More than 20,000 people have taken my “Habits for Happiness” quiz so far, and it’s fascinating to see trends emerging in the answers people get. Here are the three top results so far:

Boost Your Energy Through Regular Movement: This makes sense; having plenty of energy makes everything in our lives easier.

Make Mindful Choices to Spend Money on Valuable Experiences: This seems very timely to me. There’s a growing awareness that spending money on stuff often provides only fleeting gratification, while spending on experiences leads to adventure, growth, and connection.

Boost Your Sense of Creativity and Play by Cultivating an Existing Interest: Again, this rings true to me. I’ve talked to many adults who have lost touch with an activity or interest that once gave them great pleasure (playing tennis, practicing an instrument, pursuing a craft, cooking, hiking). We boost our sense of play and progress—and happiness— by spending more time and energy on our existing interests, especially when we’ve drifted away from them.


5 Things Making Me Happy​

As someone who grew up in Kansas City and so split my time between Missouri and Kansas, and often visited my grandparents in Nebraska, I identify as a Midwesterner. I was interested to read that, according to this survey, 42% of people from Colorado, 66% from Oklahoma, and 54% from Wyoming also identify as Midwestern. If, as some speculate, this result reflects the fact that people want to identify with the values of friendliness, courtesy, and hard work, wonderful! (The “Midwest” generally includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.)

On the Happier podcast, we talked about a common happiness stumbling block: What to do about items that are too good to toss, but possibly not good enough to use or donate. This conversation reminded me of an incident from Lois Lenski’s wonderful 1947 children’s book, Judy’s Journey. The novel is about Judy, a girl in a family who are migrant farm workers, and she’s thrilled when One-Eyed Charlie promises to give her a feed sack printed with blue flowers for her mother to sew into a dress. I wanted to learn more, and I was fascinated by this article about how, during the Depression, families started making children’s clothes from flour sacks. When flour companies learned of this practice, they started to print the bags with patterns and color.

Speaking of Kansas City, I was interested to read this account by a millennial who moved from New York City to Kansas City. Her experience reminded me of my Secret of Adulthood: When faced with a tough decision, choose the bigger life. She knew which choice gave her the bigger life. 

I recently posed this question on social media: “Rebels, what tactics do you use to maintain your habits?” and got many interesting responses. One of the most popular strategies? “Tell no one.” Fascinating!

In a recent update, Apple released a new Journal app—just in time for #Write24in24. Many readers and listeners have written to say that they’re using the new app for their daily writing aims. The Strategy of Convenience is powerful.


Creating a Plan for Your Next New Habit

Want to build a habit that makes you happier—but aren’t sure how to make it stick? I’m hosting a live virtual workshop to help you create a plan for your next new habit that’s tailored to you. This 90-minute live workshop will be held via Zoom, on Thursday, February 29th at 4pm PT / 7pm ET.

This week on Happier with Gretchen Rubin


We talk about why you might treat yourself like a professor, and why you might subscribe to newsletters (as well as unsubscribe from them). We also share many hacks, resources, and suggestions from listeners about how they’re doing their daily writing for the #Write24in24 challenge.

Listen now >


Drs. John & Julie Gottman

Drs. John and Julie Gottman are world-renowned psychologists and co-founders of the Gottman Institute, specializing in relationships and parenthood. Their new book, Fight Right: How Successful Couples Turn Conflict Into Connection just hit shelves.

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

Dr. John Gottman: I have a small notebook I keep in my back pocket whose purpose is to take notes when my wife utters the 4 most terrifying words “we need to talk.” Then I take out my notebook and a pen, and I take notes after telling her, “The world has now stopped, and I am listening.” Then, I write down everything she says. As I’m writing I wind up thinking things like, “That’s a good point,” and “She’s right,” and “That’s interesting.” Then I make sure I’ve heard her correctly. As I listen, I try to down-regulate my own defensiveness. My hero is a male lawyer on one of our videos who was helping his wife identify what in his personality made her the most angry. He was so incredibly non-defensive, I try to be like him.

Dr. Julie Gottman: If you’re in a romantic relationship, look for what your partner is doing right, and say thank you. Your relationship will improve and so will your happiness. If not in a relationship, do likewise with a best friend.

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.)

John: Yes, once again, the ability to listen is not strained in the world. I keep trying to sharpen my ability to listen without judgment, just to understand someone else, not to persuade. Then I try to test whether my understanding is limited or biased. It’s so easy to just hear what I want to hear instead of what someone is actually trying to communicate.

Julie: Oh yes. Nature is my refuge. So walking in the forest, listening to birds, trees whispering, insects humming, smelling the freshness of the green, seeing new growth and old—it’s all wonderful.

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?

John: Yes, my motto, which I’ve gleaned from the “masters” of relationships, is “Baby, when you’re upset, the world stops, and I listen.”

Julie: A simple one, be kind, and have patience.

Q: What simple habit boosts your happiness or energy?

John: Recently, my doctor said I was a lot healthier than the other patients he has in their 80s. He said, “I see no reason why you won’t live to 100.” So, I decided to learn to play the violin. I now practice an hour every day. I started learning at age 81, but I have absolutely no talent. All I have is determination. I’m loving this experience.

Julie: Working out, especially outside by speed walking on hills with my pup, Lenny.

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

John: Yes, when I was 16 years old I read Bertrand Russell’s book Why I Am Not a Christian. It made me question my own religious beliefs, and it made me open to all other philosophical thinking than my own. As an old man, I am once again an observant Jew, but I have arrived there after a long and thoughtful journey.

Julie: The Will to Meaning, by Victor Frankl. Confirmed seedlings of thoughts I’d had about how important it is to find meaning and purpose for one’s life. Without those, there is depression and despair. With them, fulfillment, gratitude and joy.

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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.