Podcast #5: Embrace Good Smells; Remember That Working Is One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Procrastination.

My sister Elizabeth Craft and I are having so much fun with our new podcast,  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

I was in Los Angeles last weekend, as part of my book tour for Better Than Before, which was published last week. (Buy early, buy often!) It was great to have a chance to visit Elizabeth and her family — they live in Encino. While I was there, Elizabeth and I got a professional photo taken of ourselves, for the podcast, and we also managed to record two episodes. Usually, we don’t get to be in the same room as we talk, so it was great to be able to see each other for the conversation.

We also recorded an episode that will be a little bit…different.  I’m dying to see how that one turns out.

As I’ve been doing events for Better Than Before many people have told me that they’re enjoying the podcast. Thanks so much, and thanks for listening!

Here’s what we discuss in today’s episode:

Try This at Home: Embrace good smells. How I love good smells. The unconventional perfumer I mention is Christopher Brosius’s CB I Hate Perfumes.shrinetosmell Here’s a photo of my Shrine to Smell. What are some of your favorite smells?

Happiness Stumbling Block: It turns out that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. One big theme of Better Than Before is the question of how to use habits to avoid procrastination. WorkingIsOneOfTheMostDangerousForms_124851

Listener Question: “What’s something that can be done every morning that will guarantee a happier start to the day?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: I can’t make myself check my voice-mail messages on my land-line phone. It drives me crazy.

Elizabeth’s Gold StarInform Fitness Gym. I’m a believer, now Elizabeth is a believer! It’s a gym where we do high-intensity strength-training. The form of training is called “Super Slow.”

1pixGretchenRubinwithAndyBowersBonus Gold Star: When Elizabeth and I were recording, we got to see Andy Bowers, the brilliant Chief Content Officer of Panoply. Gold Star for Andy, who has made our entree into the world of podcasting so fun and easy.

This week, we had our first advertiser! Very exciting. Check out Framebridge — a terrific way to get your art and photos framed, in a super easy and affordable way. Use the code HAPPIER at checkout to get 20% off your first Framebridge offer.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click here to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).

Each week, we give  a “Try This at Home” suggestion, for some easy habit you can try, as part of your ordinary routine, to boost your happiness—something like setting an alarm to signal your bedtime, or using the one-minute rule, to help yourself stay on top of small nagging tasks.

We also suggest questions to help you “Know Yourself Better”—like “Whom do you envy?” and “Are you a Marathoner or a Sprinter in your work style?”—and explore “Happiness Stumbling Blocks,” those small, seemingly insignificant parts of daily life that drag us down—everything from the problem of the Evil Donut-Bringer to the fact that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

We “Grill the Guest,” consider “Listener Questions,” and finally, we get even more personal, and each of us either gives ourselves a “Demerit” for a mistake we made that week, that affected our happiness, or awards a “Gold Star” to someone or something that deserves recognition.

We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really. Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you want to listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Tell us what you think! Drop us a line at @gretchenrubin, @elizabethcraft, Facebook, podcast@gretchenrubin.com, or call 774-277-9336. Or just add your comment to this post.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

Happy listening! Or I should say, HAPPIER listening!

I Had a Very Odd Experience at the Gym This Morning.

Something odd happened to me this morning.

Right now, I’m in Dallas for my book tour for Better Than Before (buy early, buy often!) I was in the gym, walking on the treadmill, when suddenly I felt something shift in my personality.

The experience lasted about twenty seconds.

It was like a dial turned inside me. Or like the chips of glass inside a kaleidoscope made a new pattern.

I was still myself, but somehow in different proportions. I felt, for that moment, what it would be like to be…different. More light-hearted, more easy-going.

One fact about me is that I’m intense. There’s a relentlessness to my nature. And I don’t mind that. My discipline is my freedom. My sister Elizabeth tells me that I’d make a good monk. I’m an Upholder, and I love being an Upholder! Even though I recognize the downsides to it.

But for just a minute, for some reason, I felt like a different person. Then I snapped back to normal.

Something like this has happened to me once before. A few years ago, I was walking down Lexington Avenue, and suddenly I felt all my ambition vanish. It was as if I’d been carrying a heavy backpack for decades, and suddenly it slid off my back. I’d never consciously realized it before, but I have a voice in my head constantly saying, “Did you…?” “Should you…?” “Could you…?” For a moment, it was shut off, and then it returned.

And that was what I felt, this morning. I experienced myself as if I were just a little bit different. It was odd, and exhilarating, and a little sad. It would be fun to be less relentless! And yet I must Be Gretchen.

This is the music that was playing when it happened — Rachel Portman’s Main Theme from the soundtrack of the movie Chocolat. I guess it set off some kind of unexpected response.

Also, for a writer, having a new book out makes everything feel very heightened, so I’m sure that also contributed to it.

Have you ever had an experience like this? It was very odd. For a moment, I was someone different. Not very different, but different nevertheless.

Wow. I Was on the Cover of Parade Magazine.

I’m still in shock. Yesterday, I was on the cover of Parade magazine. The week before, it was Al Pacino. Crazy!

One small, nice thing: many people have emailed me to say that they enjoyed getting to see what my husband looked like.  He’s a great guy, but he’s very uncooperative whenever anyone tries to take his picture, so I was relieved that I did have a good photo to supply.

I saw the magazine while I was spending the weekend with my sister Elizabeth and her family in Los Angeles. We had a lot of fun and also managed to record two podcasts of Happier with Gretchen Rubin while we were together.

Now I’m in Dallas, getting organized for a fun day tomorrow. I love getting to meet readers, and I love to get the chance to talk about habits with a lot of different people, and I love to read on airplanes. So I’m enjoying myself tremendously on this book tour.

