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Podcast 269: Choose a COVID-19 Mantra, a Fun Way to Celebrate These Difficult Days, and Casey Schwartz Talks about “Attention.”


Update: If you’ve been listening, you know that our most recent few episodes have been pre-recorded. Now we’re caught up, so the question is: How much should we talk about the COVID-19 situation? We’ve heard from some people who say, “It’s so great you’re not talking about the pandemic,” and other people who say, “I wish you would talk about pandemic.”

This show is based on our own life experience, so it’s impossible for COVID-19 not to be part of the conversation. At the same time, we’ll also be talking about ordinary things, which can be very comforting to think about, when the times seem so un-ordinary.

One thing that’s confusing about this situation is that it’s hitting people all over the world, but at different times, and in different way. We’re speaking from our own experience, what’s happening right now, to us, where we live. We’re lucky, because we’re in the situation where we’re hunkering down at home. Others of course, are courageously grappling with tremendous challenges right on the front lines. We’re thinking of the essential workers with tremendous gratitude, and wishing all our best to people who are sick or are close to people who are sick.

Update: In happier news, note that if you joined us for #Walk20in20, you’ve now completed more than 100 days of walking—and you've probably walked more than 100 miles. If you'd like to hear more about "Walk 20 in 2020," we discuss it in episode 252. If you need a little nudge, recent research shows that even 4,000 easy steps makes a difference: Stuck Inside? Keep Walking.

If you’re just joining us, it's always the right time to begin! If you'd like to download the one-page “don’t break the chain” chart, it's here.

Try This at Home: Choose a COVID-19 Mantra.

We love mantras. Each year, we choose a mantra for the year, as we discuss in episodes 57 and 59, and we also might choose one-word or one-phrase themes for the year, as we discuss in episodes 26, 151, 201, 208, 254…we love this exercise.

We’re now doing daily Instagram Live "Coping with COVID-19 Conversations" Mon-Fri at 4 pm ET. (If you miss one, you can watch the replay for up to 24 hours. Follow me on Instagram—I'm @gretchenrubin—and click on my profile image to join once weve started.)

In one of those conversations, we started talking about our COVID-19 mantra, and we continue that conversation here.

Elizabeth's mantras: "Closer, Stronger, Lighter" and "If not now, when."

My mantra: "Put down the clipboard." I mention being an Upholder in my "Four Tendencies" personality framework. If you want to know if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, you can take the free, quick quiz here.

A listener wrote us that her mantra is "Don’t treat a gift like a burden,” an idea that we've discussed before.

On Happier in Hollywood episode 153, Elizabeth and Sarah also talked about COVID-19 mantras.

Happiness Hack: Use Paperless Post to send out an invitation for a “virtual” gathering, to elevate it.

Liz with Casey Schwartz's new book, Attention: A Love Story.

Interview: Casey Schwartz.

Casey Schwartz is a writer who covers neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry. She’s written for places like the New York Time and Newsweek/The Daily Beast. She wrote a piece for the New York Times Magazine that made a big splash: Generation Adderall.

Her latest book is Attention: A Love Story. We talk about attention, distraction, productivity, and writing.

Casey is a Questioner.

Casey's Try This at Home suggestion: Talk to your neighbors—from a distance of six feet, of course.

Coping with COVID-19: For the last three years, we’ve made a list of things we wanted to do that year: 18 for 2018; 19 for 2019; and 20 for 2020. If you want to listen to us talk about 20 for 20, for instance, it’s episode 255.

And recently, during an Instagram Live conversation, we talked about updating our “20 for 20” lists to become “19 for COVID-19."

One listener couldn't run the half-marathon she'd trained for as part of her 20 for 2020—it was cancelled because of COVID-19—so she ran that distance in her hometown.

Another listener recorded stories for her grandchildren on YouTube.

We often talk about the Four Tendencies framework, and our listener reported how she saw the Four Tendencies at work among quilters who are sewing face masks.

A listener sent a letter of congratulations to her post-COVID-19 future self, as we discussed in episode 267.

Gretchen's Demerit: Given my mantra, I think you can guess my demerit: My happiness-bully side has come out, and I’ve been trying to control everyone’s habits.

Elizabeth's Gold Star: Our biggest gold stars go to health-care and front line workers, of course.

Elizabeth also gives gold stars to two TV competition shows, Amazon's Making the Cut and Netflix's Next in Fashion.


  • If you want to give one of my books as a gift for a spring birthday or Mother’s Day, request a personalized, signed bookplate here to add a special touch. U.S. and Canada only, alas—mailing costs. 
  • During this uncertain time, Elizabeth and I will be hosting Instagram Live "Coping with COVID-19 Conversations" Monday-Friday at 4pm ET/1pm PT. Join us! If you miss one, you can watch the replay for up to 24 hours. Follow me on Instagram (I'm @gretchenrubin) and click on my profile image to join once weve started.
  • If you want to use this time to learn more about yourself using my Four Tendencies video course, I’m offering an extreme discount price of only $25. (This is $74 off the normal price of $99). You have lifetime access to the course material and can go at your own pace or follow the 5-week structure. Visit

Quote From the Podcast

The easiest way to pay attention is to try to be as curious as you possibly can.
Casey Schwartz

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