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    Gretchen Rubin on: How To Use Your Five Senses To Reduce Anxiety, Increase Creativity, and Improve Your Relationships

    enApril 24, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Gretchen Rubin on Using Our Senses to Improve Daily LifeBy exploring and utilizing our senses, we can improve our perception of the world around us and enhance our daily experiences. Simple techniques like savoring flavors and incorporating comforting objects can make a difference.

      Gretchen Rubin's new book, Life in Five Senses, is about exploring the senses to get out of one's head and into the world. In her conversation with Dan Harris on the 10% Happier Podcast, she talks about how our senses impact our perception, and the relationship between the senses and nostalgia. Gretchen also shares small and large techniques for improving daily life, which she has researched for years. Her book explores the power of ketchup and vanilla when it comes to the sense of taste, the surprising relationship between the senses of taste and smell, and the use of comfort objects with the sense of touch. Gretchen's subject to epiphanies, and her book was inspired by her own wake-up call when her optometrist warned her about the risk of losing her sight.

    • The Importance of Engaging with Our Senses for a Rich and Meaningful LifeBy practicing mindfulness, meditation, and a playful approach, we can re-engage with our senses and experience life more vividly. This leads to a happier and more fulfilling life.

      The intense engagement with our five senses is important, and it can be achieved through various paths, such as mindfulness and meditation. While meditation teaches us to focus on one thing to increase the muscle of focus and attention, a more playful, unstructured approach can also help us come back to our senses. Being absent-minded can lead us to take our senses for granted and miss out on experiencing life vividly. It is essential to engage with our senses fully to lead a rich, meaningful, and happy life.

    • The Role of Senses in Mindfulness and Meditation.Mindfulness can be practiced by engaging with our senses, recognizing their interconnectivity and how each function, and being present in the moment.

      Disciplining the mind is an essential aspect of meditation, and it can be challenging for those who struggle with disciplined experiences. Gretchen Rubin's book discusses how to intentionally engage with your five senses, order them intuitively, and practice being present. The senses are interconnected, and smell, as experienced in COVID patients, plays an important role in how we taste. Our sense of sight is wired into our brains and the most complex system we have, but our brains also play tricks on us while processing visual input. Thus, we can learn about mindfulness by honing in on our senses, recognizing how they work, and becoming more mindful of the world around us.

    • Creating Inclusive Environments for Diverse Sensory PreferencesUnderstanding and accommodating sensory differences is necessary to create a society where everyone can feel comfortable and succeed. This includes avoiding certain sounds and using alternative methods for clothing labels to respect varying sensory preferences.

      Our sensory world isn't everyone's sensory world. People have different preferences and come from different places. We need to create environments where everyone can thrive. This means being aware of sensory processing differences and making adjustments to accommodate them. For example, not wearing perfume in public, printing clothing labels instead of using tags, and avoiding sounds that bother certain individuals. We all live in different sensory worlds, and it's important to respect and understand these differences. By doing so, we can create inclusive environments where everyone feels comfortable and can thrive. Recognizing and accommodating sensory differences is crucial for building a better, more empathetic society.

    • How the Brain Prioritizes Perception and Filters Out Unimportant InformationOur brains prioritize certain senses over others and filter out unimportant information, influencing our perception of the world. Understanding this can improve communication and empathy with others.

      Our brains constantly modulate our perception of the world, often prioritizing one sense over another. This is seen in the McGirk effect, where seeing something can change what we hear. Additionally, people tend to prioritize visual aesthetics over other senses, such as smell or taste, when selecting products like flowers and tomatoes. Our brains also filter out what it deems unimportant, like background noise, and this varies depending on where a person lives, like in New York City with loud sirens. Being aware of these quirks can help us understand others and adjust our behavior accordingly.

    • Understanding our Social Brain and Musical PreferencesIt's normal to have a strong preference for a song, artist, or genre. Our brains are wired to be social beings and gather information about others. Celebrate your musical tastes and don't feel guilty about not exploring other genres.

      Our brain is particularly attuned to other people and our senses gather information about them subconsciously. Human beings are social creatures and we depend on each other, which is why our brain is always looking for information about other people. Hearing is one of the most appreciated senses for many people, especially music. People love music or a specific genre/artist, but some, like the author, are song lovers and prefer to listen to only one song. This preference is also valid and should be celebrated instead of feeling guilty about not exploring other genres or albums.

    • Finding Happiness in Healthy Treats and New Music Releases Every FridayTuning into our senses with healthy treats and music is a simple yet effective way to boost mood and productivity. Creating mood playlists and practicing active listening can enhance personal connections and happiness.

      One of the ways to tune into our five senses and be happier is to find healthy treats for ourselves. If you love music, a great healthy treat is to listen to new music releases every Friday that you can anticipate and plug into when you need a little bit of extra energy or cheer. Songs put you in a mood, and if you want to intervene in your mood, one of the easiest ways is to listen to music. It's a creative thing to do, to have playlists by mood that you're trying to invoke. Listening is important, especially with people close to us, and we can work on it by creating a personal manifesto or commandments.

