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  • Writer's pictureJessica Alampay

Podcast Review | Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Listen To This Podcast If:

  • You are interested in practical and humorous conversations about life

  • You want to kickstart accomplishing a personal or professional objective

  • You enjoy quirky, honest humor

  • You enjoy hearing a passionate reader and writer talk about reading and writing

  • You are looking for a podcast that you can listen to with your child or teenager

  • You need an escape from cynicism, criticism, and negativity

  • You are looking for accessible ways build more happiness in your life

An Introduction Happier with Gretchen Rubin was my first-ever introduction to the universe of podcasts; the gateway to a medium that I’ve had a love affair with ever since. Since 2015 I’ve listened to countless hours of podcasts, on a wide range of subjects, but when I need a pick-me-up, or when I’m feeling stuck, I always return to Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

The Hosts

Happier is hosted by Gretchen Rubin, a writer whose work explores “happiness, good habits and human nature”, and her co-host and sister, Elizabeth Craft, a TV writer and producer. Their dynamic as sisters is so familiar to me, often reminding me of myself and my sister. The affection they have for one another is endearing. The differences in their personalties is endlessly entertaining, and is one of the best aspects of the show. The listener accompanies the sisters as they creatively navigate adulthood, hand-in-hand, even though they live on opposite coasts of the United States. They embrace their own quirks, as well as each other’s, and they don’t hesitate to share this with listeners. I enjoy hearing them tend to, and cultivate, their relationship through the creation of the podcast. Gretchen, especially, is so open and passionate about these subjects that you can’t help but be charmed by her.

The Premise and Structure

The show’s foundation is Rubin’s work which discusses “strategies and tips for how to build happier habits into [your] daily life”, and uses examples from the show’s hosts, as well as those proposed by readers and listeners. One thing that Rubin stresses over and over again throughout the episodes (and I think I’ve heard them all), is the importance of self-knowledge. Knowing yourself well enough to determine what will generate more happiness for you becomes the concept upon which this endeavor is hinged. It is a profound and entirely worthy question, posed under the guise of a weekly conversation between two sisters.

The show is structured into different segments, such as the “Try This at Home” segment which offers a a simple suggestion that listeners can implement into their lives quickly, and easily (as long as the desire to do so exists). Other segments include “Listener Questions”, and “Demerits and Gold Stars”, where the sisters take turns sharing their own victories and struggles (they are always relatable); and occasional interviews. It is filled with humorous conversations on what brings us happiness, and what detracts from it, offering practical suggestions and various frameworks that the listener can use to set themself up to achieve things, big and small. It is honest, insightful, and endlessly encouraging. Happier leaves out cynicism and criticism, and joyfully celebrates the best of human possibility.

Gretchen Rubin’s Work

Although her bestselling books, such as The Happiness Project, provide a detailed foundation of Rubin’s ideas, browsing the free resources available on her website , provides a quick introduction into the world of Gretchen Rubin. By doing so, the listener can get the most out of the podcast; already being familiar with such ideas as her Secrets of Adulthood, Personal Commandments, or Four Tendencies, and much more. The value in these is not necessarily in agreeing with all of Rubin’s work, rather it is in finding ways to apply the larger ideas that she proposes to one’s own life. By considering and writing about herself, Rubin opens the door to others to do the same, and to generate their own questions and answers.

A Little Happier

Rubin is as passionate a reader as she is, a writer. She generously shares lessons from poetry, literature, and non-fiction throughout her writing, and podcast. A Little Happier, are mini-episodes of Happier which are dedicated to short, insightful, reflections on moments in history, books, songs, and lessons from her own life. Despite the additional “Little” tag, these mini-episodes are part of the Happier podcast feed, with no additional subscription necessary. I enjoy these mini-episodes so much that I always wish they were longer.

A Note on Perfectionism

I once feared that Gretchen Rubin’s work and aspirations for happiness might intensify my own (limiting) perfectionistic tendencies, but the more I practice self-compassion, the less I worry about this pressure. I have come to realize that what I bring to the show is also what I get out of it; and that the more I de-program the need to be perfect or do things perfectly, the more I can enjoy material that encourages one’s own aspirations. The good that I derive from Rubin’s work far outweighs these concerns. Rubin’s own often-repeated reference to a maxim credited to Voltaire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” is a concept that I return to again and again.

Picture Caption:

In true Happiness fashion I dubbed the fall of 2017 my Fall of Fun. It was my last fall prior to moving to Italy for two years, so I wanted to fill it with moments and experiences that would connect me to people and places that brought me the most joy. It was also the last season before I would have to start packing up for the move. One of the most memorable events was meeting Gretchen for the first time (I met her again later that week! ) at a Meet-up with Gretchen and Elizabeth at the Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey. If you can’t tell by the photo, I was overcome. That was pretty much as big as my smile gets. There were tears! When I got home and told my kids that meeting Gretchen and Elizabeth was like meeting the Beatles, they stared at me blankly. I can’t remember which 2010s pop star’s name I inserted to convey to them my elation!

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