399: Give a Holiday Gift to Your Future-Self, an Easy Photo Hack, and How to Keep Healthy Boundaries


Just in time to celebrate our 400th episode next week, we have our new Happier with Gretchen Rubin mugs! Get happier with this cheerful mug.

Try This at Home

Give a holiday gift to your future self by getting a jump on your holiday shopping, planning, and preparation now.

Listeners’ suggestions included:

  • over time, add gift ideas to a wish list
  • if you plan to have guests, start clearing clutter now so you don’t have to rush before a party
  • choose a theme gift – for instance, give everyone the same item in a different color
  • starts or house guests arrive — for tips, consult my book Outer Order, Inner Calm
  • create a system for holding onto memories — consider this storage box or Memento Journal
  • make travel plans early, to save money and hassle, and…
  • make arrangements for pets if you’ll be away
  • identify non-gift gifts: take a class together, movie tickets, do an irksome chore for someone, give the Gift of Podcast
  • make a list of don’t-miss seasonal experiences to enjoy or host
  • to host a holiday party early in the season when things are calmer, invite people to trim a tree
  • identify things you might need and buy before store supplies run low
  • for larger purchases of food or drink, buy early or arrange delivery, to avoid shopping in crowds or not being able to find what you want
  • start early with holiday-card planning: choosing a photo, finding the addresses, ordering cards. Use the storage box or Memento Journal if you want to organize a year’s holiday cards.

To be sure, many people said they didnt want to prepare too early:

  • they wanted to enjoy each season as it happened, and not rush ahead
  • they burn too much energy or too much money if they start too early

Happiness Hack

On a trip, book a photo shoot with a professional photographer through Flytographer.


Melissa Urban is a six-time New York Times best-selling author and co-founder of the Whole30. Her new book is The Book of Boundaries: Set the Limits that Will Set You Free (Amazon, Bookshop), about how we can create healthy boundaries to end resentment, burnout, and anxiety, and reclaim our time, energy, health, and relationships.

We discussed questions such as:

  • Was Melissa surprised that people struggle so much with boundaries?
  • What did Melissa’s experience with drug addiction teach her about boundaries?
  • What’s the difference between setting a boundary for yourself and trying to control what someone else will do?
  • What are the green/yellow/red stages of communication, and why are they helpful?
  • What key insight resonates most with people?

Melissa Urban’s Tendency: Upholder.

Melissa Urban’s Try This at Home: Charge your phone outside your bedroom for a week.

Demerits & Gold Stars

  • Gretchen’s Demerit: I haven’t started thinking about Jamie’s birthday present.
  • Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Her son Jack had his first cross-country meet.


  • For an attractive, handy way to keep three-dimensional things organized, check out this storage box.
  • To keep two-dimensional things organized, check out the Memento Journal.

What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: Oh, William! By Elizabeth Strout (Amazon, Bookshop)
  • Gretchen: An Outsider’s Guide to Humans: What Science Taught Me About What We do and Who We Are by Camilla Pang (Amazon)

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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.