    • The Art of Being a Good ListenerTo be a good listener, stay present and attentive without interrupting or trying to change the conversation. Skillfully use reflective listening to understand what's being said, and resist the urge to steer difficult conversations onto safer territory. Developing attention and comfort with discomfort is key.

      Being a good listener means being present and giving your full attention, not interrupting or trying to change the conversation. Reflective listening can be helpful, but it's important to use it skillfully to avoid coming across as programmed. Training attention is crucial to really listen and understand what someone is saying, including what they're not saying. It's easy to get stuck in our own stories when listening, so we need to get out of our heads and be open to discomfort and unease. Learning to be comfortable with difficult conversations and resisting the urge to steer them onto safer territory is key to being a good listener and supporting people who confide in us.

    • The Art and Importance of Reflective ListeningReflective listening involves repeating what the other person said in your own words to demonstrate understanding. It requires practice and authenticity. It builds relationships and significantly improves communication.

      Reflective listening is an effective communication technique where you repeat back what the other person said in your own words, demonstrating that you truly understood them. It's okay to get it wrong, as they can correct you, which helps reach better understanding. It's essential to not sound overly programmed or use technique phrases. The challenge lies in making sure the other person knows you are authentically hearing them. Reflective listening requires practice, and the delight from being seen and heard correctly becomes addictive. It helps to develop the habit of providing space where one can express themselves as it shows validation. Reflective listening is an excellent way to build relationships, and it can significantly improve communication.

    • Acknowledging Feelings and Embracing the Power of SmellWhen someone shares their emotions, don't dismiss or try to fix them. Acknowledge and validate their feelings. Additionally, appreciate the power of your sense of smell in providing a complete experience of life.

      When someone shares their feelings with you, don't deny or try to fix them. Instead, simply acknowledge and validate their experience. This can make them feel understood and provide them with comfort. Additionally, a sense of smell is often undervalued, but it plays a significant role not only in our experience of food but also in our overall experience of life. People who lose their sense of smell are deeply affected by it, and COVID-19 has brought attention to this. Therefore, we should not overlook or take for granted the power of our sense of smell.

    • How Our Sense of Smell Triggers Memories and Enriches Our ExperiencesOur sense of smell is a powerful tool to connect with our past and enhance our present. By deliberately using our senses, we can create lasting memories and appreciate even the unexpected smells in our lives.

      Our sense of smell has a special power to bring back memories due to its unexpected and evanescent nature. The sense of smell is very powerful and taps into a primal body of memories. It adds depth to our experience of everyday life. We can be deliberate about using our senses to tap into our memories. We can create a taste timeline of our childhood to remember or recreate the taste of our favorite foods. Even bad smells can bring joy and nostalgia if we learn to appreciate them. The five senses are powerful nostalgia inducers which help us to create memories and remember them.

    • The Power of Memory-Provoking Exercises in Appreciating the Complexity of TasteEngaging in exercises like taste timelines can help us connect with our past and appreciate the cultural significance of the simple things in life, like the complex and amazing taste of ketchup.

      Engaging in exercises that provoke memories deliberately can help in feeling more connected to our past. Doing a taste timeline or tasting party is a fun way to bring back memories. Ketchup is dismissed as a condiment, but it hits all five tastes, making it complex and amazing. Vanilla is associated with sweetness in the West, but in Asian cuisine, it's associated with savory. A flavor is taste plus smell. The sense of taste is the most culturally freighted sense, and we can feel bad about indulging in certain tastes and flavors. Engaging in exercises like these can help in connecting with our past and appreciating the complexity of the simple things in life.

    • The Importance of Taste, Touch, and Creativity in Our LivesExploring different tastes and utilizing touch can bring us comfort and grounding. Our creativity can be enhanced by using props to perform challenging actions.

      Our taste is tied to our identity and emotions, and engaging in exploring different tastes can be a rich and fun subject. While there are many senses, the big five (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) are the most consciously aware and glamorous. Touch, as a sense, can help manage anxiety, and holding comfort objects like fidget spinners, mugs, or pens can help ground and comfort us. It is difficult to imagine not experiencing touch as it is a way of experiencing reality. The sense of touch and creativity are linked, and we can find comfort and grounding in using props as we perform challenging actions.

    • Using Objects to Manage Anxiety in Social SituationsHolding a familiar object can provide comfort and reduce anxiety in social situations. Engaging in a sensory experience with others can be a good conversation starter. These techniques can also be useful in a lab setting.

