Eight Pieces of Advice from My Sister, the Sage.

My sister Elizabeth Craft is a sage. Every time I talk to her, I keep a pen and paper handy so I can write down her words of wisdom. I quote her constantly. She's a TV-writer in Los Angeles (now writing for The Vampire Diaries), so that gives a certain flavor to her advice, but many of her observations are more universal than they appear at first glance. Here's an assortment of some of my recent favorite lines:1. When I was fretting because I hadn't heard back about a proposal, she told me, “'Yes' comes right away; 'no' never comes." This observation turns out to be true in a very wide variety of situations.

Video: What Has Been YOUR Most Helpful Resolution?

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 month’s focus was Fun, and last week's resolution was Start a collection. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week, I'm doing something a little different.

To Make a Friend, Ask Someone For a Favor.

Here’s a resolution that might sound counter-intuitive: Ask for a favor. Ask for help, for advice, for suggestions. Asking for a favor is a sign of intimacy and trust. It shows that you feel comfortable being indebted to someone. I remember a friend at work telling me, “I never liked that guy until he told me he needed to borrow $50 from me. Then I realized he must consider me a friend, and presto! I started liking him.” 

"The Less Money Matters to You, the More Careful You Need to Be With It."

I met personal finance expert Zac Bissonnette when we were on a panel together, and I was impressed by his command of the research and statistics related to working, debt, higher education costs, and money -- particularly because he was still in college! He's now entering his senior year at the University of Massachusetts. His new book, Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents, just came out.

Trying to Make a Tough Decision? Try Asking the Five Fateful Questions.

When I’m reluctant to take a risk or face something uncomfortable, I ask myself these five questions which, in melodramatic form, I call the "Five Fateful Questions." They help me think clearly about a situation. What am I waiting for? What would I do if I weren’t scared? What steps would make things easier? What would I do if I had all the time and money in the world? What is the worst, and the best, that could happen?

Video: Start a Collection. It's Fun!

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 Fun, and last week’s resolution was to Abandon a fun project. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Start a collection.

Does "Relationship Talk" Boost Happiness? For Women, Yes; For Men, No.

I've noticed that many people are fascinated by the happiness differences between men and women. For the most part, in my research and reflection, I don’t focus overmuch on this, because I think it obscures the differences among individuals. In particular, when I focus on the way “men” generally behave, I start to lump my husband along with half of humanity. I find myself feeling angry or annoyed with him for things he hasn’t even done! However, I did read some very interesting observations along these lines in 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great, by research professor Terri Orbuch, who is the project director of the Early Years of Marriage research project (although the project has been going on for more than twenty years, so it's not just early years any more).

“Nature, Which Makes Nothing Durable, Always Repeats Itself So That Nothing Which It Makes May Be Lost.”

“Nature, which makes nothing durable, always repeats itself so that nothing which it makes may be lost.” --Oscar Wilde 

"Feel What You Feel, Even If It's Not What You'd Like To Be Feeling."

Happiness interview: Stephanie Dolgoff. I e-knew Stephanie Dolgoff a bit from the internet, because I'd read her blog, Formerly Hot -- "a humorous blog about body image, beauty, aging, and pop culture." We crossed paths at a recent blogger conference, but never met. Last week, finally, I got the chance to meet Stephanie face-to-face just as her new book, My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young, is hitting the shelves. (Here she is on the Today show.)

"The Shorter My Possession of Life, the Deeper and Fuller I Must Make It."

“It needs good management to enjoy life. I enjoy it twice as much as others, for the measure of enjoyment depends on the greater or less attention that we give to it…The shorter my possession of life, the deeper and fuller I must make it.” --Montaigne 

P.S. How To Get Your "Happiness Project" Fix While I'm on Vacation.

Warning: Blatant self-promotion! It just occurred to me to say -- I'm taking a week's vacation, but if you want to read about happiness in the meantime, please consider my book, The Happiness Project (on the New York Times bestseller list for months, including hitting #1). “Um, why should I buy your book,” some people have asked, “when I can read the blog for free?” Other people have asked, more delicately, “I read your blog regularly, so isn’t reading the book just more of the same?” Here are some reasons to read the book:

"I'm Much Happier If I Can Achive a Flow State for Part of Each Day. But This Requires Shutting Off My Email."

Happiness interview: Paul Bloom. I recently read Paul Bloom's new book, How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like. It's an absolutely fascinating look at pleasure and why we feel it. The relationship between pleasure and happiness -- what it ought to be, and what it actually is -- is one of the most complex issues within the larger subject of happiness. So I was very eager to hear what Paul had to say.

5 Tips for Happiness Inspired by a Family Vacation.

My college roommate was a dedicated journal-keeper. She once told me, "Every once in a while I have a big insight into myself, or have a major epiphany about life. The thing is, when I look back in my journals, I realize that I had exactly the same idea a few years ago -- but I forgot it." I feel the same way; it's hard to remember the lessons I've learned. For that reason, because I'm going away on my family vacation next week, I went back to see what I wrote last August's vacation.

Video: Abandon a Fun Project.

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 Fun. Last week’s focus was Make time for fun--even if you have to schedule it like a dentist's appointment. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Abandon a fun project. I realized that a source of clutter in my apartment, and a significant drain on my energy, was the uncomfortable presence of unfinished “fun” projects. Now I try to call an end to a project when I know, deep down, I won't finish it. It's such a relief! Plus it eliminates so much clutter.

