Tag Archives: Gretchen Rubin

Signifying Nothing

Gretchen Rubin is so wise. Today she lists some examples of ways NOT to boost happiness. I’m most struck by the idea that venting doesn’t work; indeed, I too get whipped into sound and fury, which doesn’t help at all.

4. Expressing your negative emotions. Many people believe in the “catharsis hypothesis” and think that expressing anger is healthy-minded and relieves their feelings. Not so. Studies show that expressing anger only aggravates it; as Plutarch observed, “Anger, while in its beginning, often can be ended by silence, or neglect.” I’ve certainly found this to be true; once I get going, I can whip myself into a fury. It’s better to stay calm.

5. Staying in your pajamas all day. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned in my happiness research is that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. As improbable as this sounds, it really works. Sometimes it can be fun to hang out in your sweats all day, but if you’re feeling lethargic, powerless, or directionless, not getting dressed is going to make you feel worse. Put on your clothes—including your shoes—so you feel prepared for whatever the day might offer. While you’re at it, make your bed.

On the happiness note:

A few nights ago walking in DC I heard this tenor sax pumping out Christmas carols. For some reason the sound made me immediately and irrevocably melancholy. Occasionally the musician stopped playing to thank a passer-by for her donation; perhaps it was the sound of his gritty voice against the nostalgic sax that drove me into such an emotional place.

I tend to postpone listening to Christmas carols until I’m through with all the pre-break stress. That sax player struck me hard enough to make me wonder why I’m feeling so detached from the holidays this year. It’s been a long semester, but detachment has never been my problem.

Today on the metro my melancholy lifted. A little old man stood up and demanded the entire car’s attention. He burst into song in a Chinese accent so strong that I had to wonder who on earth is “Chlist.”

When he finished, the entire metro car burst into applause. Bizarrely this lifted my melancholy and suddenly, suddenly I’m in the mood for Christmas!

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Get More Sleep

Once again The Happiness Project taps directly into my brain w/ this prescient suggestion I always forget I should remember:

Get more sleep!

It’s easy to become accustomed to being sleep-deprived, but it’s not good for you. Many researchers argue that not getting enough sleep has broad health consequences, such as raising your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even obesity, but in addition to those, it has a profound effect on your happiness.

One study showed that a bad night’s sleep was one of the top two reasons for being in a bad mood at work (the other? Tight work deadlines). Another study suggested that getting one extra hour of sleep each night would do more for your daily happiness than getting a $60,000 raise.

Roger. Halloween makes this a bad weekend to set this resolution into effect, but the time change makes this a good week to remember to remember.

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Happiness and Tardiness

Lifted whole-cloth from the ever-prescient Gretchen Rubin, giving me precisely the tips I need today:

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Seven tips if you’re chronically late.

Feeling as though you’re always running twenty minutes behind schedule is an unhappy feeling. Having to rush, forgetting things in your haste, dealing with annoyed people when you arrive…it’s no fun.

If you find yourself chronically late, what steps can you take to be more prompt? That depends on why you’re late. As my Eighth Commandment holds, the first step is to Identify the problem– then you can see more easily what you need to change.

There are many reasons you might be late, but some are particularly common. Are you late because…

1.You sleep too late? If you’re so exhausted in the morning that you sleep until the last possible moment, it’s time to think about going to sleep earlier. Many people don’t get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation is a real drag on your happiness and health. Try to turn off the light sooner each night.

2.You try to get one last thing done? Apparently, this is a common cause of tardiness. If you always try to answer one more email or put away one more load of laundry before you leave, here’s a way to outwit yourself: take a task that you can do when you reach your destination, and leave early. Tell yourself that you need that ten minutes on the other end to read those brochures or check those figures.

3. You undestimate the commute time? You may tell yourself it takes twenty minutes to get to work, but if it actually takes forty minutes, you’re going to be chronically late. Have youexactly identified the time by which you need to leave? That’s what worked for me for getting my kids to school on time. We have a precise time that we’re supposed to leave, so I know if we’re running late, and by how much. Before I identified that exact time, I had only a vague sense of how the morning was running, and I usually thought we had more time than we actually did. My daughter goes into near-hysterics if we’re late, so that motivated me to get very clear on this issue.

4. You can’t find your keys/wallet/phone/sunglasses? Nothing is more annoying than searching for lost objects when you’re running late. Designate a place in your house for your key items, and put those things in that spot, every time. I keep everything important in my (extremely unfashionable) backpack, and fortunately a backpack is big enough that it’s always easy to find. My husband keeps his key items in the chest of drawers opposite our front door.

5. Other people in your house are disorganized? Your wife can’t find her phone, your son can’t find his Spanish book, so you’re late. As hard as it is to get yourself organized, it’s even harder to help other people get organized. Try setting up the “key things” place in your house. Prod your children to get their school stuff organized the night before—and coax the outfit-changing types to pick their outfits the night before, too. Get lunches ready. Etc.

