One item on my “24 for ’24” list is to “Draw a card from my Muse Machine each week.” I want to see if consulting an oracle regularly gives me any guidance. (I’m fascinated by any system that allows us to draw meaning from information, patterns, or ambiguity.)

This week, I drew the card, “What problem are you refusing to acknowledge?” The next day, as I considered this question, I was struck by an epiphany: I’ve been working on my collection of Secrets of Adulthood, and I realized a problem that I’d refused to acknowledge with this project. It was a tremendous creative revelation.

Last week’s card: “Violate an important rule.” Interesting! As an Upholder, for me, that’s a very powerful direction. What rule am I following, that I’d be better off breaking? I continue to ponder.


5 Things Making Me Happy​

Speaking of the “24 for ‘24 list,” a friend told me that she and each of her four children made their own lists, then spent a meal talking about their items. She said doing the exercise together gave them all great insight into each other’s interests, worries, aims, and values. Such a great idea! I try to resist the temptation to indulge my happiness-bully side, and I do so many exercises like this that I rarely foist them on my children—but I’m going to propose it. Who knows, they might want to do it.

I keep thinking about a New York Times article I read last month, “What’s ahead in 2024? The cookie cutters tell all”—a fascinating look at the cookie-cutter industry and how cultural trends affect what cookie-cutter shapes sell most. Ever since I wrote Life in Five Senses, I’ve been keeping a list of what I’m calling “everyday creativity”—ways that people express their non-professional creativity. Cookie- and cake-decorating are on that list.

In 2017, at a podcast conference, I attended an interview with the comedian and actor Niecy Nash. She was hilarious and insightful, and I’ve never forgotten something she said. She was describing the struggles she’d faced trying to make it in Hollywood, when she had the responsibility of her young children, and she explained that she’d promised herself that she’d do whatever it took to succeed, “No matter what.” Last week, I was thrilled to see her win an Emmy Award, and to watch her moving acceptance speech. No matter what! She did it.

I love reading books, and I love looking at books on a shelf. A friend told me about Juniper Books, a site that offers special jackets so that beloved books really stand out in a bookcase. For instance, for the Charles Dickens collection, the spines of five book jackets create a scene of a foggy London. If I didn’t already have my gorgeous set of Oz books from Books of Wonder, as well as my set of paperback Oz books from childhood, I’d be tempted to get the Wizard of Oz book set for my shelves.

I’ve received a terrific response to my new “Habits for Happiness” quiz since it launched earlier this month. The quiz suggests what habit, for you, would do most right now to contribute to your happiness. I love reading comments from people who were initially surprised by their result, but then realized that it suggested exactly the right habit to make the biggest difference.


The Habits for Happiness Quiz

In just eight questions, this quiz will help you identify the new habit that will provide the biggest boost to your happiness.

This week on Happier with Gretchen Rubin


We talk about our plans to have a No-Spend February, and share a suggestion from a listener about a way to make keeping a “24 for ’24 list” even more fun. We also discuss a common happiness stumbling block: What to do with packaging that’s too nice to toss, but hard to use.

Listen now>


Kathleen Ashmore

Kathleen Ashmore is a chef and food blogger whose recipes and food hacks have gained her over 2 million followers on TikTok. Her first cookbook, Big Bites: Wholesome, Comforting Recipes That Are Big on Flavor, Nourishment, and Fun, hit shelves this week.

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

A: This isn’t always a popular answer since I’m usually met with “I just can’t meditate!” but it’s Transcendental Meditation. I’ve meditated on and off for decades and frankly never quite felt I was getting it “right” but figured there is great value in effort and that is something. After hearing high-achieving entrepreneurs like Ray Dalio, Tom Hanks, and Oprah talk about TM I signed up to learn it 3 years ago as a Christmas gift to myself. I haven’t missed a day since. 

I’m always inspired by highly successful people who seem to maintain a sense of grace and humility and now see TM may have something to do with that. It’s the easiest and most enjoyable meditation I’ve ever done and opens a pathway to my deepest self from which I can access treasures of creativity and wisdom that simply don’t exist on the surface.

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.)

A: I have never been asked this question and I love it!

I make a point of going on “naked walks” multiple times a week. I don’t use headphones, I leave my cell phone at home. I simply walk and listen. I listen to the wind, the sound of birds, the crackle of leaves beneath my feet. Much of the work day I’m listening to things in order to analyze and react to them, this is rare chance to listen without expectation and connect to nature.

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?

A: “See it or be it.”

When I was younger, I used to feel shame when I discovered something that I needed to change. Why should I feel bad about that? 

Seeing it for what it is, a habit or pattern that I have an opportunity to change rather than an inherent character defect is the first step in evolving.

Most of us know someone who seems to walk around complaining about the shortcomings of others and fails to see that he’s the common denominator. He doesn’t see his judgement because he is his judgement. Those are our choices. See it, or be it.

Acknowledging room for growth is life-affirming and something to be celebrated.

Q: What simple habit boosts your happiness or energy?

A: 60 seconds of ice cold water at the end of my shower. It gets my endorphins pumping and I step out feeling refreshed and energized. Just as important, it’s tough to do and requires mental strength, and I’m a big believer in choosing your hard. Mental strength is a momentum game, set it in motion early in the day.

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

A: The Daily Stoic is a book I read every morning after my meditation. As someone with a proclivity for the complex, it has helped ground me by applying simple, powerful ancient stoic philosophies to the trials and tribulations of modern life. It’s helped me remember what is most important in a world that would sometimes have us think otherwise:  kindness, integrity, and generosity of spirit.

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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.