Gretchen Rubin and the Keys to Happiness

  • Written By:Bobbi Brown
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Podcast host and best selling author Gretchen Rubin knows a lot about happiness. The former law clerk (she worked with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) set out to explore the topic of happiness and behavior and has since written five books on the topic. Her latest, Outer Order, Inner Calm, is out now. We sat down to talk about where happiness comes from, her work with Justice O’Connor, parenting, and the Dali Lama. Listen to this week’s episode of Long Story Short here.

On discovering happiness as a topic…

I was stuck on a crowded city bus, and I thought: what do I want from life anyway? I never ask myself am I happy, what is happiness? I thought I should have a happiness project. I ran out to the library the next day, got a giant stack of books about happiness. The science, the research, memoirs, philosophy. I often will become obsessed with something and will spend all this time researching it and it’s just fun for me. I was so interested and I thought, maybe this should be my next book. It was so big that I’ve basically been writing about happiness and human nature ever since.

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On what makes us happy...

50% of happiness is genetically determined. And you see that. And 10-20% is life circumstance: work, health, marital status, income. The rest is our thoughts and actions. People will often say to me: happiness is a choice. That doesn’t really ring true. For me, it doesn’t seem that happiness is a choice, but I can choose to go to bed on time, make time with my friends, read a book and from those choices I can become happier. But so many people say that it must be a framework that really strikes a chord with a lot of people, it just doesn’t for me.

On the best parenting advice…

Comes from the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. It's charming and easy to read and invaluable. The thing they talk about, which is so important, is to accept the reality of other people's feelings.

On the one thing you can do to change your life...

Ancient philosophers and contemp scientists agree that the key to a happy life is strong relationships. If we are going to happy we have to have have close, intimate bonds, we need to be able to confide, to get support and give support, and feel like we belong. Look at your life and think, what can I do to deepen a relationship or broaden a relationship? You can look for little steps you can take and they make a really big difference. Strengthen relationships, that's the bottom line.

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