The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

What Habit Would Add the Most to Your Happiness?

How do we make and break habits—really?

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My current writing project is a book that will be called Before and After, about the most fascinating subject ever, the subject of habits. How do we make and break habits–really? (To be notified when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

It was my interest in happiness that led me to the subject of habits, and of course, the study of habits is really the study of happiness. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative. Or not.

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When I talk to people about their happiness challenges, they often point to hurdles related to a habit they want to make or break.

When I think about the habits that I wanted to cultivate, or talk to people about their happiness challenges, it seems as though just about every habit that people seek to make or break falls into the “Big Five”:

1. Eat and drink more healthfully

2. Exercise regularly

3. Rest and relax

4. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress

 5. Organize, clear, and simplify

Does this ring true to you? Are there any habits that you try to foster that don’t fall into one of these categories?

The Big Five reflect the fact that we often feel both tired and wired. We feel exhausted, but also feel jacked up on adrenaline, caffeine, and sugar. We feel frantically busy, but also feel that we’re not spending enough time on the things that really matter. We want to use our time well, but we fritter away hours on activities that are neither particularly fun nor particularly productive.

I call these habit areas the “Big Five,” but I really want to come up with a catchier phrase. Any suggestions?

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Also ...

  • Happier at Home is now available in paperback. If you’re thinking, “Sure, Gretchen, this book was a New York Times bestseller, but how do I know if I'll like it?" Well, you can…

    read an excerpt from the chapter on “Possessions” on "Find a true simplicity"

    listen to a clip from the audio-book

    watch the one-minute video trailer on “Ten ways to be happier at home”

    request the one-page book-group discussion guide -- I've heard from many book groups, and spirituality groups,  who are reading the book together

    watch the Behind-the-Scenes video (this was so much fun to do)

     sign up for personalized, signed bookplates for you or or friends, (U.S. and Canada only, sorry)

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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