Weekend interview and giveaway: Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project

This giveaway is now closed. Check back soon for the winners!
Over the past few months, I’ve made a friend out of Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project. She’s a lawyer-turned-author-turned-blogger, mama to two sweet girls, and recently became a columnist for Good Housekeeping magazine.

A few years ago, she had an epiphany on the cross-town bus. She asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” and she thought, “I want to be happy”—but she never spent any time thinking about happiness. “I should do a happiness project!” she realized. And so she did.

I asked Gretchen a few questions this week, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts. And check out the end of the post to learn how to enter a copy of her book!


Tsh: In my book, I define “simple living” as I define simple living as living holistically with your life’s purpose. In your quest for a happier life, did you see any correlation between happiness and living simply?

Gretchen: Absolutely. I realized that I could only build a happy life on the foundation of my own nature — when I acknowledged my own temperament, values, and interests. The more I got rid of things and activities that didn’t suit me, the more time and space I had for what I loved. Now my life feels simpler, but also more rich.

Tsh: How would you encourage parents to find their happier life? Is there anything special you’d say about including children in the quest for happiness?

Gretchen: Parents — get enough sleep! I’ve become a real sleep zealot. It’s so easy as a parent to lose sleep, whether because your kids wake you up or because you want to stay awake to have some kid-free leisure time. But getting enough sleep gives a huge boost for energy, patience, and health.

At a deeper level, I remind myself all the time, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Getting from breakfast to bedtime on a Saturday may seem endless, but then kindergarten is over in a flash. I really try to make sure that I’m appreciating this time of life — it seems like there will be headbands and crayons underfoot forever, but I know this time will pass.

I realized that one way that children make us happier is by allowing us to re-connect with activities that we truly enjoy as adults, but wouldn’t ordinarily do, without their presence. For example, I’ve loved listening to Jim Dale reading the Harry Potter books — not just because my daughters love it, but because I love it myself — but I never would have bought the CDs if it hadn’t been for them. Ditto, making Rice Krispy treats, playing Uno, playing with sparklers, etc.

Tsh: What was something that surprised you discovered during your happiness project?

Gretchen: I’d read a lot of research about how novelty and challenge made people happier, but I fully expected to find that I was an exception to this rule. Familiarity and mastery make me happy, I figured. But to test that argument, I started a blog — and to my astonishment, I LOVED it. Loved learning to do something new, pushing myself in a new direction, challenging myself to be a different kind of writer, and getting the chance to engage with readers.

I’ve changed my mind 100%. I do believe that novelty and challenge — or put differently, an atmosphere of growth — can add a great deal to happiness.


Gretchen is generously giving 10 Simple Mom readers a paperback copy of her book, The Happiness Project!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post answering this wide-open question: What makes you happy? (If you read the blog via email, you must click over to the blog itself to comment.)

This giveaway will end tomorrow, Sunday, February 27 at 8 a.m. CST. I’ll choose the winners randomly. I hope you win!

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Encouragement for living simpler, right in your inbox.

We share our stories as we simplify our lives - no guilt-trips, just love.

(no spam, promise. we hate it, too.)


  1. at the moment? My copy of the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables is what has me quite happy – I know happiness shouldn’t be in things – but Les Mis is my favorite musical and they really did a fantastic job with it…

  2. Sappy but true….my hubby and my girls.

  3. Moments that I experience between my husband son and I that I will forever smile about and cherish make me happy. That is when I feel I am truly the happiest person on earth. Moments fully lived with the three of us make the butterflies inside me flutter.

  4. My dad makes me happy. I haven’t had my mom for a long, long time and I really enjoy time with my dad. He is definitely one of the coolest guys ever!

  5. The number one thing that makes me happy is spending time with my husband and six year old daughter. Simple, imaginitive time, playing on the floor, running through the park, nature hikes, snuggling…anything we do as a family makes me smile!

  6. Yoga, fresh air, time outside with my kids, flirting with my hubby, & good food among other things!

  7. There are so many things that make me happy, but at the moment it’s seeing the accomplishment my daughter is feeling at learning how to read. Her moments of success bring me great joy!

  8. My family. For sure.

  9. One of the things that makes me happiest is seeing my kids interact kindly with each othen, when they remember and talk of their baby brother, a clean house!

  10. getting at least half of my to-do list crossed off for the day, as well as being able to squeeze something fun into a busy day

  11. Getting lost in a good book, music that makes me want to move, watching the waves, walking in the sunshine – I do so much better when I remember to work those things into my days.

  12. What makes me happy is watching my son play soccer, watching my daughter cheer, listening to my toddler tell a story, hearing the door open when my husband gets home from work, reading a good book, listening to a good song, hearing my kiddos say I love you!!

