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BBC: ‘Better Than Before’.

You know, for this being Blanche’s Book Club, I realized I don’t really talk much about my reader friend, Miss Blanche!

For background, Blanche is my rescue kitty, and she just recently turned 5! As a Calico, she is very sassy – and she’s equipped with all of her claws (very sharp) and large teeth. She is quick to attack upon hearing “no.”

At times, our relationship has struggled. Whether she’s waking me up at night or ruining all of my belongings, we’ve fought. Over the holidays, Blanche was pretty sick. She had to go to the vet a few times, eat prescription food, and she had to take lots of medicine (guess who had to give it to her?!).

It was a really rough time. When she doesn’t feel good, I don’t feel good, and I often stayed up during the night petting her and trying to make her comfortable enough to sleep in hopes that rest would help her recovery.

She has been feeling better for almost a month now, and I’m hoping we don’t have anymore episodes of illness. Blanche has been suffering from stress – likely because I have been stressed, so we are both working through it.

I have been making an effort to play with Blanche more, and I’m trying to keep my compulsive cleaning to a minimum. Cats like to feel in control of their environment, and when things change, they get nervous.

But over this past month of her good health, she happily sits beside me as I’m reading – sometimes we sit outside on the patio. The other night, I was on the couch reading, and she was in one of her favorite spots, laying inside of a leather tray that’s sitting on my ottoman. I left to go see a movie, and when I returned three hours later, she was still in the same spot having slept the entire time!

Here’s to hoping I don’t jinx her streak of good health! Anyway, let’s get into the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

The author of the blockbuster New York Times best sellers The Happiness Project and Happier at Home tackles the critical question: How do we change?

Gretchen Rubin’s answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Better Than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow listeners to understand their habits – and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better Than Before explains the (sometimes counterintuitive) core principles of habit formation.

Along the way Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions – oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore:

  • Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do?
  • Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit no matter how hard I try. Why?
  • How quickly can I change a habit?
  • What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit?
  • How can I help someone else change a habit?
  • Why can I keep habits that benefit others but can’t make habits that are just for me?

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits – even before they’ve finished the book.

This is the third book from Rubin that I’ve read. I absolutely LOVED “The Happiness Project” and half-loved its sequel, “Happier at Home”. I was a little skeptical when I picked this one up, but of course I figured, why not?

In short, this one is good, and it’s pretty interesting. Rubin makes it clear that the same habits don’t work for everyone, and that’s just something we have to understand. I think lots of people do things because other people do – whether it’s a certain diet or workout, perhaps trying to get up earlier or go to bed at a certain time. But just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.

What matters is to be moving in the right direction.

-Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before

So, this book has a lot of information to help you figure out what works for you. Are you a morning or a night person? A starter or a finisher? A spender or a saver?

Although I don’t really think I have any bad habits (at least, none that I can think of), I know there’s better habits I’d like to pick up.

Toward the end of the book, I was starting to get a little annoyed because I just feel like there’s so much pressure for us to be going somewhere all the time or reaching goals or never resting, and sometimes I want to just BE, and I’m an adult and I do what I want. But even Rubin acknowledges this, as she lets herself drink diet soda and has a habit of chewing on plastic coffee stirrers. Hmm.

This is definitely an insightful book, so if you’re looking to change a few habits or pickup some new ones, this may be the book for you!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls.

I hope you all have a great weekend and a fun Easter! See you next week 🙂

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Podcasts I’ve been listening to, Part VI.

Let’s be real – I never thought I’d be writing a 6th installment of the podcasts I’ve been listening to. However, I listen to podcasts all day, every week day.

Sometimes, I listen to a podcast so much I make it through all of the archives and have to wait until there’s new episodes! Other times, I just like to find new ones and add them into my weekly rotation. You know what they say, variety is the spice of life.

This recent batch of podcasts I’ve been catching up on is a cheerful collection – no true crime this time. So, here’s what’s been coming out of my earbuds lately:

The Babysitters Club Club – If I had an award for the podcast I’m most thankful I came across, it would go to “The Babysitters Club Club”, hands down. I heard about it when the hosts, Tanner and Jack, were guests on another podcast I love, “What Should I Read Next?” On the show, they explained the scoop on their podcast – here’s the official dish from the show’s website:

One relatively small man, one relatively large man, and one HUGE idea: To read through the seminal works of American novelist Ann M. Martin in chronological order and initiate ourselves, in the process, into the arcane, mystical rites of The Baby-Sitters Club. 

This podcast promises to take you on a journey. A journey that begins with Kristy’s Great Idea (the great idea was to form a babysitting conglomerate of sorts with her pals), and that ends with The Fire at Mary Anne’s House, which we haven’t read yet, but which we are deeply, horribly, shatteringly worried about because we have grown very much attached to these girls and we badly don’t want them to burn. 

Jack and Tanner, men in their 30s, reading “The Babysitters Club” series, and discussing it in-depth, while drinking beers. It’s basically one of the best things I’ve ever heard. I started listening at episode one, and after listening to episodes at work, in my car, while soaking in the tub, and even while tucking myself into bed, I’ve had to ration myself so I don’t run out of the food stuff! I’m telling you – this podcast will make you laugh on your worst day, and bring in-depth analysis to the simplest of reads.

