Spring is here! I always feel energized by the start of a new season (though strangely I find the spring’s atmosphere of renewal somewhat poignant). I’m looking forward to warmer weather, more daylight, and daffodils in Central Park. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotations from one of my favorite writers:

“There is, indeed, something inexpressibly pleasing in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature.”

—Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 5

5 Things Making Me Happy​

One of my exceedingly minor hobbies is looking for words that have two contradictory meanings, such as sanction, dust, fast, clip, bound, and raise/raze. The other day, as I was writing, I added a new one to my collection: oversight. “The accountant’s oversight resulted in a miscalculation” vs. “The project is under the oversight of the senior accountant.”

I’ve gotten some wonderful positive feedback from readers since I launched my new AI “Happiness Helpline” last week. I’ve also learned that if you just need a nudge, request a shorter response—when I use AI, I often ask for bulleted answers. Plus you can ask a question and get a response in your preferred language. Visit gretchenrubin.com to give it a try.

Recently, I went to the Strand Book Store, a wonderful bookstore, to attend a book talk by my friend Charles Duhigg about his new book, Supercommunicators. As I climbed the stairs to the event space, I got a thrill when I spotted my own signature on the wall—I signed it when I was visiting the store to sign copies of my book Life in Five Senses.

This week marked my daughter Eliza’s birthday, and it got me thinking of one of the most memorable moments of my life. After we brought four-pound newborn Eliza home from the hospital, I lay on the bed with her between Jamie and me, thinking that I just couldn’t open my eyes wide enough, or stare long enough, to take in the sight of her. Read more about this unforgettable moment as excerpted from my book Life in Five Senses, and see more sweet photos in my recent Instagram post.

This week also marks the eighth anniversary of my first “A Little Happier” episode of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. (Can you tell that one of my resolutions for 2024 is to look for “ta-da” moments?) I love having an opportunity to share these short teaching stories, reflections, and insights. Much like my beloved Secrets of Adulthood, sometimes distilling an idea into a shorter format can make it more powerful. Plus, I’ve found that as a creative person, the need to “feed the beast” sparks ideas in me. This week: Dangers Don’t Always Feel Dangerous.


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The Muse Machine is a collection of indirect directions—150 cards with enigmatic creative prompts to consult whenever you feel stuck. Get 10% off through tomorrow, March 23rd at 11:59pm PT.

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This week on Happier with Gretchen Rubin


We talk about why it’s helpful to pay attention to how much time we spend venting, versus not venting, to our family and friends. We also answer a listener’s question about why SMART goals don’t work for Rebels, and share listeners’ creative responses to the “Habits for Happiness” quiz.

Listen now >


Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author on the subjects of habits and productivity. His latest book, Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection, is now available.

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

One of the best – and most important – skills we can learn are the tools of great communication. Communication is vital to our relationships, our work – and our health, where connection with other people has enormous benefits.

We are currently living in a golden age of understanding the science of communication, thanks to advances in neural imaging. And that research has shown that nearly every conversation is actually comprised of different kinds conversations, most of which fall into one of three buckets:

1. There is a practical conversation, where we are discussing What’s This Really About?, and the goal is to discover what each person wants out of this discussion.

2. There is an emotional conversation, or How Do We Feel?, where the aim is to recognize – and reciprocate – vulnerability.

3. And there is a social conversation, Who Are We?, where each person explains how their background – where they grew up, or where they work or went to school, or how they worship or are friends with, or how they see themselves – influences they ways they listen and speak.

Here’s the big insight: If you don’t know what kind of conversation is occurring, you’re unlikely to connect. This is known as the Matching Principle of Communication.

And each kind of conversation functions by slightly different rules: 

In a practical conversation, there’s a ‘quiet negotiation’, with a goal of determining what everyone wants. We serve ourselves best by conducting experiments – introducing new topics to see if others are interested; telling a joke to see if anyone laughs – and then paying attention to how others react.

In an emotional conversation, if we ask ‘deep questions’ – which inquire about someone’s values, beliefs, or experiences – we’re likely to elicit vulnerability. And when we reciprocate that vulnerability, we engender a sense of trust and closeness.

In a social conversation, it is important to acknowledge differences as much as our similarities. When we show that we hear how someone’s background, or social group, or identity has influenced their life, they feel like they can be more honest – and vice versa. When we reveal aspects of our own backgrounds, we feel connected when our companions prove they have heard us. 

Most important of all: Anyone can become a super communicator. This is not an inborn skill, or something available only to extroverts, or leaders, or a select group. Rather, it is a set of tools that we have all evolved to use. Most of us have moments of super communication throughout our lives. These tools can help us tap into our listening and speaking instincts more easily.

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 am incredibly sensitive to scents – and though my memory isn’t great, the right smell can trigger a past sensation or experience. The scent of saffron, for instance, brings me back to when I lived in Cairo and would walk through the spice market on my way home from work.

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?

There is a motto I say constantly to my kids: It’s only a mistake if you don’t learn something from it. I make mistakes constantly. We all do. But if you learn from it, it isn’t really a mistake, it’s an experiment that yielded something valuable.

Q: What simple habit boosts your happiness or energy?

I try to exercise every day, and I read every night before falling asleep. If I can do both of those in a day, it’s a good day.

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

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. James is a genius, and the father of American psychology – but he also suffered from depression, and considered suicide. The Varieties of Religious Experience is his attempt to understand how believing in something – be it a god, or fellow humans, or simply that our will is real – impacts how we behave, think and see the world. The chapter on “the religion of happy mindedness”, in particular, is wonderful.

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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.