Throw Away Other People's Trash, or, How to Boost Your Self-Esteem

The subject of self-esteem is a topic that has generated a fair amount of controversy over the last few decades, but one thing seems clear: you don’t get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling yourself how great you are, or even from other people telling you how great you are. You get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that you find estimable. In other words, the best way to feel better about yourself is to do something worthy of your own respect: keep a difficult resolution, meet a challenge, solve a problem, learn a skill, cross something unpleasant off your to-do list. And one of the best ways to feel better about yourself is to help someone else -- do good, feel good.

"Decide What You Want or Need to Do, and Then Do It With All Your Power."

Happiness interview with Chris Yeh.I was e-introduced to Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur Chris Yeh by my online-then-real-life friend Jackie Danicki. 

Video: Make Time for Fun. Even If You Have To Schedule It Like a Dentist's Appointment.

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 Fun. Fun may sound frivolous, but people who regularly have fun are much more likely to describe themselves as happy. Last week’s resolution was to Find some fun. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This week’s resolution is to Make time for fun.

Read about My Children's Literature Reading Groups in the New York Times!

I've written about my children's literature reading groups before -- yes, groups. Along with friends, I've started THREE of these groups, and each one is a huge engine of happiness for me.  My friend Pamela Paul (who is herself a member of Kidlit) wrote about the Kidlit groups in the New York Times Book Review today: The Kids' Book Are All Right. Fun!

Identify the Problem.

My Eighth Personal Commandment is to Identify the problem. That is, when you’re annoyed, angered, or frustrated, ask yourself, “What exactly is the problem here?” This rule seems so obvious that it’s hard to explain why it’s so tremendously helpful, but it has been the one of my most major happiness-project breakthroughs.

8 Tips for Boosting Your Energy RIGHT NOW.

It’s hard to feel happy when you’re dragging around. Simple tasks seem overwhelming, people seem annoying, and nothing seems fun. Lots of good results flow from having plenty of energy. Life just seems more manageable. Also, studies show, you’re more likely to feel good about yourself, and not only that, being considered an “energizer” makes you more likely to win a positive work evaluation.

Video: Find Some Fun. You'll Be Happier.

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 month's theme was Eternity, and last week's resolution was to Put your values into action in your everyday life. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness? This month's theme is Fun, and this week’s resolution is to Find some fun (which can be surprisingly challenging). This resolution reminds me of one of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood: Just because something is fun for someone else doesn't mean it's fun for me -- and vice versa.

Lessons in Family Happiness -- from Disneyland.

Last week, my family and I went to Disneyland – our first time. We had a wonderful visit, and I was reminded, once again, that when thinking about family happiness, the simplest and most obvious truths are the most important to remember:

"If I Seek [Beauty] Elsewhere Because I Do Not Find Her at Home, My Search Will Prove a Fruitless One."

“Such is beauty ever -- neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one." -- Henry David Thoreau 

5 Common Happiness Mistakes -- "Boosters" That Actually Do More Harm Than Good.

Everyone has a few tricks for beating the blues – things you do when you’re feeling down to try to boost your mood. I've found out from long experience, however, that several of the most popular strategies don’t actually work very well in the long term. Beware if you're tempted to try any of the following: 1. Comforting yourself with a “treat.” 

Do You Have Happy Memories of a Place Associated with Your Grandparents?

A few days ago, over on the Facebook Page, I asked the question, “What childhood places were most important to you?” I answered, “For me, the Plaza library in Kansas City. It has been renovated, and while it’s gorgeous and new, I wish I could still visit the library the way it was.” More than a hundred people posted a response to this question, and I was struck by how frequently people mentioned a happy memory connected to a place associated with their grandparents.

“A Lifetime Can Well Be Spent Correcting...One’s Own Faults Without Bothering about Others.”

“A lifetime can well be spent correcting and improving one’s own faults without bothering about others.” -- Edward Weston * A reader send me the link to this terrific blog, The Adventures of ALS Boy. This particular post, So I had a dream this morning, particularly struck me.

Re-Consider the Rules of Thumb You Use in Everyday Life.

My adventures in the lands of happiness research led me to the concept of heuristics. Heuristics are “rules of thumb,” the quick, common-sense principles people apply to solve a problem or make a decision. They aren’t “rules for living” that you consciously try to apply; rather, they're deeply embedded, often unconscious, rules that you use to make decisions, answer a question, or decide a course of action. Usually heuristics are useful, though sometimes they lead to cognitive bias. Take the availability heuristic: people predict the likelihood of an event based on how easily they can come up with an example. This is often helpful (is a tornado likely to hit Manhattan?), but sometimes people’s judgment is skewed because the vividness of examples makes an event seem more likely than it actually is. People become very worried about child abduction, say, when in fact, it’s a very rare occurrence.

"Flirting, Watching Clips from Broadway Shows and Nature Documentaries, and Reminding Myself to 'Suck It Up and Deal With It Now.'"

My love for all things Twilight, books and movies, both fascinates and puzzles me. Obedient to my Personal Commandment to "Be Gretchen," I wear my passion on my sleeve, and so last year, a movie-critic friend emailed me to say, "Hey, I know you love Twilight stuff. You should check out this review." I read the attached review of New Moon, and I recently read the review of the new movie Eclipse, and I was blown away by the writing of Natasha Vargas-Cooper and Mary H.K. Choi. This kind of crazy, high-low, jumping style looks playful, but is very, very hard to do well -- pyrotechnical effects combined with real insight and analysis. As G.K. Chesterton observed, "It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light."

"The Things That Go Wrong Often Make the Best Memories" -- and Further Secrets of Adulthood.

What have I learned, with time and experience? Not much, I fear. Here are my latest Secrets of Adulthood. Although these items may not seem particularly profound, each one was a revelation when I finally figured it out: