"To Study and Learn How To Know Ourselves...Is the Foundation of Wisdom and the Highway To Whatever Is Good."

“The most excellent and divine counsel, the best and most profitable advertisement of all others, but the least practiced, is to study and learn how to know ourselves. This is the foundation of wisdom and the highway to whatever is good.” --Pierre Charron * As a person who reads every possible minute that I can, I'm always looking for good reading recommendations and for places to read about, and revel in, books (whatever physical form they may take). I loved finding this blog, Nathalie Foy -- "on books about books."

Want Some Tools To Boost Happiness? Try the Happiness Project Toolbox.

I love visiting this blog’s companion site, the Happiness Project Toolbox – it’s fun to add to my own Inspiration Board, keep up with my own One-Sentence Journal (mine is a journal of what I’m reading), check my Lists, etc. But I’m really addicted to the site because I love looking at what other people are writing. I can’t get enough of reading other people’s favorite quotations on the Inspiration Boards, seeing other people’s Personal Commandments, and all the rest. (To see what other people have added, you can click on the Tools listed across the top, or on the “more” running down the right side.)

"Doing Is the Hard Part...When It Comes to Eating Right and Exercising, We Know What We Should Do."

I got to know Adam Gilbert and his site, My Body Tutor, because, like me, he's very interested in the question of how and why people are able to keep resolutions. We've all made resolutions, very sincerely and enthusiastically, but then not kept them. Why not? How can we do better? Adam is focused on helping people stick to their resolutions related to health, fitness, and weight, which are certainly among the top areas for resolutions that people make -- and break.Figuring out strategies to make progress with these resolutions makes people much happier, and I was eager to hear what Adam had to say about happiness.

Want To Be Happy at Work? Dozens of Tips, Plus a Few Quizzes, To Consider.

One issue that comes up frequently in the area of happiness is -- no surprise -- the relationship of work to happiness. How to be happier at work. Why happiness is good for business. How to feel happier if you've lost your job. Etc. Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness. In one of those life-isn’t-fair results, it turns out that the happy out-perform the less happy. In addition, they work better with others, because people prefer to be around happier people, who are also less likely to show counterproductive behaviors like burnout, absenteeism, counter and non-productive work, work disputes, or retaliatory behavior than are less-happy people.

Video: Do Good, Feel Good. It Really Works.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- last week's resolution was to Cultivate gratitude. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is Do good, feel good. It's related to the Second Splendid Truth, Part A:One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself. 

I’m So Judgmental. I Want to Conquer This! Any Suggestions?

One key thing I’ve learned from my happiness project is that I’m much more likely to stick to a resolution if I make it concrete. The more specific I am with myself, the more easily I can hold myself accountable, and the more easily I can keep the resolution. So, for example, instead of resolving to “Get more fun out of life,” I resolve to “Start a children’s-literature reading group.” Instead of resolving to “Stay calm in the morning,” I resolve to “Get enough sleep” and “Wake up an hour before my family.” Instead of resolving to “Appreciate the moment,” I resolve to “Keep a one-sentence journal.”

Need a Happiness Boost? Read a Good Book.

I'm in four book groups, if you can believe it, and one recurring challenge for each of the book groups is picking the next book. At the last meeting, as we were debating various options, one of my friends said, "I just really want to read something that I love. It's been a while since I read a book that was great." I knew exactly what she meant. I read a huge amount, both for fun and for work (in fact, one of the things I love about my work is that it gives me way to make reading a billable hour). I love many different kinds of book, and I read many different kinds of books. But when I read a book that I love, I always get a chill and think, "Yes, THIS is what reading is about!"

"Even the Things That Frustrate Me Are the Product of Choices I've Made to Have the Life I Want."

Every happiness project is different. Melanie Rehak's happiness project? She devoted a year to food: working in the kitchen staff of a small restaurant, working on some of its supplying farms, and coaxing her picky-eater toddler to try new foods. Her book just hit the shelves: Eating for Beginners: An Education in the Pleasures of Food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid. None of Melanie's undertakings would appeal to me, and yet I loved her book. I could enjoy her passion and her engagement, even if I wouldn't want to milk a goat or butcher a duck.

7 Tips for Dealing with a Sweetheart Who Is Constantly Crabby.

If you're in a relationship, your sweetheart's happiness matters a lot to you. Not only because you care about that person's happiness, but also because -- due to a phenomenon called emotional contagion -- you're very likely to "catch" that mood. Unfortunately, bad moods are more catching than good moods. What do you do if the love of your life is driving you crazy by being crabby all the time? Try thinking about these factors:

Video: Cultivate Gratitude -- Find a Way!