  13. It makes me happy when my husband and I have a common goal.

  14. Hearing my son giggle uncontrollably. Making my baby girl laugh. Enjoying a cup of coffee during the rare mornings that my house is quiet. A good glass of wine. Finding a morel mushroom in the forest. A brand new magazine in the mail. An email from an old friend. A nap.

  15. CREATING makes me happy – be it sewing, baking, knitting, crafting, even (sometimes) cooking.
    I love Gretchen’s blog and have been wanting to read her book. Thanks!

  16. What makes me happy? Singing songs along with the CD with my daughter – even though it drives my husband nuts.

    Listening to my husband read books to my 9 year old daughter at bedtime – books that we grew up with and are thrilled that they still hold the same interest to our daughter.

    Catching a bit of breeze in the sails of our boat, finding an empty mooring buoy at our favorite anchorage and watching the sun set.

  17. a clean house. children getting along. my thursday night soccer league.

  18. I just started reading Gretchen’s blog last week. I’d love to read her book!

    I am beginning to suspect that a fine balance of mindful daily living and concentrated pursuit of passion may be what makes me happy.

    music! writing! my family! friends! creative projects! challenges! sewing! laundry, dishes, mopping the floor? maybe. . .

  19. Knitting and watching a movie with my hubby, waking up to my three year old curled into my back, listening to my boys play pretend, and laughing with girlfriends over some sort of chocolate – surefire happiness moments.

  20. What makes me happy? Honestly, the same thing that makes me feel like I’m going insane – my family. My husband and my two children.

    I’ve actually really been struggling lately with being happy being a mom and taking care of my kids.

    I would really enjoy reading this book, I think, and may have to find a way to get my hands on it if I don’t win a copy 🙂

  21. A whole day at home with my family, and nothing planned but spending time together.

  22. The one thing that makes me MOST happy, is the hugs, kisses and smiles I get from my three boys, no matter how bad I am feeling, those three items are always available on cue.

  23. Great insights! What makes me happy – how my baby kicks his legs when he’s excited, my preschooler’s sense of humor, a hot shower, movie night on the couch with the husband, and sunny winter mornings.

  24. Fresh air, nature, a good conversation, being active, simplicity, & balance

  25. Quality one-on-one time with each of my kids and husband make me happy.

  26. my daughter saying: “I ‘wub’ you, my dog curling up next to me during a nap, my husband bringing me a fresh cup of coffee in the morning, the feeling after cleaning the house, all the little things that are so easy to overlook

  27. Numbers make me happy. And my kids jokes, I love to see them developing a sense of humor.

  28. Watching my youngest son toddle toward me looking all proud and happy about learning how to walk…listening to my oldest son tell me stories that start with, “You’re pretending you’re a ______ and you’re walking and walking….”, coffee with lots of cream and sugar in the morning, and pictures and memories of my first two dogs. 🙂

  29. Watching how my 3-year-old son can get completely and utterly absorbed in a book, getting an idea for something creative to do with my kids and then DOING it, taking the time to sit on the floor in the middle of what ever my kids are doing and just absorb it all.

  30. Summer Davidson says:

    White snow on bare winter branches, snuggling with my kids, collapsing into bed at night after a busy day!

  31. Jenny Runyan says:

    Spending time as a family doing wholesome recreational activities make me happy-though i know I could benefit a lot from this book!

  32. My son. Husband. Good coffee. Feeling productive. Exploring.

    Thanks to you and Gretchen for this giveaway!

  33. What makes me happy: here are a few things, working in my garden, playing Scrabble with my husband, reading to my girls.

  34. Lazy Saturday mornings, sipping coffee with my husband while watching our son play makes me out-of-this-world happy.

  35. calliope(Greece) says:

    What makes me happy nowadays?
    My son’s singing and 3-year-old talking
    Cleaning my house
    Cooking something new
    Going for a coffee with my friend and some deco magazines
    Saving money for a trip to Italy

  36. Reading aloud at bedtime to my boys is one of my favorite and happiest times of the day. For myself, wandering around the house or the neighborhood or a foreign land taking photographs is my idea of heaven. 🙂

  37. With 4 girls–one age 11 and triplets age 8–I am still anxiously exploring “what makes me happy.” My hubby is a police officer and works long hours. I work PT at my local church. I feel silly saying this but right now in this moment in time so far I have discovered, what makes me happy is my hubby and my girls being home at the same time, BBQing in the back yard, jumping in the pool together, and family game time. Beyond that, everything is stressful! How do I BREATHE?…slow down enough to enjoy the moment whatever that moment is? Help?

