Podcast 265: Give a Sensorium Gift, a Deep Dive into Suggestions for #Walk20in20, and a Conversation Hack.

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NOTE: On March 14, 2020, we released a bonus episode, Coping During COVID-19: How to Stay Happier and Calmer in Difficult Times.

In that episode, we explained that because of plans we’d made in calmer times, to go away on spring break with our families, we’d recorded a few episodes in advance: this episode (265) as well as upcoming episodes 266 and 267. So we recorded this episode before the COVID-19 situation had really taken hold. We’ve heard from many people that they appreciate having a respite from COVAD-19—that it’s a relief to think about other things—so we’re releasing these episodes.

In the bonus episode, we talk about COVID-19, and we'll talk about it in the future. But not in this episode. We hope it makes you happier to think about other things for a while!

If you want to check out the other resources I've created for helping people cope during COVID-19, click here.

Update: Thanks for all the congratulations for our 5th anniversary. We really appreciated all the kind words.

Try This at Home: Give a Sensorium Gift.

I've started working on my next book—though right now, I have no structure, no thesis, no title, and no contract. So it's safe to say I'm still early in the process. The subject is something like: “How I Learned to Shake Myself Awake” or “Waking up my mind through my body.”

However, I'm in the middle of a huge amount of research into my general fascination, and as a major part of this, I want to tap more deeply into my senses.

One of my aphorisms is "Sometimes we can minister to the spirit through the body, and sometimes we can minister to the body through the spirit."

As part of this, I've hit on the idea of a "Sensorium Gift."

The "sensorium" is our sensory faculties considered as a whole, and obviously it's a very powerful aspect of our existence.

I've had a few friends going through rough times, and I wanted to make a loving gesture, so I sent each of them a Sensorium Gift, with items chosen to stimulate or comfort each of the five senses. For instance, here's what I sent one friend:

  • Sight: A book I thought she'd find very absorbing (Donna Tartt's The Secret History), plus a set of beautiful colored pencils
  • Sound: This was the trickiest one. I can't give a CD these days, after all. So I gave a tiny hand-cranked music box that played the song "You Are My Sunshine"
  • Smell: A box of three small scented candles, each with a different scent
  • Taste: A tiny box of exquisite miniature chocolates (I usually never give sugary treats, but decided this was an exception; she's a moderator)
  • Touch: A soft throw blanket in a creamy blue

A Sensorium Gift could include items that are quite expensive or very inexpensive; it could also have a quiet, elegant vibe or more of a playful, zany vibe.

It's a way to give things that are also an experience.

You could bring a "Sensorium Kit" into work—another option for someone who doesn't want to be the Evil Donut-Bringer! Or send a "Sensorium Bag" to a college student or child at camp, another twist on a Blues Bag.

There could be a Sensorium Gift for holidays such as Valentine's Day or Halloween.

On my free Better app, someone made an interesting observation: This kind of gift could be great for someone who suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, because it's a good grounding exercise.

I asked for ideas on social media and on the Better app, and some additional ideas included:

NOTE: Many people emphasized to consider whether the gift recipient might not want to receive scented items—some people really prefer not to be around anything perfumed.

There are some things that really cross over into multiple senses—like Pop Rocks candy! They taste and smell sweet, explode on your tongue, make a crackling noise, and are brightly colored.

And there are things that confound the senses—like a magic kit, the "Magic berry" that makes everything taste sweet, or a paper vase.

However, as an under-buyer who's also committed to keeping junk out of my house, for my Sensorium Gifts, I didn't want to buy things just for the sake of giving them—I don't want to impose a lot of stuff on my friends. Outer Order, Inner Calm after all.

If you'd like to read more, I wrote a blog post about Sensorium Gifts. I'd love more ideas to create a catalogue of suggestions.

Happiness Hack: When someone asks you “What’s keeping you busy these days?” don’t say “Oh, the same old thing.” People—like me—may be fishing for a clue to your identity! Give clues about who you are, how the two of you know each other, etc.

Deep Dive: Ideas for keeping up with #Walk20in20.

It’s great to see how many people are joining us for #Walk20in20!

In episode 252,  we introduce this challenge.

Many listeners have sent us ideas for how they’re approaching this, to help themselves stay on track.

One thing that’s great is how many listeners have been saying how happy their dogs are, about the extra walking!

If you want the don't-break-the-chain sheet I created, to track your #Walk20in20, download it here.

Listeners' ideas include:

  • use your employee breaks to walk
  • walk 20 minutes 365 times in 2020 (that way, you can stay on track even if you miss a day)
  • remind yourself, "I welcome a walk!"
  • set a phone date to talk to a friend while walking
  • if you can't walk, use the 20 minutes for a different healthful activity
  • combine the walk with something else you love, like playing with dogs
  • invest in the proper clothing so you can walk in any weather, but if you can't walk...
  • google “20 minute walk YouTube” for options to walk when you can’t get outside—for instance, someone mentioned Leslie Sansone videos
  • be accountable to walking your "dog" (even if your dog is a stuffed animal)

For many more ideas, check out 51 ways to walk more. Here are some good ones:

  • Walk one way to your destination and take a subway, bus, cab, or Uber home.
  • Park your car a few blocks or parking garages away from your workplace.
  • Get off one stop earlier on the bus or subway.
  • Choose a favorite song and count how many steps it takes to walk the duration of that song. It almost feels like dancing.
  • Walk in the terminal before a flight.
  • Plug in your phone to charge in the farthest room in the house. Walk back and forth to check messages and make calls. Bonus: You’ll have fewer distractions.

Note: some people find it easier to track steps rather than to track time. Twenty minutes of walking is about 2,000 additional steps. It's handy that "2,000" is a mix of 2 and 0, so it feels like it’s a twist on the same thing.

Post your images, solutions, tips to #Walk20in20. We love seeing everyone's posts.
Gretchen's Demerit: I haven't appreciated the fun of being in the early stage of research for my next book. Instead of enjoying the intellectual feast, I feel anxious that I don't have a thesis and structure. This is the exciting part! I keep reminding myself of some of my favorite mantras: It's a fun job and I enjoy it. Don't treat a gift like a burden. Enjoy the process.

Elizabeth's Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the podcast (also from Cadence 13) Origins with James Andrew Miller.  Here's the description: Origins with James Andrew Miller explores the beginnings of some of the most celebrated successes of our time. Spanning the worlds of television, movies, sports, business, and beyond, Miller reveals exclusive behind-the-scenes stories directly from the people who were in the room when history unfolded.” Elizabeth and I both listened to the episodes on the origins of the TV show Sex and the City—so good.


Resources—now more than ever!

  • During this uncertain time, Elizabeth and I will be hosting Instagram Live discussions Monday through Friday at 4pm ET/1pm PT. Join us live! If you miss one, you can watch the replay for up to 24 hours. Follow me on Instagram and click on my profile image to join once weve started.
  • If you’re looking for some mood-boosting music, we made a Happier 911 list on Spotify. So much great, happy music! Search Spotify playlists for "Happier 911." All the songs were suggested by listeners.
  • If you love great quotations, you might like to subscribe to my free “Moment of Happiness” newsletter. Five days a week, I share a quotation related to happiness or good habits. Join at gretchenrubin.com/newsletter.

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