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month's theme is Eternity. Last week’s resolution was to Imitate a spiritual master. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is Cultivate gratitude. A grateful spirit is very important to a happy life, and in fact, the more I think about happiness, the more importance I attribute to gratitude.

Find Ways to Make Holiday Traditions More Fun. (At the Very Least, Have Some Holiday Traditions.)

Two of my resolutions are to Start a new family tradition and Do something festive. I want to do something more with the Fourth of July. When I was growing up, this was always a very fun holiday. We were often on vacation in my parents’ hometown, North Platte, Nebraska, which was a great place to celebrate the Fourth. We bought a lot of family-style fireworks – sparklers, snakes, poppers, wheels -- and shot them off in my grandparents’ backyard, plus North Platte had various town activities. July 4 is also my mother’s birthday, so that lent the day an extra air of festivity, and we ate a lot of cake and ice cream. It felt like a special day.

"Working on My Novel, Remembering that Life Is Long -- and Yet Not Overscheduling."

I got to know novelist Christina Baker Kline through a writing group I joined -- which is now connected with the very helpful writing site, She Writes. Christina's wonderful novel, Bird in Hand, just came out in paperback -- joining The Way Life Should Be. Christina also has a very interesting blog, Writing/Life, "notes on craft and the creative process."

Buddhism Has 8 Auspicious Symbols. I Chose My Own Set of Symbols. What Are Yours?

I get a tremendous kick out of the numbered lists that pop up throughout Buddhism: the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths. In fact, it was Buddhism that inspired me to write my Four Splendid Truths (after I formulated the First Splendid Truth, I just had to assume that I’d end up with more than one). However, it’s surprising to me that Buddhism, with its emphasis on gateless gates and transcending the bounds of rational thinking, has so many of these numbered lists. I love them, but still, it seems incongruous. There’s a koan to be written about it, that’s for sure. Let's see...how about, “Use numbers to throw away enumeration.”

Video: Imitate a Spiritual Master. Who Is Your Spiritual Master?

In the hubbub of everyday life, it can be easy to lose touch with the things that really matter. Finding a way to incorporate transcendent values into your ordinary day will make you happier -- but it can be challenging to do that. For that reason, this week's resolution is to Imitate a spiritual master:

What Is "Opportunity Cost"? Does It Matter For Happiness? --Yes.

One of the things I love about studying a new subject is learning the particularized vocabulary. New words describing new concepts allow me to understand the world in a deeper way. For example, in law school, after I learned the concept of “acting in reliance,” I suddenly saw people acting in reliance all over the place. (For example, when my friend John signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment because Michael promised to room with him, he’d acted in reliance, and so when Michael wanted to move in with his girlfriend instead, John was entitled to hold him to his word.)

Want To Be Happier? Avoid False Choices.

I started thinking about false choices when I heard a friend describe a new job he was considering. “I don’t think I’ll take it,” he explained. “There are two ways to do that job. John Doe was the wise counselor to the boss, the old friend who had the boss’s respect and his ear. Joe Doe was the sycophant, the suck-up who told the boss what he wanted to hear and did all his dirty work. I can’t follow the first model, and I won’t follow the second model. So the job’s not for me.” But that was a false choice. There are any number of ways to do a job; he didn’t have to limit himself to one of those two models.

"Watching Project Runway, Not Criticizing My Husband, and Remembering that 'Things Tend to Get Done.'"

I got to know Trish Ryan because I was such a fan of her first memoir, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Hope, and Happily Ever After. We exchanged emails, and then when I was in Boston for my book tour, I finally got to meet her in person. Her next book just hit the shelves: A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances.I'm a big fan of Trish's writing for two reasons. First, although I would describe myself as a reverent agnostic, I'm very drawn to accounts of other people's faith. Trish writes about Jesus and her faith in a way that's engaging, thoughtful, and even very funny. Also, Trish is extremely honest. Not just honest about the things that have happened in her life, but also honest about her real thoughts and judgments and motivations -- to an unusual degree. 

10 Tips for Parents Who Want to Help Their Children Handle Social Struggles.

A few days ago, in a post about teasing, I quoted from Michael Thompson's excellent book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. In the book, Thompson includes a list of ten rules for parents who want to help their children manage their social lives. He discusses each point at greater length, of course, but I thought the list itself was very helpful.

Video: Plagued by Clutter? Clear a Surface.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month’s focus is Clutter. Last week’s resolution was to Find an exact place for things. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Clear a surface.

