The author of Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits Of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin shares her wit, wisdom and research on how to feel happier, even when we’ve hit a low pitch.
1. When things get tough: Treat yourself like a toddler. A cranky toddler. A toddler who shouldn’t get too hungry, too cold, too hot, too sleepy or be dressed in uncomfortable clothes.
2. Most decisions don’t require extensive research.
3. One of the worst ways to spend your time is to do something well that need not be done at all. For instance, you spend time filing—but maybe you don’t need to hang onto those papers at all.
4. Everything looks better arranged on a tray. You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.
5. Pay very special attention to anything you try to hide. The desire to hide something, from family or co-workers—to keep them from seeing what’s on the computer screen or from knowing how much time or money is spent on a habit—shows that, in some way, your actions don’t reflect your values.
6. It’s easier to prevent pain than to squelch pain. Literally and figuratively.
7. Someplace, keep an empty shelf; someplace, keep a junk drawer.
8. Ask yourself: Whom do you envy? Envy is uncomfortable, but it’s instructive. If you envy your co-worker, due to her exotic travels, that’s a clue that it’s time to plan a trip yourself. If you envy your sister, due to her ease in the kitchen, maybe you’d like to take a cooking class.
9. The things that go wrong often make the best memories. When you think back on a camping trip, or a new puppy or a long, family car trip, what do you remember best?
10. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. If you need to finish the annual report, time spent cleaning your desk, answering emails or doing “research” is just an unhelpful distraction.
11. Every room should contain something purple. A flash of unexpected color never disappoints.
12. There’s always time to enjoy a beautiful scent, be it a clean towel from the dryer, or something new from the hardware store.
13. Go ahead, change that burned-out lightbulb.
14. Go outside. Research shows that being in the sunlight and being in a natural environment both lift your spirits.
15. Burn energy to create energy. Research shows that we tend to feel because of the way that we act. If you act energetically—stand instead of sit, walk faster, run down the stairs—you’ll give yourself a jolt of energy.
16. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. (Zen Proverb)
17. No one regrets having stocked up on toilet paper.
18. Be gentle with yourself. People sometimes assume that if they beat up on themselves for mistakes, they won’t make them as much. To the contrary. Research shows that people who show self-compassion, by saying things like, “Well, we’ve all done it,” or “I learned my lesson, and I’ll do better next time,” are better at trying to stick to healthy habits.
19. Fill in the blank: “_____ is a good servant but a bad master.” Ambition, technology, caffeine, productivity. What’s your answer? There’s an important difference between things that are useless and things that are unused. The clock you inherited from your grandfather might not be able to tell the time, but it can be a beloved memento.
20. Schedule time to be unscheduled.
21. What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. For the better (a run) and for the worse (a cupcake).
22. One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make others happy.
23. One of the best ways to make others happy is to be happy yourself.