families and to everyone in Kansas City.


5 Things Making Me Happy​

My friend, the brilliant Kate Bowler, came through New York City on her tour for her new book, Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day!—which, by the way, was an instant New York Times bestseller. I went to her event at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, and was struck, as I always am, by Kate’s rare ability to be both light and deep. Not many people can talk about transcendent themes in a way that has me laughing out loud.

Here’s the description of her book: HAVE A BEAUTIFUL, TERRIBLE DAY! is packed with bite-sized reflections and action-steps to help you get through the day…Written in a season of chronic pain, Bowler understands that every day can be an obstacle course. She encourages us to develop our capacity to feel the breadth of our experiences…As Kate would say, “May all your days be lovely, but if they can’t, may you have a beautiful, terrible day.”

I really enjoy the Axios Finish Line newsletter. Recently, it highlighted a fascinating New York Times article by Amanda Loudin about the importance of “power” to our health. I followed the instructions to test my power: I sat in a straight-backed chair with no arms, crossed my arms with my hands on my shoulders, and timed myself to see how many times I could stand up and sit down in 30 seconds—21 times. Here’s a hack that I learned the hard way: Don’t use a desk chair on wheels.

Happy Year of the Dragon! On my daily visit to the Met, I headed to Gallery 207, which displays representations of the Chinese zodiac. Each Lunar New Year, the gallery’s cases update to highlight works that feature that year’s animal. (I’d been visiting the Met every day for a few years before I recognized this pattern.)

As I mentioned, I make a daily visit to the Met, and I’m always on the hunt for ways to experience it in new ways. London’s National Gallery offers a terrific suggestion: When you’re looking at a particularly famous masterpiece, consider what’s behind your back. Turn around, and give just as much attention to that artwork. I can’t wait to try this myself.

And speaking of museums: As a writer who edits everything I write, every time I review every line of my writing (such as this one), I appreciated this story about artist Pierre Bonnard. Apparently, Bonnard once persuaded his friend, fellow artist Edouard Vuillard, to distract a museum guard so he could make changes to a painting that he’d finished years before.


Re-commit to your aims

Get 40% off the Don’t Break the Chain Habit Tracker and the Tackle Box—two top-selling habit-tracking tools from the Happiness Project Collection. Ends Monday, 2/19 at 11:59pm PT. Use code: DETERMINATION24

This week on Happier with Gretchen Rubin


We talk about why we’re reengaging with our habits on “Determination Day” on February 28. We also discuss Andy Warhol’s observation about airports and how we can have a better experience while waiting for a flight. We also share many excellent—and also surprising—suggestions from Rebels about how they manage to stick to their good habits.

Listen now >


Arthur Brooks

Arthur Brooks is the writer of the Atlantic’s “How to Build a Life” column, and the author of thirteen books, including his most recent with co-author Oprah Winfrey, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier.

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

My recent book with Oprah, Build the Life You Want, is about getting happier by using the best research on emotional self-management. This skill—managing our emotions so they don’t manage us—is the key ingredient toward building better habits, and in the end, a better life.

We often fall under the illusion that we are our emotions. If we feel lethargic, sad, or anxious, it’s not always easy to separate ourselves from those feelings. But we must first understand that our emotions are merely information. They are stimuli in response to the outside world. To stop thinking of emotions as good or bad, I encourage a practice called metacognition—which is essentially thinking about thinking. If, for example, you often feel unhappy, be metacognitive about it. Ask yourself: What emotion is making me feel unhappy? If it’s sadness, ask yourself: What are the sources of my sadness today? And in pinpointing the source of your sadness, ask yourself: Is my source of sadness out of my control? Or can I do one action today that will work toward reducing my sadness?

A lot of neuroscience supports the idea that saying these answers aloud, or writing them down, will really help dispel the mystery of your emotions. When you verbalize or write down your stress, you move the experience of your emotions to your prefrontal cortex— the “C-Suite” of your brain dedicated to conscious decision-making. In this way, your woes will become much more tangible, and importantly, you will be able to mitigate the sources of your distress more actionably.

If you want to get happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative, use metacognition to reveal the sources of your discomfort, and after weeks and months, you’ll find you are much better off.

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.)

I find that an early morning walk (without any devices) helps me to tap into the power of my senses. Before most people are awake, and even before the sun rises, a walk clears my thoughts and grounds me to the present moment. I inspect the quiet nature around me, breathe in the cool morning air, and feel the breeze on my face. When I focus deliberately on the sensory experiences, my walk provides an unbelievable amount of peaceful stimuli before a busy day.

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?

My personal mission statement is: I dedicate my work to lifting people up and bringing them together, in bonds of love and happiness, using science and ideas.

Years ago when I started teaching happiness at Harvard, I wrote down this personal mission statement and still refer to it often. I encourage everyone to develop their own personal mission statement—and to take it seriously—because it can give us real focusing power. Whether I am practicing my faith, enjoying time with family and friends, or working, I am thinking of this motto and trying my hardest to live up to its ideal.

Q: What simple habit boosts your happiness or energy?

My Catholic faith is the single-most important part of my life. So for me, starting my day at Mass and ending it with prayer (especially with my wife) is a simple habit that does wonders for my happiness and energy. If you are a person of faith, or perhaps curious about faith, I would highly recommend a regular prayer routine.

But if you’re not religious, you can still form meaningful morning and evening habits that affect you in the same way. You could perhaps start your day by reading a few pages of a philosopher of your choice; you could begin a gratitude journal; or you could start with a simple meditation: I don’t know what this day will bring, but I am alive to experience it and will not waste it worrying about things I cannot control. Any of these options will help you see beyond yourself and experience the day with renewed perspective.

Q: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

I often recommend Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. This early 20th-century classic brought Zen Buddhist ideas to the West. I first read it when I was 20 and didn’t understand. I read it again at 50 and it blew my mind because it finally helped me understand many things about my life, and clearly explained a lot of eastern ideas that seemed to me beyond comprehension. A very similar book in my own Christian tradition that I often re-read is The Way of a Pilgrim.

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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.