Category Archives: Music

Gretchen Rubin: Balanced LIfe — 8 Tips for Feeling Happier During an Unhappy Time.


Every Wednesday is Tip Day.

This Wednesday: 8 tips for feeling happier during an unhappy time.

At some points in life, it’s not possible — or at least not easy — to feel happy. However, even then, it’s sometimes possible to feel happier. By taking whatever steps you can manage to give yourself whatever happiness boost is possible, you give yourself a deeper reservoir to deal with your happiness challenge. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Remind yourself of reasons to be grateful. When things look really dark, it’s hard to feel grateful, but remembering what’s good in your life can help put problems into perspective. I have a friend who recently suffered a big disappointment at work. She said to me, “As long as my family is healthy, I can’t get too upset about anything.” This may sound like hackneyed advice, but it’s really true.

2. Remember your body. Take a twenty-minute walk outside to boost your energy and dissolve stress. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Get enough sleep. Manage pain. When you’re anxious, it’s easy to stay up late and eat ice cream — and that’s going to make you feel worse in the long run. It’s very tempting to run yourself ragged trying to deal with a crisis, but in the long run, you just wear yourself out.

3. Do something fun. Temporarily distract yourself from the stress, and re-charge your battery, with an enjoyable activity. Watching a funny movie is a reliable way to give yourself a pleasant break, and listening to your favorite music is one of the quickest ways to change your mood. When my older daughter was in the intensive-care unit as a newborn, my husband dragged me off to a movie one afternoon — and that few hours of distraction made me much better able to cope with the situation. Be careful, however, not to “treat” yourself by doing something that’s eventually going to make you feel worse (taking up smoking again, drinking too much, indulging in retail therapy). My comfort-food activity is reading children’s literature.

4. Take action. If you’re in a bad situation, take steps to bring about change. If you’re having trouble with your new boss, you could decide to try to transfer. Or you could change your behavior. Or you could find ways to pay less attention to your boss. Ask yourself, “What exactly is the problem?” It’s astounding to me that often, when I take time to identify a problem exactly, a possible solution presents itself.

5. Look for meaning. Re-frame an event to see the positive along with the negative. Maybe getting fired will give you the push you need to move to the city where you’ve always wanted to live. Maybe your illness has strengthened your relationships with your family. You don’t need to be thankful that something bad has happened, but you can try to find positive consequences even in a catastrophic event.

6. Connect with friends and family. Strong relationships are a KEY to happiness, so fight the impulse to isolate yourself. Show up. Make plans. Ask for help, offer your help to others. Or just have some fun (see #3) and forget your troubles for a while.

7. Make something better. If something in your life has gotten worse, try to make something else better – and it doesn’t have to be something important. Clean a closet. Organize your photographs. Work in the yard.

8. Act toward other people the way you wish they’d act toward you. If you wish your friends would help you find someone to date, see if you can fix up a friend. If you wish people would help you find a job, see if you can help someone else find a job. If you can’t think of a way to help someone you know, do something generous in a more impersonal way. For instance: commit to being an organ donor! When you’re feeling very low, it can be hard to muster the energy to help someone else, but you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Do good, feel good; it really works.

What other strategies have you used to make yourself happier during an unhappy time?

* I spent a lot of time reading — and looking at the lovely photos — on the blog SouleMama.

* Is your book group reading The Happiness Project? (I know a lot of groups have been waiting for the paperback release.) I’ve prepared a one-page discussion guide for book groups, as well as a guide tailored for church groups, spirituality book groups, and the like. If you’d like either discussion guide (or both), email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. (Don’t forget the “1.”)

John Gascot: Giddy About Gaga

Once upon a time, a day existed when there was no internet, no Youtube and no Twitter. It was a strange time when information and entertainment was shared through a box with dials called a television. Imagine that! Are you old enough to remember rushing home to catch an MTV World Premier Video? I am. Yesterday, as the video for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was released on the internet I was transported to those days, if only for a few minutes. A man nearing forty years of age, I awaited with great anticipation for the Twittersphere to come alive with news that her video had been officially released.

La Gaga did not disappoint! She still delivers (no pun intended). The video’s visuals are as stunning, as I expected they would be. The camp quotient, right down to the glittery unicorn is perfect. The song, despite all the media and internet criticism, is fabulously catchy. After all, how could it not be? If it in fact sounds so much like Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” a song that suddenly is being praised for its brilliance, then how bad can it really be?

I fear that if I read yet another story or internet forum comment about how much Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” lacks merit and is a blatant rip-off of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” my head might implode, not from anger, but boredom. At first I honestly did not hear it and rolled my eyes at the comparisons. Now I kind of do and roll my eyes still, but for different reasons. So what if Gaga’s latest single borrows heavily from Madonna’s 1989 hit? When has Lady Gaga not acknowledged Madonna as a major influence in her work? She has repeatedly expressed her admiration of the Material Girl and other artists of the 70’s and 80’s. So “Born This Way” sounds a lot like “Express Yourself,” the same way that Cher’s “Strong Enough” is an obvious throwback to Gloria Gaynor’s iconic “I Will Survive” and Fergie’s “Fergalicious” sounds incredibly similar to J.J. Fad’s “Supersonic.” Even my all-time favorite artist, Prince, borrows heavily from the Pointer Sisters’ “Automatic” in the hook to “Lavaux,” from last year’s overseas release 20Ten. The list goes on and on. None of these similarities affect my ability to enjoy any of these songs.

I suppose that harsh criticism is to be expected. With overexposure comes backlash. Gaga is constantly chastised for putting on too much spectacle. Her critics accuse her of trying too hard to shock rather than being “herself”. Well, who can truly be the judge of this? How are we even to know of or speculate on such things? Until a relative or close friend comes forward stating otherwise I will continue to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride, thinking that she is expressing something sincere. Truth be told, I don’t really care one way or the other. I just want to be entertained.

In this day, when so many talented yet boringly “real” artists fall by the music industry wayside never to be heard from again, I am thankful for spectacle. I grew up on spectacle and arrogance. Didn’t Madonna once declare that she wanted “to rule the world?” Didn’t Prince grace us with his “assets” in yellow butt-less pants? Didn’t Cyndi Lauper all but become a professional wrestler? These are the things of show business! The over-the-top antic was an art form in and of itself. Frankly, I’ll take an outrageous performance and wardrobe over a “leaked” sex tape or crotch shot any day.

Yesterday I felt 14 and giddy. Thank you, Lady Gaga.