Podcast 295: Do Something Familiar in a New Way, an Easy Hack to Control Snacking, and a Conversation with Al Roker About Work and Life.


Our next book club choice: Yaa Gyasi’s unforgettable novel, Transcendent Kingdom (AmazonBookshop). Start reading, and post your questions and comments on social media using #happierpodcastbookclub.

Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing (AmazonBookshop) is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.  Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, love.

Try This at Home

Do something familiar in a new way. Elizabeth has been hiking in the afternoon instead of the morning. This year, for the first time, I started going to the Met by myself, and recently, after going alone many times, I went with a friend. I love both experiences, and they’re very different. We can find ways to take new pleasure in activities that we already enjoy. 

Happiness Hack

A listener observed that magnetic baby-proofing cabinet mechanisms had baby-proofed their house, and also adult-proofed it—because she and her husband use the cabinet locks to make it tougher to graze on unhealthy treats. This approach is a great example of the Strategy of Inconvenience, which is one of the 21 strategies that I describe in Better Than Before, my book about habit change.

She recommends Safety 1st cabinet locks.

We mention the distinction between Moderators and Abstainers. 


Al Roker is a co-anchor of NBC’s Today show, an Emmy-award-winning journalist, and a New York Times bestselling author. He has been at NBC for forty years, and he’s the celebrated host of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—and he recently starred in Broadway’s Waitress. His latest book is You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success (AmazonBookshop). It’s part memoir and part advice guide for building a rewarding career. In this interview, we talk to Al Roker about:

  • why he doesn’t recommend making a five-year plan
  • how his whole life is ad-libbing
  • how early in his career, in a very challenging moment on live TV, he was able to ad-lib a response
  • why he recommends getting up an hour before you need to (and he gets up at 3:45 a.m.!)
  • why if an activity becomes rote, it’s probably time to quit—a little nervousness keeps us sharp

Al Roker’s Try This at Home: Everybody needs a theme song. His theme song? The theme to the TV action show The A Team.


Gretchen’s Demerit: One of my “tells” that I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed is that I start re-reading children’s literature. I realized that I have another tell, related to podcasts: I start re-listening to familiar episodes of one of my favorite podcasts, Binge Mode, instead of listening to new episodes of shows.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the long-running TV show Survivor—she recommends it as a family show.




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