6.You hate your destination so much you want to postpone showing up for as long as possible? If you dread going to work that much, or you hate school so deeply, or wherever your destination might be, you’re giving yourself a clear signal that you need think about making a change in your life.

7. Your co-workers won’t end meetings on time? This is an exasperating problem. You’re supposed to be someplace else, but you’re trapped in a meeting that’s going long. Sometimes, this is inevitable, but if you find it happening over and over, identify the problem. Is too little time allotted to meetings that deserve more time? Is the weekly staff meeting twenty minutes of work crammed into sixty minutes? Does one person hold things up? If you face this issue repeatedly, there’s probably an identifiable problem – and once you identify it, you can develop strategies to solve it — e.g., sticking to an agenda; circulating information by email; not permitting discussions about contentious philosophical questions not relevant to the tasks at hand, etc. (This last problem is surprisingly widespread, in my experience.)

Late or not, if you find yourself rushing around every morning, consider waking up earlier (see #1 above). Yes, it’s tough to give up those last precious moments of sleep, and it’s even tougher to go to bed earlier and cut into what, for many people, is their leisure time. But it helps.

I’ve started getting up at 6:00 a.m. so I have an hour to myself before I have to rassle everyone out of bed. This has made a huge improvement in our mornings. Because I’m organized and ready by 7:00 a.m., I can be focused on getting all of us out the door. (On a related note, here are more tips for keeping school mornings calm and cheery.)

What are some other strategies that work if you suffer from chronic lateness?

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Gretchen Rubin: Manifest Destiny

Sundays are when I learn Tax law, so you’ll forgive me if I plagiarize one more entry. Here’s one of my favorite works in progress, Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project,” suggesting that we establish a Mission:

Writer Jean Stafford scoffed, “Happy people don’t need to have fun,” but in fact, studies show that the absence of feeling bad isn’t enough to make you feel good; you must strive to find sources of feeling good. Research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life; people who have fun are twenty times more likely to feel happy.

Recently, I noticed a pattern among activities that people find fun: Have a mission. There’s something about having a playful purpose, of trying to achieve something, that makes an activity more fun.

For example, a friend told that she loved visiting flea markets and antique stores to look for old globes – not fancy ones, cheap ones. She has a rule that she’ll never pay more than $20. She’s the kind of person who loves poking around in those kinds of shops in any case, but having a mission makes it more fun, less aimless.

For that matter, having a collection of any sort is a very popular way to have a mission. You get the little zap of satisfaction whenever you find another piece of blue sea glass on the beach or another out-of-print book by Charlotte Yonge. Or you collect experiences, like attending a game in every Major League Baseball stadium or running in as many marathons as possible.

Taking photos is a common way to incorporate a mission into traveling. Not only does this help keep memories vivid, it also makes you more attuned to your environment while traveling. (Although for some people, taking photos can become a barrier to experience; they get so focused on getting the photos that they don’t enjoy the reality.)

For example, during my most recent visit to New Haven, I had a lot more fun wandering around once I set myself the mission of taking tourist photos of my own romance.
Some people have a mission to take photos during everyday life: taking a photo of people’s bare feet whenever they get the chance, taking a photo of every red barn they see. Artist Nicholas Nixon did a series called The Brown Sisters, a series of black-and-white photos of his wife and her three sisters taken every year from 1975-2006. It’s absolutely riveting.

Why is this true? The First Splendid Truth holds that to be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

The more I’ve thought about happiness, the more surprised I’ve been at the importance of the “atmosphere of growth.” I think this is a huge engine of happiness, and when you have a mission, you create an atmosphere of growth whenever you pursue that mission.

Have you found a way to have a mission? What is it – and does it boost your happiness?

P.S. I’m chuckling away at my choice of image [Star Trek ship]. Get it?

* On Gimundo, I read about a very reassuring study that concludes that workers who are permitted to spend time each day (less than 20% of total time) puttering around the internet are actually more productive than those who aren’t allowed to do so. Phew.

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

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Happiness and Drift

Yet another brilliant piece from The Happiness Project.  I love the author’s expert identification and description of the issues.  I love her for having “drifted” into Yale Law School.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problem of drift in happiness. Drift is the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility. (“Drift” isn’t an actual psychological term, like situation evocation or emotional contagion; it’s just a word that I use).

An engaged friend couldn’t have made it more plain that she didn’t want to get married. I asked her, “Imagine that something happened, and you couldn’t get married next month. Your fiancé absolutely had to move to China for a year, alone, or you had to have a big operation. How would you feel?” “Relieved,” she said. And yet she went through with the wedding, and got divorced a year later.

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