All posts by Gretchen Rubin

About Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestsellers, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. Gretchen has emerged as one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject. Though her conclusions are sometimes counter-intuitive—for example, she finds that true simplicity is far from simple to attain, and that used rightly, money can do a lot to buy happiness—her insights resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

Lonely? 5 Habits to Consider to Combat Loneliness.

3267049486_bce4b38cba_bOne major challenge within happiness is loneliness.  The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.

Of course, being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s Wall Street Journal piece, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years. About 40% of Americans report being lonely; in the 1980s, it was 20%. (One reason: more people live alone: 27% in 2012; 17% in 1970).

Loneliness is a serious issue, Sometimes people ask me, “If you had to pick just one thing, what would be the one secret to a happy life?” If I had to pick one thing, I’d say: strong bonds with other people.  The wisdom of the ages and the current scientific studies agree on this point. When we don’t have that, we feel lonely.

I wrote a book about habits, Better Than Before, and I continue to be obsessed with the subject. Whenever I think about a happiness challenge, I ask myself, “How could habits help address this problem?”

Here are some habits to consider: Continue reading

Want to Make 2016 a Happier Year? Here’s How I Did It, Month by Month.

HappinessProjectonBookstoreShelfIf you’re looking for ways to make 2016 a happier, healthier, more productive year, may I self-promotingly suggest my book, The Happiness Project?

The first day of the new year always feels so fresh and full of promise to me — but at the same time, it’s very discouraging to look back over the year that’s just ended, and realize that I’d never accomplished an important, happiness-boosting change that I’d hoped to make.

This feeling is one of the major reasons that I undertook my happiness project.

I remember so clearly the moment when I had the idea to do it. I was on the 79th Street cross-town bus, and I looked out the window and thought, “What do I want from life anyway? I want to be happy.” I realized, though, that I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether I was happy, or how I could be happier. “I should have a happiness project!” I decided. Continue reading

3 Bad Habits That I Use With My Puppy.

BarnabyPantinginPark-300x225As I’ve mentioned, we got a new puppy — he’s an adorable five-month-old black cockapoo named Barnaby. 

He’s sleeping at my feet right now. He has a special dark corner under my desk where he likes to hang out.

It took me a lot of hard thinking to decide whether or not to get a dog — you can listen to me talk about it with my sister here — and I’m so happy we did get a dog.

Beforehand, though, I was adamant that we would spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that he had very, very good doggy manners. Better for him, better for us.

But I must confess, as much as I love habits, and as much as I’ve studied how to form habits — after all, I wrote a whole book, Better Than Before, about the twenty-one strategies we can use to master our habits — I’ve fallen into three bad puppy habits.  (I say “I” but these apply to my whole family, actually.) Continue reading

A Fun Way to Make a New Year’s Resolution: Choose a One-Word Theme for 2016.

word-of-the-yearI love New Year’s resolutions – and I’m not the only one. Some 44% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.

I love resolutions,, and as I wrote about in my book Happier at Home, for the last several years, I’ve identified one idea, summarized in just one word, as an overarching theme for the entire year.

Continue reading

Determined to Keep Your 2016 New Year’s Resolutions? Here’s How.

New Year's Resolution TipsI love making New Year’s resolutions. Yes, January 1 might be an arbitrary date, but I think it’s good that we all have a cue to ask ourselves, “What would I like to change about my life? How could it be better than before?”

Most of us have a list of things we’d like to do better — and very often, those things involve habits. Exercise, sleep, fun, eating, relaxing, and so on.

In my book Better Than Before, I list all twenty-one strategies that we can use to make or break the habits that shape our lives. All the strategies are powerful and effective, but some are more universal than others. Here are some of the most popular ones, to start you thinking.

Continue reading

I Can Barely Say a Word. It’s an Interesting Situation.

voice-300x200 (1)I lost my voice.

I woke up with a sore throat, then gave two long talks, back to back, at a conference and then — wham, my voice went out.

I thought it would be back this morning, but no luck. My sister and I were supposed to record an episode of our podcast, but that just wasn’t possible. When I told my husband I was going to try, he laughed. “You’re not recording anything today,” he said.

It doesn’t hurt when I try to talk — but practically nothing comes out.

It’s been a very interesting exercise in silence and listening. For instance, when I walked my younger daughter to this school this morning, it seemed odd not to chat. We often walk for several blocks in silence, but this time, we walked in silence the whole way. It was a companionable silence, but it wasn’t as companionable as talking.

