This week, I did a speaking event in Kansas City, which gave me the chance to stay with my parents. Because I was going to be home, my sister Elizabeth decided to join us from Los Angeles. The visit reminded me of several happiness lessons I’ve learned.

First, with relationships, frequency is more important than duration; in other words, it’s better to have more short visits than a few long visits. Second, as much as Elizabeth and I love visiting our parents with grandchildren and spouses, it’s also very fun, with a different vibe, when it’s just the four of us together. Third, if there’s something I really want to do, do it right away. At the beginning of a trip, I often think, “Oh, we’ll have so much time,” but then time runs out. On this trip, we went to Winstead’s, our favorite diner, on the first day.

5 Things Making Me Happy​

As a devoted lover of children’s literature, I was happy to learn that April 2 was International Children’s Book Day. Years ago, when I was writing The Happiness Project, one of my experiments was to start a children’s literature reading group. Now I’m in two of these “kidlit” groups, and they are such engines of happiness in my life. When I first had the idea, I truly thought that I might be the only adult in New York City who read children’s books because I loved them—not because I was a publishing professional, librarian, teacher, or parent. I read these books because I loved them. And, as so often happens in such situations, I found out that I wasn’t alone.

I’m always interested in finding new ways to gain self-knowledge, and I enjoy any framework that sheds light on how we’re the same or different from other people. I was intrigued by the distinctions drawn in this article, “How your job shapes your identity.” Some of the distinctions really rang true for me—for instance, “patience vs. impatience.” I’ve always disliked tight deadlines, which has really shaped the kind of work I like to do.

If you’re in the mood for a five-minute funny video, I recommend “Washington’s Dream” from Saturday Night Live. Nate Bargatze plays General Washington—I never realized the comic potential of weights and measures.

The first few days of my card- and letter-writing challenge with Paper Source have been really fun! I’m enjoying the creative process of making notes and cards for people in my life. I sent this card to my sister a few days ago. Elizabeth and I often talk about “getting a present in the mail” as a metaphor for wanting some good, unexpected thing to show up in our lives. This time, I actually sent her something in the mail.

I had a terrific month of reading in March. I was struck by this observation from Mark O’Connell’s A Thread of Violence: “When you look at a person’s books, you are seeing what that person is interested in. A bookshelf is a self-portrait, a kind of haphazard autobiography.”


Get 20% off the Five-Senses Journal

The Five-Senses Journal is a thoughtful gift for anyone who could use a reminder to be present, tap into their senses, and connect with the world around them. They’re almost out of stock so order soon! Get 20% off through Sunday, April 7th at 11:59pm PT.

Use code: LASTCHANCE20 

This week on Happier with Gretchen Rubin


We talk about how we can boost happiness by paying attention to the textures in our everyday lives. We also share an easy hack for improving video meetings and share listeners’ creative ideas for #Write24in24. We also discuss a question from a listener who faces a tough challenge: for understandable reasons, she doesn’t want to lie, and she also doesn’t want to share the truth.

Listen now >


Zibby Owens

Zibby Owens is a writer, a frequent contributor to Good Morning America, and the host of the award-winning podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. Her latest novel, Blank, is now a USA Today bestseller.

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

Join a book community (like mine!). Not only will it make you read more which is helpful on so many levels (emotionally, cognitively, and creatively), but it will connect you to other like-minded people and make you feel less alone. Loneliness is one of the most harmful — and unpleasant — states to be in and reduces life expectancy. Finding a welcoming community counteracts all of that — even a community on Zoom! Also, I’m an Obliger (thanks, Gretchen, #thefourtendencies), so I appreciate the structure of, say, a book podcast I’m about to do with an author for my podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, or a book club I’m moderating, or a retreat I’m throwing I’m doing to make sure I’ve read the book in question. Actually, my entire career might be crafted to maximize my Obliger tendencies to make time for what I love most: reading!

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.)

Well, unlike Gretchen, I don’t often taste ketchup off a spoon(!), but for me, touch is so important. A soft blanket, a cozy sweatshirt, petting my dog, wearing a super-soft hat, sinking onto a plush couch like the plush loveseat at Zibby’s Bookshop (my store in Santa Monica, CA) nuzzling into my husband’s neck… these things calm me down and help me reset.

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?

Some mottos I live by:  Never turn down a glass of champagne. Always go to parties in the rain. Next chapter, please. With a good book, you’ll never be lonely. I even did a stationery collaboration with these sayings on greeting cards with a company in Boston called Felix Doolittle. Career highlight!

Q: What simple habit boosts your happiness or energy?

This might sound odd, but being in water. The shower, the pool, even the rain. But my hair has to get wet; I have to be totally drenched. And then, I feel a million times better, just a few minutes later. (Plus the super soft towel: see above!) Also, reading! Even five minutes of a book or a fabulous article can completely change my mood. And really, complimenting someone else on something — their shoes, their new haircut, their latest book — and seeing them smile makes me extremely happy. So I keep doing it! Finally, writing. Writing an essay a week for my Substack forces me to reflect on the past week, find what had lasting meaning or humor or a lesson or something notable, and share it. It allows me to connect with others when they read my thoughts and comment back. It’s a weekly highlight. Writing my novel Blank? Well, that made me happy too when I could actually force myself to sit down and do it! Now having the same issue with my next novel!

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

Yours, Gretchen! When I had my four kids take The Four Tendencies quiz after I finished reading your book, my suspicions were confirmed: each of my kids is a different tendency. Knowing that on an intellectual level has completely affected my parenting. I know how to talk sense with the upholder, spew facts for my questioner, set external motivations in place for my fellow obliger, and wait it out when my rebel does their own thing. Parenting four kids ages 9 to 16 can be challenging, but for whatever reason — and I’m not just saying this! — this particular reservoir of knowledge has changed my own stress level because now I know the best way to communicate to accomplish anything. Even something as simple as getting everyone out the door at the same time — which still feels like a major victory if and when I ever pull it off — is easier with clear communication strategies. And a lot of laughter. (Awwww, that’s so great to hear, Zibby!)

Listen to the Happier podcast?
Click here to read the show notes.

You signed up to receive this newsletter at

{{ }} {{ organization.full_address }}

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

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.