Should Parents Tease Their Children about Social Struggles?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about teasing, and I was astonished both by the number of people who commented and by the intensity of their reactions. Clearly, teasing is a painful issue for many people. It’s a tricky subject, however, because teasing comes in so many flavors. Teasing among family members, and teasing at work. Gentle teasing and mean teasing and flirtatious teasing. Teasing that’s really a disguised compliment, and teasing that’s really a masked attack. Teasing that makes people feel included and recognized, and teasing that makes people feel excluded and diminished.

Stop Talking, Or, a Happiness Lesson from Sex and the City 2.

A few days ago, as a treat, a friend and I went to see Sex and the City 2, which was tons of fun. SPOILER ALERT: I am going to talk about the plot here for a minute, so be warned.

"Oddly, I Am a Naturally Sunny, Optimistic Person Who Has Also Struggled with Depression."

I recently made a new friend, Maia Szalavitz, and I was thrilled when I got my hands on her new book (with co-author Bruce Perry), Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered. Empathy, and the ties that bind people into relationships, are key elementsof happiness. The book has many fascinating sections. For example, I was struck by this passage:

10 Extremely Simple Tips To Eliminate Stress in Your Day

When I was little, I was always puzzled by the maxim, "A stitch in time saves nine." I couldn't figure out what that meant. Finally, light dawned: a single stitch, made in good time, saves the trouble of making nine stitches later. In other words, a little effort now saves a lot of effort later. That notion underlies several of the tips below. 

Video: Find an Exact Place for Things. It Saves a Lot of Time--and Is Surprisingly Satisfying.

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- last resolution was to Follow the one-minute rule. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?  This week’s resolution is to Find an exact place for things.

Tell Other People about What Makes You Happy -- a New Feature of the Happiness Project Toolbox.

A few days ago, I wrote about the happiness of creative collaboration. Another collaborative project which has been a huge source of happiness, novelty and challenge, and fun for me has been the creation of my companion website, the Happiness Project Toolbox. What is the Happiness Project Toolbox? As I was working on my happiness project, I invented several methods that helped me to boost my happiness. My one-sentence journal, my Personal Commandments, my Secrets of Adulthood, and of course – most important of all – my Resolutions Chart.

Find a Vehicle for Creative Collaboration.

A while back, I read Daniel Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. This short, engaging book is quite striking, because it’s a career guide written in the form of a manga comic book. Terrific! It blew my mind. I was so inspired by it, in fact – by this engaging way to tell a story and to convey information – that I became determined to do a comic myself. It took me some digging to find the right person with whom to collaborate, but at last I found the brilliant, funny, and (appropriately) very happy young cartoonist, Chari Pere.

"There's a Huge Difference Between Pleasure and Satisfaction."

Tony Schwartz's new book just hit the shelves this week: The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance. Tony is very interested in the question of how to create a work environment that helps people be not only more productive, but also more engaged, more creative, and happier. He focuses on four areas: sustainability/physical; security/emotional; self-expression/mental; and significance/spiritual. I'm fascinated with the relationship between work and happiness, so I was very interested to hear what Tony had to say about his own approach to happiness.

10 Tips for Living a Better Life, One Day at a Time--from Pope John XXIII.

One of the most important strategies of my Happiness Project has been keeping my Resolutions Chart. It provides accountability, it prompts me to review all my resolutions once a day, it gives me the gold stars I crave -- when I manage to follow my resolutions. (If you'd like to see a copy of my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin [at] gretchenrubin [.com].) I love reading other people’s resolutions and their personal commandments, and I was very interested to read the daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII (a "decalogue" is a set of rules having authoritative weight). Pope John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963 and was known as “The Good Pope.”

Video: Want To Keep Clutter under Control? Follow the "One-Minute Rule."

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge -- this month's theme is Order. Last week’s resolution was Don't get organized. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Follow the one-minute rule. This rule holds that if I can do a task in less than a minute, I should go ahead and do it -- no procrastinating. Scan a letter and toss it, put a dish in the sink, hang up my coat, etc. Following this rule means that, to a large extent, the scum of clutter in my life is under control, and for me, as for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

Did Your Parents Make You Take Piano Lessons? If So, Have They Made You Happier?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my urge to sign up my children for lessons -- piano lessons, Tae Kwon Do, etc. I feel extremely lucky that I can choose to provide lessons for my daughters -- that I can afford to do it. Absolutely! But is it a good idea? I'd like to hear adults' reflections on their own experiences with lessons. If you have a minute, I'd appreciate it if you'd answer three quick questions. For these purposes, don't consider any lessons that you, as a child, asked to take; here, I’m interested in parent-initiated lessons. Also, don’t consider religious school. Sunday school, Hebrew school, CCD, etc. are in a different category from soccer practice.