  38. It makes me happy when my boys and I have a really good fun-filled day together, with me being the mom I should be and want to be instead of “tired grumpy demanding mommy”.

  39. oh wow, that’s so true – happiness built on the foundation of my own nature – that actually really sums up what I’ve been experiencing these past two years, but wasn’t able to put into words. I’ve finally let go of who I thought I ‘should be’, instead embracing who I am, and because of that, I am finally starting to like myself.
    and that makes me happy.

    I would love to win a copy of this book, thanks for the chance.

  40. Right now, cooking makes me happy. I love puttering around in my kitchen, my 19 month-old daughter babbling and bouncing around my feet, good smells coming from the stovetop, and something delicious and sustaining to enjoy together at the end of it all. It’s one of the more pleasurable parts of our family’s rhythm and yummy to boot!

  41. WOW–this is hard to put into just a few words (and not go on for a paragraph or two!). My husband and our three girls. Being bundled up and cozy. Listening to my gut level feeling. Figuring something out while I am crafting that previously had escaped me. Color. Food. Feeling good.

  42. being able to homeschool my three boys…my electric blanket…a good sale on Legos…the library… 😉

  43. a baby that is a great eater is what is making me the most happy right now 🙂
    this book has been on my to read list for a while now (and to own list cause I’m sure I’ll read it over & over). thanks for the giveaway

  44. Happiness is my baby nursing, an hour to myself for yoga, a clean floor, my three yr old and my husband playing, flowering trees and a good night’s sleep.

  45. what makes me happy?
    watching my daughters play and giggle together
    joining in with them
    family dinners by candlelight
    getting a long weekend with my family
    enjoying a fun night out with my wife and friends
    cooking a good dinner for my kids
    watching a funny movie or reading a really good book
    and on and on…
    thanks for the giveaway!

  46. My kids, my hubby, good company, a good laugh, a good book, some fresh crisp morning air!!!

  47. For me right now, it’s feeling the baby in my uterus moving around, listening to my kids play happily together, getting kisses from my almost 2 year old, the peacefulness of snowfall, and reading a good book…to name a few.

  48. my son’s shy smile. melts me every single time i see it!

  49. Happiness to me is….
    sleeping with my kids – one on each arm
    seeing my husband play with my kids
    walking with my dog and a dear friend
    restful sleep
    being fully present
    a good yoga class
    winning a give away!

  50. At Moment…staying in bed reading Barney’s version! Thnks for this opportunity.

  51. What makes me happy is Jesus, my daughter, and my husband.

  52. Something random… Pedicures! I just had my first one this past week and it was amazing. 🙂

  53. Being out in my garden with my Camera!

  54. Yesterday I was able to figure out what was making my son mysteriously misbehave out of character over a period of a week or so, talk with him about it, and see him change his attitude almost completely. He’s only three, so it felt like such a great moment. In the big picture, I love having my son in my life. We waited a long long time to have a baby and I’m so happy we have him in our family now.

  55. Sunday morning banana pancakes with my hubby.

  56. Early morning playtime with my baby boy(he gets up at 6.30)…..watching a late night movie with my husband once our baby is asleep…..juggling work and motherhood(some days I am dead tired at the end but there is a sense of fulfillment that comes with it)

  57. Listening to my two children sharing a joke and laughing together fills my heart with joy. Otherwise making things – a cake, crocheting a scarf, makes me happy.

  58. My family, good coffee, crocheting, good music, plenty of sleep.

  59. Hanging with the kids – when there is nothing we have to be doing.

  60. what makes me happy? in no particular order of greatness…
    Having good friends
    A calm home
    Plenty of fresh air
    Positive parenting
    Yellow sunshine!

  61. Hanging and laughing with my family and friends. It’s rare, but it makes us all so happy!

  62. My family, reiki, good friends, crocheting, knitting and spinning, weekends with our kids, …

  63. I’d be happy indeed to win this book! But also baking/dressing up/going on adventures etc. with the kids, time with my hubby, mom’s nights, musicals, running, oh I could go on and on…

  64. I’m honestly still discovering what truly makes me happy, surprisingly it’s not 100% obvious even tho I feel like i know myself fairly well! Not surprising = 99% of what makes me smile somehow involves my amazing daughter 🙂

  65. Peanut butter cookies.

  66. What makes me happy is my family.

  67. Playing card games with my husband makes me happy.

  68. Laying on the warm grass in the front yard on a summer afternoon, watching the clouds form, change and melt away, with my favorite little girls beside me.

  69. time with my baby girl and husband, fun nail polish, summer nights grilling on our deck.

