Make Yourself Happier: Make Your Bed
Gretchen Rubin is the author of many books, including the block-buster New York Times bestsellers The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, and The Happiness Project. She also has a top-ranked, award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and a popular blog, gretchenrubin.com. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.
Question: What are active steps that ordinary people can take to improve their daily happiness?\r\n
Gretchen Rubin: Well, there’s a million things. There’s so many resolutions that can really work and one of the things is, I think that some people don’t want to start a happiness project because they somehow imagine that they’re going to have to come up with an hour of free time every day, which they don’t have. There’s so many things you can do just within the structure of your ordinary life that don’t take a lot of effort.\r\n
For some reason, and this is surprising to me, and I’m not sure why this is, but the resolution that over and over, people mention to me that something that helped them get started with their happiness project is to make your bed. I realize that in a happy life, making your bed should play a very small part, I don’t know why this is so helpful to people getting started on a happiness project, but for some reason, making your bed – it’s concrete, it’s manageable. There’s a big difference between having a bed that’s unmade and a bed that’s made. That little bit of outer order in people’s lives seem to help them get started. So, that’s a very small thing that you can do.\r\n
Something I think that I really wanted for my happiness project and I think other people want too, is they want a way to bring the more transcendent values of life into their ordinary day. And that can be hard to do. In one of the resolutions that I found most interesting, most engaging that I think a lot of people have also found interesting is to imitate a spiritual master. Now, the first question you have to ask yourself is, well, who is my spiritual master? And that’s actually a very good question to ask yourself. You should know who your spiritual master is. It’s a very fascinating question to ask yourself and to think about all the people it could be. Is it Gandhi? Is it Mother Teresa? Is it Warren Buffett? There are all kinds of people who can be spiritual masters **** because you know it might be a great figure from history.\r\n
But then I think to learn about your spiritual master, to know more about your spiritual master and also to think, well I’m attracted to this person for some reason. There’s something that this person is saying that is resonating with me. How can I translate those values into my life? What would that mean in terms of my life because maybe Gandhi had a very different kind of life, but what would it mean for me. And I think that’s really a fascinating thing for people to think about.\r\n
Another thing with the transcendent value translated into everyday manageable terms, I think a lot of people want to – they have the urge to memorialize. They want to hang on to the present. They want to find a way to remember what’s happening now. And I felt that very strongly, especially with the childhood of my two young daughters. I really wanted to find a way to create a record of it. And in my life, like many people, I tried to keep journals, and I had abandoned them because they’re too much work and I would end up feeling like a failure and not keeping up with them. What I started was a one sentence journal. I just write one sentence every night. Some little observation, some little detail from the day. And for some reason, that’s enough. I look back and I’ve been keeping it for a couple of years and when I look back, I think, I remember what the time was like. I remember what it was like when we went to the Museum of Natural History all the time, or I remember my younger daughter was still using her purple and yellow sippy cup. And it really brings back the time. And there’s something really satisfying about keeping that very manageable journal so that you feel like you are hanging on to the present and appreciating now in a better way.\r\n
Question: Who is your spiritual master?\r\n
Gretchen Rubin: My spiritual master, much to my surprise, I wasn’t expecting her to be my spiritual master, is Thérèse of Lisieux. I’m not Catholic; it's because I read Thomas Martin’s "Seventh Story Mountain"; it led me to read St. Thérèsee’s spiritual memoirs, "Story of a Soul." And I was just overwhelmed by this book. She lived about a little more than 100 years ago. She died at the age of 24 of tuberculosis and she lived much of her life in a cloistered convent in France. So she and I have nothing in common. And yet when I read "Story of a Soul," I was immediately enthralled by it. I immediately went out and read dozens of biographies of St. Thérèse. And she is truly my spiritual master, and I think about her all the time. And she is very funny, which is good, and her whole point is to say that you can do little things and it’s through the little things that you can achieve great things, and that you can do it within the confines of your ordinary life. And by figuring out that St. Thérèse was my spiritual master, and also learning more about her and thinking about what her lessons meant for me in my life, even though we just couldn’t be more different, really has been a huge part of my happiness project.
Recorded on February 16, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen
Happiness begins with concrete, manageable steps. But it must take on a more transcendent aspect as well.
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Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.