Here’s something odd I’ve noticed from hotel-room TV. When I’m feeling all alone — like tonight in a hotel room, or at home when the rest of my family is out of town (as just happened, when my family left town for spring break before I left on my tour) — I’ve noticed that I turn on the TV much more than usual, for company.

Somehow, TV feels…companionable. But only live TV. I don’t get that companionable feeling from recorded shows, Netflix, etc. I’m not sure if it’s the “live” quality of it, or the knowledge that many people are watching what I’m watching.

Do you know what I mean? Or am I the only one who feels this way?

What Do You Do When You Wake Up Early Due to Jet Lag?

Do you suffer much from jet lag? I do.

Right now, I’m in Los Angeles, at the beginning  of my book tour. I’m at my sister’s house, and because of jet lag, I’m up very early. I feel very productive now, but I’ll have to go to sleep extremely early tonight.

I’m up, so I figured…it’s a good time to write my daily post. About what? My new book of course!

Better Than Before, explains how we can master our habits. In it, I reveal the secret to changing habits—really.

It turns out that changing habits isn’t that hard, when you know what to do. The book hit the shelves last week.

Want to know more about the book, before you head to the bookstore, order it online, or add it to your library list?

To read an excerpt, look here.

To listen to a clip of the audio-book, listen here (yes, that’s me, reading).

Listen to the NPR Weekend Edition interview with Rachel Martin.

Watch me on the Today show (this interview is pretty funny, thanks to Matt Lauer) and on MSNBC.

GretchenRubinParadeCoverCheck out the crazy cover of Parade magazine! Yes, I’m on the cover. Last week, Al Pacino, this week, me. Zoikes.

To check out other habit-related materials, click here. (For instance, you can get one-pagers on “Eating Better Than Before,” “Working Better Than Before, ” “Exercising Better Than Before,” and my favorite, “Reading Better Than Before.”)

Read my Habits Manifesto:

1. What we do every day matters more than what we do once in while.
2. Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.
3. Focus on actions, not outcomes.
4. By giving something up, we may gain.
5. Things often get harder before they get easier.
6. When we give more to ourselves,
we can ask more from ourselves.
7. We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.
8. It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.
9. We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.
10. We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.
11. We manage what we monitor.
12. Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.


Request the “starter kit” to launch a group for people changing their habits, together.

Take the online quiz to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel. More than 112,000 people have taken it.

Come to an event — I love to meet readers. If you live in a tour city, I hope I see you in Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Princeton, Washington D.C., Boston, Madison CT, Cedar Rapids, Philadelphia, or of course New York City. Please come, tell your friends. (Final tour dates in Canada, UK., and Australia coming soon.)

Better Than Before  was very tough to write; habit change is a very challenging, large subject.  But I loved writing this book. And I truly do believe that in it, I present ideas and information that will help people to succeed, even if they’ve failed before.

As always, readers, thank you for your support and enthusiasm. And thanks for your patience as I indulge in some fairly relentless self-promotion. In these days of fewer bookstores and shrinking book coverage, we writers are learning to be pushy. And it’s a fine line between pushy enough and too pushy.

Okay, enough. I’m waiting for my sister and her family to appear. Once Elizabeth is up, we’re going on a hike in Fryman Canyon, then recording a Special Episode for our podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. In the meantime, I’m drinking a lot of coffee.

Are You Unnecessarily Severe with Yourself and Your Habits?

“All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.

— Samuel Johnson, as quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

I often think about this remark by Samuel Johnson.

Because I’ve been so focused on habits over the past few years, during the writing of Better Than Before, people often talk to me about the habits they want to change.

And although I have so many strategies and ideas that I’ve identified to help people master their habits, to my surprise, I frequently find myself making the case against changing a habit.

I’ve noticed that people often say they want to change a habit because “I really should ___” or “this person in my life tells me I have to ___.”

And I always say, “Well, maybe you would be better off if you changed the habit — but maybe not. Do you care if you change that habit?” And often, they don’t really care.

For instance, a friend said, “I really love coffee, but I know I should stop drinking it.”

“Why?” I pressed. “Does it keep you up at night? Does it make your stomach hurt?”

“No, it doesn’t affect me.”

I couldn’t resist launching into a defense of coffee. “You need some treats, and as treats go, coffee is great. Even if you buy very expensive coffee, it’s not that expensive, in absolute terms. It boosts your energy and focus. If you don’t add anything crazy, it doesn’t have any sugar, carbs, fat, or calories, but it does have antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and even fiber, weird as that sounds. Caffeine is fine if you’re drinking it in the human range. Plus, there’s pleasant ritual connected with it—you can go out for coffee with a friend.”

“But I should at least cut back.”

“But why?” I pressed. “Enjoy it! A habit isn’t bad unless it causes some kind of problem.”

Along the same lines, when I was in L.A. a few days ago, I did an event where I was interviewed by brilliant journalist Lisa Napoli. She asked how she could change her habit of dumping her clothes in the bathtub.

I asked, “Does it bother you to have those clothes in the bathtub?”

She paused, and said, “Well, actually, no.”

It’s not a conventional thing to do, true, but why  try to squash a habit if it’s not a problem?

Most of us have some habits that we’d like to change that would actually make us happier, healthier, or more productive. So I argue that we should do first things first, and turn our energy toward the habits that really matter.

How about you? Have you ever thought, “I should really change this habit,” and then realized, “Nah, I don’t really care.”

I have the nervous habit of twisting my hair, and for a long time, I told myself that I should stop — but several years ago I decided, “No, I’m not going to worry about it. I’m fine with my hair-twisting.” (Though I do try not to do it when it might bug someone else — in particular, when I’m around my mother. Fortunately, it doesn’t bother my husband.)

All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle. We should be as easy on ourselves as we can be. Agree, disagree?