We all have busy lives that are filled with junk that we don’t want to do. Many of us have work, school, and relationships that take up the majority of our time. On top of that, we have chores, cooking, exercise, self-care, and maybe trying to fit some leisure time in between. Frankly, feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unhappy seems unavoidable for some people because of the obligations they find themselves having to fill everyday. Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft address those feelings in their podcast “Happier.”
I’ve listened to three podcasts this year, and Happier was by far my favorite. Gretchen and Elizabeth are both successful women that share their experiences as they try to be happier people. Gretchen researches happiness and has even published books on the topic (Better than Before and The Happiness Project), while Elizabeth is the “happiness guinea pig” and tests the suggestions Gretchen gives to her listeners. Each episode is short (about 20 minutes), so listening doesn’t seem like an imposition. There is a fairly structured format for these episodes, which I personally enjoy. Here’s the format:
- Tip of the day: Each episode starts with a tip that you can try out for the week. All of these tips were completely practical (i.e., making your bed in the morning, the “one minute rule,” or setting an alarm for bedtime).
- Stumbling blocks: Gretchen addresses stumbling blocks to happiness that are often overlooked. This includes things like free food, envy, and cluttered rooms.
- Know yourself better: I loved this section in every episode because she talks about the different groups people can fall into and discusses each one. The reason I loved it is because it’s so inclusive and allows everyone listening learn something. It also helps us understand others in a deeper way.
- Happiness demerits and gold stars: At the end of each episode Gretchen and Elizabeth take turns giving themselves demerits and stars. A demerit goes to things in their lives that detract from their happiness and stars go to people, objects, or places that bring joy!
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Just like the last two podcasts I discussed on Hello, Professional Girl!, I listened to 15 episodes of Happier and identified themes that are relevant to millennials like you and me.
Happiness is Attainable
There’s a common belief that if you think about happiness too much, then you won’t be happy. Gretchen suggests that way of thinking is wrong. Think of it this way… How are you going to hit a target with an arrow if you aren’t aiming at it? In the same way, how are you going to be happy if you aren’t thinking about ways to reach happiness?
Fixing small things in our daily lives can lead to a life of happiness without taking up time and energy that we don’t have. For example, simply “aiming” for happiness by thinking about what makes us happy can get us one step closer. I personally enjoy making little changes instead of trying to change everything all at once, because it’s not as overwhelming for me. One suggestion I absolutely loved was to be very intentional when saying hello and goodbye to people. Make sure to give a warm greeting when you walk into the office, or an attentive goodbye to your family as you leave for the day. There is research that supports the fact that relationships with others is what makes us happy, and making the effort to cultivate those relationships is worth it!
Dealing with Negativity
When you’re happy, other people are more likely to be happy. However, there are always people who are in a bad mood and in a constant state of negativity. When grumpy people are put in our path, Gretchen suggests using emotional contagion to deal with them. Emotional contagion is essentially the idea that your emotions will trigger the same emotions in others. So the next time one of those grumps crosses your path, don’t let them bring you down. Try to lift them up by being your naturally positive self, and don’t feel bad about it.
Negative people tend to take the opposite view of whatever the other person is saying. For example, if you say, “Oh, that activity must have been fun!” Their reply would most likely be, “No, it was actually not that great.” To be honest, I am guilty of this. I think I take the opposite side of the conversation for the sake of keeping the conversation going! The problem with this approach is that you come off as argumentative. Gretchen reminds us that skilled conversationalists have a way of being positive and leaving you feeling better after talking to them. By being conscious of how we’re speaking to others, we can being more happiness into our lives and the lives of others.
In most episodes of Happier, Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about how everyone is different when it comes to what will make them happy and more productive. Problems with productivity come when people don’t recognize what kind of person they are, which will ultimately make them unhappy.
For example, some people are “marathoners” and some are “sprinters” when it comes to getting work done. Marathoners prefer to get things done slowly over time while sprinters prefer to be right up against a deadline. In school (at least in the US), everyone is taught to be a marathoner. We’re told that your best work can’t be rushed and, “There’s no possible way this assignment can be done in one night!” The fact is, some people truly do their best work when they’re rushed. It would not make them happier to think about and work on an assignment for an entire semester! If you’re not a marathoner, don’t feel bad about it. There’s no right or wrong. Embrace what works for you.
My favorite piece of advice Gretchen and Elizabeth give about productivity is the “One Minute Rule.” If there is a task that takes under one minute to complete, then do it immediately. Examples of these kinds of tasks would be opening your mail and throwing away the junk, hanging up your coat and putting away your shoes when you get home, and placing your clothes in the hamper after showering. Following this rule will declutter your life, get those small tasks off your mind, and make you feel more productive!
Happier has taught us that there are small, practical ways we can improve and be happier without becoming overwhelmed. Remember, happiness is attainable, you are equipped to deal with negative people, and boosting your productivity can be done in just one minute! Let me know what you do to boost your happiness!