photography by GRETCHEN RUBEN
Gretchen Rubin is, in essence, a happiness expert. She penned New York Times bestsellers Better Than Before, The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home, and she hosts a podcast called Happier with Gretchen Rubin. We sat down with her to learn the top five tricks anyone can employ to up their happiness level today.
1. Be in tune with yourself.
Advice should not be comprised of blanket statements, since, as Rubin says, “we’re not one size fits all.” As an example, she notes the difference between morning and evening personalities. “A morning person will absolutely get more done first thing when they wake up,” she says, “while night people might struggle to accomplish things during that same time.” People with houses decorated to the hilt or offices with stray piles of paperwork shouldn’t fret either. Rubin believes the phrase ‘a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind’ is only applicable to some. “There are those who like things minimal, with everything in their place, and there are people who are abundance lovers, where some clutter doesn’t bother them,” she says. “If that’s the case, then that’s fine!” In other words, don’t feel pressured to structure your life in a way that doesn’t feel true to your natural self.
2. Make life changes that give you more energy.
Yes, everyone might be a bit different in what we want and how we attain it, but our level of energy is a common factor in how we feel day-to-day. Sleep, exercise, and eating better are the three things Rubin believes we have control over that impact our physical energy and well-being. Paying attention to what is personally affecting your life in any of these areas gives you a place to think about meaningful change. “Try to pinpoint what is impacting your sleep,” Rubin says as an example. “Maybe it’s going to bed at the same time every night, or going to sleep an hour earlier, or avoiding work before going to sleep—whatever works for you.”
3. Work on your relationships with others.
“Ancient philosophers recognized the importance of our relationships with others,” Rubin says, “and they impact our general happiness in a profound way.” Here, working on relationships doesn’t just mean improving things with your significant other, or relatives, or close friends (though that is one component), but also widening the pool of relationships you do have. The changes you make also don’t have to be monumental to have great effect. Rubin suggests making manageable changes, such as setting a date night once a week with your significant other, or joining a book club.
4. If you’ve tried to do something and failed, try it a different way.
How many of us have set a resolution to work out in the New Year, only to fall back into old habits by February? Don’t beat yourself up, because, Rubin says. The problem might not lie with your lack of willpower. “With exercise as an example, think about the last time you worked out and you enjoyed it,” she says. “Was it with a partner because you like accountability? Was it in a class because you liked having someone else lead? Maybe you prefer being outside instead of indoors at a gym? By paying attention to when you had positive feelings toward an activity, you can build your decisions around those circumstances, and suddenly, things fit.” Often times, negative feelings toward an activity or goal can be averted or changed into positive feelings by simply choosing to try it in a different way.
5. Recognize there is no one magic answer.
While it’s tempting to buy into cure-all practices, they can set you up for failure. What always sets you up for success, though, no matter the goal, is listening to yourself and noting what works in your life. Not everyone has to follow the same path to reach the finish line. “We are all individuals,” says Rubin. “And while people like easy answers, not everything works for everyone.”