  70. So many things make me happy these days – spending time with my children, watching my son sleep, playing games with my daughter, the days getting longer as we get closer to spring, getting a good night’s sleep. I heard an interview with Gretchen on Q (a programme on CBC Radio here in Canada) and I thought I HAD to read her book. I’m on the waiting list at the library for it…

  71. There are so many blessings in life we’ve started a running list here. Some from yesterday include:
    Coffee ready in the morning when I wake up
    Husband working from home because of bad weather
    Happy noise of kids having a NERF battle
    a warm, fuzzy cat sleeping on my lap

    Honestly – every day that God chooses to give me is a gift and makes me happy!

    Thanks for an awesome give-away!

  72. Kelley Bruss says:

    My family, wind, and a freshly organized closet! 🙂

  73. I love knitting!

  74. I’ve started taking ballet classes again, something I loved when I was younger. A good class is relaxing, and I can check off my exercise for the day.

  75. Shannon Moorman says:

    I read this book and couldn’t put it down! So inspiring! Being productive makes me happy! Completing tasks!

  76. Snow days when the family is trapped at home together. No one out and no one else in. Games, movies, real family time.

  77. The little things: the clean kitchen counters this morning, and an uncluttered view of the sunrise and feeding birds as I washed the dishes.

  78. A good cup of hot coffee and early morning snuggles with my son make me happy. It’s the quiet moments that are really the most special!

  79. Carrie Ingley says:

    Dancing with my girls and my hubby!

  80. Singing, performing in local clubs with great bands (even just sitting in), working in the garden, time with girlfriends, dressing to please myself and nobody else (color!! Crazy styles! Big jewelry!).

  81. My boys make me happy (my hubby and two sons). Sewing and creating things also makes me happy though!

  82. Listening to my girls laugh…really laugh. Hugs from my husband. Ocean air. Family potlucks. Hanging with my mom.

  83. Spending time outside, when I remember to do it, and doing something creative, like knitting or sewing.

  84. when my 7 month old smiles up at me from her crib in the morning. when my husband writes a love note on the chalkboard in the kitchen before work. long phone chats with good friends that don’t happen nearly enough. completing creative projects. making a delicious dinner and sharing it with friends. new clothes that fit properly. so many things make me happy now that I think about it!

  85. Listening to my kids laugh and doing something creative makes me happy.

  86. Things that make me happy . . .my 10 month old’s toothy grin . . .thoughts of our new little one on the way . . .(decaf) coffee . . .girl-time . . .back-scratches from my hubby . . .getting enough sleep!

  87. Ooo, I’ve been waiting for this book at the library! The thing that makes me happiest is laughing with my children.

  88. What makes me happy? When my boys (10 and 15) get along with each other. They both have strong personalities and it’s SO NICE to have them interact with each other without nasty words or mean-looking facial gestures! They are great kids, don’t get me wrong. But…it’s true: boys will be boys! 🙂

  89. A lazy Saturday morning spent drinking good coffee while cuddling on the couch with my kids makes me very happy (and is how I’m spending this morning).

  90. Sunshine makes me happy

  91. Taking a day off from responsibility and pursuing some fun makes me happy! Whether it be a day at the park, lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, going to a concert with my husband, or following my daughers lead and just seeing where play takes us!

  92. When I ask my 1-year old son for a kiss and he gives me a hug too-that makes me happy!

  93. Spending a little bit of time each day with my rescued ex-battery chickens makes me happy. They live entirely in the current moment. There’s no re-living their horrible first year in life or worrying about what might be coming next. Whether they’re scratching up my flower bulbs, eating corn or dust bathing, for all five of my lovely girls it’s all about the here and now. Watching them never fails to bring a smile to my face!

  94. My Family.

  95. My little girls make me happy! Long walks with our whole family.

    And winning this book would make me happy too. 🙂 Great interview. Especially about the sleep!

  96. quiet time, freshly fallen snow, first 60 degree days of spring, seeing my children and husband happy, reading a good book, playing a friendly game of soccer, spending time in the sunshine….

  97. Jennifer Rivers says:

    …quiet days at home with my family, family dinner’s together, hanging out with my girlfriend’s, sitting on the beach!

  98. my daughter’s rock star greetings when I come home, whether I’ve been gone 10 minutes or 10 hours she races to greet me yelling “Mommy you came back!”, throwing her little arms around me and saying “I missed you much”.

  99. Long unhurried quiet times before everyone wakes up on a Saturday morning 🙂 at least that is what made me happy today.

  100. Lindsey S. says:

    Lazy Saturday mornings that start out with just me and my hubby waiting for the pitter-patter of my don’s feet or my daughter’s good morning coos. Then feeding my baby girl while our son comes in to cuddle! I wouldn’t trade this time for anything…not even another hour of sleep!