Author Gretchen Rubin received international attention for her 2009 best-selling book, The Happiness Project, in which she reexamines her own happiness and tries to develop mood-boosting habits.
With her weekly podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, her quest for happier living continues. Launched in 2015, the show is co-hosted by Rubin’s sister, TV writer and producer Elizabeth Craft, and incorporates listeners’ feedback and noteworthy guests like Drew Barrymore and Rosanne Cash.
This week, I asked Rubin to share some of her most efficient mood-boosting tips. For the most part, they can be accomplished in a minute or less:
1. MAKE YOUR BED.
“The thing that’s surprising to me is the degree which, for most people, outer order does contribute to inner calm, inner self-command, and creativity,” Rubin says. With that in mind, she says one easy way to maintain order and, in turn, boost happiness, is to make the bed. Every day. (And Rubin swears she sticks to this habit, even in a hotel: “On the morning I check out, I have to have the bed made.”)
2. SMELL THE ROSES—OR SOMETHING ELSE NICE.
Rubin says she “used to scoff at scented candles,” but now she understands scents are “a way to get a quick lift without any time and energy, money, no planning, no calories.”
3. FOLLOW THE "ONE-MINUTE RULE."
Overwhelmed by unreturned texts, unopened mail, and other tiny tasks? “The one-minute rule says that anything I can do in less than a minute, I should do without delay,” Rubin says. “So I don’t postpone hanging up my coat, printing out a document and filing it, glancing over a letter and throwing it away. What this does is it gets rid of that scum on the surface of life.”
4. SET AN ALARM—AND NOT JUST FOR WAKING UP.
Since sleep and mood are linked, Rubin says folks who struggle with turning out the light may benefit from a bedtime alarm. “For many people, an alarm really helps; they just need that trigger,” she says. “Although I’ve heard of people who use an app where it chimes every once in a while to remind you to be mindful. Nothing would drive me crazier than a random chime going off on my phone! But whatever works for you.”
5. DON'T LIKE A BOOK? STOP READING IT.
“I mean, I don’t watch a TV show if I don’t like it,” Rubin says. So why not apply the same logic to books? “I used to have this feeling that a ‘real reader’ would finish a book if [she] started it. … Now I just have so much more time to read the books that I like, and I like everything that I read.”
6. TAKE ONE THING WITH YOU.
This one may be especially helpful for parents: When leaving a room, pick up as you go, one thing at a time. “When you really make that effort just to say, ‘I’m just gonna take one cup as close as I can get it (to the kitchen) without going out of my way,’ without having to dedicate a lot of time and energy to it, you keep that clutter more in control.”
7. LISTEN TO AN UPBEAT SONG.
“It’s familiar, but it actually really does work,” Rubin says. “It’s a very easy way to change your mood.”
8. JUMP UP AND DOWN.
Rubin also swears by this simple energy-booster, especially when you may only have a few seconds to spare.
9. KISS SOMEONE YOU LOVE.
“Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists would agree that relationships are a key—maybe the key—to happiness,” Rubin says. “So anytime you do something that broadens your relationships or deepens your relationship, it’s gonna make you happier.” For example, she notes, “I kiss my husband in the morning, and I kiss him at night—and I make a point to do it.”
10. MAKE SOME "BRIGHT-LINE RULES."
Rubin draws a direct connection between habits and happiness, and she also notes that hard rules can spare one the agony of decision-making.
“My sister doesn’t eat any kind of junk food at work. I gave up sugar altogether,” she says. “Sometimes bright-line rules are easier, because they kind of get you out of a debate with yourself, which is very exhausting and often futile.”
She adds, “You don’t have to decide whether or not to eat dessert, you don’t have to decide whether or not to go to the gym. You’ve already decided, and so it’s on automatic.”
New episodes of Happier with Gretchen Rubin are posted on Wednesdays. Subscribe in iTunes and learn more at gretchenrubin.com/podcast.