On the other hand, she told me, “It’s very calming, your whispering. It’s like being in yoga. I feel like harps should be playing.” So that’s nice, I guess.

I’ve also realized how much I talk to my puppy Barnaby. I hope he doesn’t think I’m angry at him; I’m not saying a word, when usually I talk to him quite a bit — which I’d never realized.

This morning, I was on a conference call, and I explained by email ahead of time that I wouldn’t be able to talk much. I thought that I might listen more acutely, given that I wasn’t talking, but to my surprise, I found it harder to listen. It’s like knowing that you’re going to be called on in class — you pay more attention when you know you might be put on the spot. Because I knew no one would expect me to participate, I felt less pressure, so I had to work harder to stay focused.

One hilarious thing: when I have to talk, it’s much easier to whisper, and people always whisper back to me! Apparently it’s very tough to speak in a normal voice to someone who’s whispering.

It has been interesting, if involuntary, experience, but I sure hope my voice is back tomorrow.

Have you ever lost your voice? How did the silence and the listening affect you?

 

Also …

4tendencies-blue2-300x321Do you love to take quizzes that teach you more about yourself? I sure do. If you’d like to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take the Four Tendencies Quiz. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken it.

 

 

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

5 Things Oprah Taught Me about How to Give a Good Interview.

GretchenRubinOprahStandingHarpoIncGeorgeBurns-150x150One of the biggest thrills in my professional life as being interviewed by Oprah herself, for her amazing Super Soul Sunday series. Yowza!

The interview aired on November 8, at 7 p.m EST/PT on OWN.

Doing the interview was exciting on many levels, but among other things, I learned a lot about the interview process. Oprah is the master, and it’s always a rare privilege to learn from a true master. Continue reading

How I Do My Research: Is “Despite” Actually “Because?”

5000710747_39c62f3242_zPeople often ask me, “How do you do your research?”

I’m a kind of street scientist. I don’t have a lab full of undergrads eating marshmallows to study; I rely on my own observations.

Really, I feel more like Samuel Johnson or William Hazlitt or George Orwell, in the way that I analyze human nature. I love reading the science, and I think about the science all the time, but in the end, I pay the most attention to what I see around me. And what I read — not just science, but memoirs, biographies, novels.

I tell people this, and they say, “But how do you draw any conclusions?”

I can never think of a good answer. I just read a lot, talk to people a lot, take gigantic amounts of notes, and ponder. I look for patterns. Certain actions or remarks strike my attention, often for reasons that take me months to identify.

But it did occur to me that I’ve hit on one very useful analytic technique, without quite realizing it.

If I’m stumped by something I see, I substitute “because” for “despite,” and see if a proposition makes sense. Continue reading

Why It’s a Bad Idea to “Interview for Pain.”

microphoneslinedup1-300x125One of my favorite parenting books is Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill’s Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understand the Social Lives of Children.

Like most good parenting books, the advice turns out to be just as useful when dealing with adults as it is when dealing with children. (I think about Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s brilliant How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk more often in the context of adult than of child interactions.)

As I was reading Best Friends, Worst Enemies, I was particularly struck by Thompson’s warning against “interviewing for pain.” Continue reading

Would You Commit a Random Act of Kindness If It Took 1 Minute & Could Save 8 Lives?

organ-donor.3803807700-300x212In the happiness world, there’s a lot of talk about “committing random acts of kindness.”

As I wrote about in Happier at Home, I’m a bigger fan of non-random acts of kindness — but there is one random act of kindness that I absolutely believe in.

If you support organ donation, please speak up about it.

Take a moment to sign the donor registry. That way, everyone can easily know your wishes, should the need arise.

Also, let your family and friends know that you’d want to be an organ donor.  Post a message on Facebook or Twitter, send out a blast email, talk about it over dinner. If and when they had to make a decision on your behalf,  in a time of grief and shock, it would be a tremendous comfort to them to know what you would want. To make it easy to find what you wrote, add the hashtag #organdonor.

This issue is particularly close to my heart. For decades, my husband had hepatitis C, which attacks the liver (he got hep C from a blood transfusion during a heart operation when he was eight years old). Well, it turns out the liver is a very, very important organ to have.  A liver transplant was definitely a possibility for him, so I became very interested in this issue of organ donation.

By a miracle of modern science, my husband is now cured. Yes, CURED. Tears well up in my eyes, even just typing those words.  (If you want to read more about one of the happiest days of my life, go here.) Continue reading

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