I’m ordering you to listen TODAY – here’s where you can find episodes.

Throwing Shade – I was listening to an old episode of “Bitch Sesh” (another podcast) and Bryan Safi was a guest, and he was absolutely hilarious! He mentioned he had his own podcast, “Throwing Shade”, so I immediately checked it out. Little did I know, this was voted as one of Vulture’s top 10 most comedic podcasts, and rightfully so, because I am constantly trying to contain my laughter within my cubicle.

As they say at the beginning of each episode, Throwing Shade takes a weekly look at issues affecting women and gays, and treat them with much less respect than they deserve. Trust me, this one is going to make you chuckle – check out episodes here (and they do have a TV show premiering next month!).

Insecuritea – If you were anything like me and obsessing over every morsel of HBO’s original series, “Insecurity”, then you’ll want to tune right in to the official aftershow podcast, “Insecuritea”. Hostesses Fran and Crissle – who have podcasts of their own as well – break down each episode bit by bit, and it’s produced with clips from the show, awesome music, and lovely analysis and next-episode predictions. So, watch the show, and then go listen to the AFTER show. Here’s all the episodes

Happier – Hosted by happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, and her sister, this show features quick 20-minute episodes that help listeners live a happier life. I love that each episode is laid out similarly, and features a tip you can try at home, a study or a theory of some kind, and then a listener question. You can check out some of the tips I’ve heard so far, here. I am always using my notebook when I listen to this podcast so I can actually try the tips later. This is a good podcast if you’re someone who is seeking more happiness, and/or are often feeling bogged down by the giant to-do lists in life. Check out episodes here!

So, there’s what I’ve been listening to – what about you? I am always looking for more things to listen to, so I’d love to hear what you’re enjoying.

Podcast: Happier With Gretchen Rubin.

My latest podcast obsession.

My latest podcast obsession.

I’ve still been listening to podcasts like they’re going out of style, and I’ll have another roundup of my latest favorites for you in the next few weeks. But today I wanted to focus on one in particular, “Happier” with Gretchen Rubin. So far, I’m about 2o episodes in and I couldn’t help but take note of what I’m hearing because there’s so much good stuff in each episode.

Let me start by explaing who Gretchen Rubin is. She came into my life, and probably many others, when she published her book on happiness, “The Happiness Project”, which explored habits the average person could take in order to improve their general state of happiness. I really loved this book and got a lot of takeaways from it that I still apply to my life, years later.

So, when her next book was released, “Happier at Home”, I snatched it right up. But truthfully, it seemed like she was starting to make up rules about ways to live extravagantly, just to “be happy”. I took a break from Gretchen after that.

Until I stumbled upon this podcast, as it is always listed in the iTumes Top 100 list. So, I took a listen, starting at episode one.

The show is hosted by Gretchen, who is by now a “Happiness Expert” ontop of being a bestselling author. Gretchen’s sister Elizabeth serves as the cohost, and she’s also a TV writer living in LA (SO jealous). She serves as a good other half to the show because she’s more neutral to the rules of happiness, and she’s a regular person with a job, a husband, and a kid – so hearing her side of the happiness theories balances out Gretchen’s sometimes over-the-top approach.

Each episode is only 20 minutes long, so it’s easy to fly through them. The episode layouts are all the same: they begin with a “try this at home” tip, which is a little task that’s supposed to make your life happier. This is my favorite part of the show, as I like to see if these tips would make my life better. Here are some of the tips they’ve suggested in the episodes I’ve listened to:

  • The 1-minute rule
  • Set an alarm for bed
  • Keep a one-sentence journal
  • Embrace good smells
  • Do a power hour
  • Treat yourself like a toddler
  • Give warm hellos and goodbyes
  • Treat yourself!
  • Make the positive argument
  • Indulge in a modest splurge
  • Stop reading a book if you don’t like it
  • Dedicate space to shrines
  • Imitate a spiritual master
  • Have an exact space for everything

One of the best suggestions is the “1-minute rule”, which basically suggests that if a task takes less than 1 minute, you just do it. For me, this is simply picking up my kitchen or living room at the end of the day so when I wake up, I don’t see a pile of crap right when I’m getting my cup of coffee. It’s easy, but it makes a big difference.

The Power Hour, on the other hand, is setting aside one hour a week, or maybe it’s per month, where you do tasks that you’ve been putting off – such as hanging that picture that’s been leaning against the wall or changing that lightbulb which requires the big ladder.

“Treat yourself like a toddler” is an interesting one, which highlights the idea that we look out for children and make sure they have everything they need, but we often don’t do that for ourselves. For example, making sure we get enough sleep, are dressed for cold weather, or eating a nourishing meal. Basically, be extra nice to yourself!

Aside from these “Try at home” tips in the beginning of the episode, there is usually a happiness lesson that takes up a majority of the remaining time, followed by a listener question, which is always interesting.

You can check out the podcast here, I know I’m going to keep listening and collecting these tips in hopes of living a happier life… to some degree.