      Holding an object, like a pen or a teddy bear, can provide comfort in uncomfortable situations. This is because it satisfies the need to have something to fuss with, which can help manage anxiety. Walking up to a group of people and commenting on a sensory experience that both of you are experiencing at the same time can be a good conversation starter in situations where you don't know anyone. In a lab setting, holding something can reduce anxiety when anticipating a mildly painful shock. Understanding these techniques can help manage anxiety and discomfort in social situations.

    • The Power of Touch and its Importance in Managing Pain, Anxiety, and Emotional ConnectionAppropriate touch is a powerful tool in managing pain and anxiety, improving connections, and maintaining emotional well-being. However, it needs to be culturally and individually appropriate to ensure comfort and ease.

      Appropriate touch is essential in managing pain, anxiety, and in making people feel closer together. The importance of touch is evident in sports where teams that touch each other more often perform better. Touching loved ones has lesser effects on experienced pain. Holding hands can be comforting and helps to manage emotions and maintain a lighthearted tone. Although touch is powerful, it can also be culturally and individually fraught. Appropriate touch is important for putting people at ease, but it can also be threatening and uncomfortable. Touch and gaze are powerful combinations that affect the brain and senses. Touch may have different customs across different cultures with the same benefits.

    • Understanding Different Perspectives and Embracing New Experiences.Be aware and respect others' perspectives as everyone experiences things differently. Trying new things outside of our comfort zone and repetition can change our experience of things, helping us appreciate everyday experiences before it's too late.

      Different people experience things differently and something that seems ordinary to one person might be uncomfortable or unnatural to another. It's important to be aware of this and respect others' perspectives. Trying new things outside of our comfort zone can be a powerful and intense personal experience even if it doesn't turn out as expected. Repetition can change our experience of things and provide a new perspective. Gretchen Rubin's daily visits to the Met museum made her appreciate her senses and surroundings more and taught her the value of repetition. Don't take everyday experiences for granted and make the most of them before it's too late.

    • The Transformative Power of Daily Museum VisitsA daily routine like visiting a museum can provide a beneficial environment for personal growth, exploration of new ideas, and a break from daily cares, leading to a higher quality of life.

      Physically going to a place like the Met on a daily basis can help to open up your mind and provide a beneficial environment for personal growth. Gretchen Rubin found this to be one of the most transformative things she has done, and while some aspects of it may seem idiosyncratic, many people find value in similar daily routines. Going to the Met allows her to drop into a natural, rambling state of mind, explore new ideas, and take a break from daily cares. This kind of daily routine, while providing time outside and physical activity, can really change the quality of life.

    • Engaging with Our Senses for a More Meaningful LifeBy celebrating, leaning into, and controlling our senses, we can enhance our experiences and deepen our connection to the world around us, leading to a more fulfilling life.

      By engaging with and appreciating our senses, we can elevate our ordinary experiences and become more aware of ourselves and the world around us. Gretchen Rubin recommends both celebrating our most appreciated senses and leaning into neglected ones to amplify our appreciation for them. Additionally, controlling our sensory environment, such as turning off notifications and limiting phone use, can improve our overall enjoyment of life. The physical world and artifacts can help us touch the transcendent, making us feel more in touch with the spiritual. Through paying attention to our senses and experiencing the world more fully, we can cheer up, calm down, and engage with the world around us, leading to a more meaningful life.

    • Boosting Productivity and Creativity with Simple Phone Tools and Sensory Triggers.Use phone tools, sensory triggers, creative prompts, and unconventional thinking to unlock inspiration, improve productivity, and spark new ideas. Surround yourself with various materials, and infuse love into your work for effective results.

      Using tools on your phone to produce sounds that help you concentrate is an effective way to improve productivity. Placing a photo of someone you love on your home screen can also remind you of your relationships and uplift you. Tapping into your five senses can spark creativity, so putting yourself in a place with various materials can unlock new ideas. Using prompts like a Rolodex of creative ideas can also unlock inspiration and problem-solving. Looking for fresh metaphors and unconventional thinking can help you come up with new solutions to challenges.

    • Creating a 'Muse Machine' for Productivity and CreativitySurround yourself with inspiration, resources, and positive objects to stay focused, organized and creative. Stay engaged with others to share insights and observations to generate ideas.

      As a writer, having a 'muse machine' - be it a Rolodex of ideas or a physical product - is crucial for generating ideas. Gretchen Rubin, author of 'Life in Five Senses', 'The Happiness Project', and 'Better Than Before', suggests that surrounding oneself with inspiration and resources, and actively engaging with others to share insights and observations, is key to staying productive, creative, and happy. As an avid collector of muses and figurines, Rubin recognizes the power of surrounding oneself with positive, inspiring objects. Creating a 'muse machine' can help writers (and anyone looking to generate ideas) to stay focused, organized, and creative, no matter the project or task at hand.

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    In this episode we talk about:


    • The origins of MBSR and its relation to pain relief
    • Pain vs. Suffering
    • The accessibility of awareness
    • The limitation of mindfulness meditation as a self-improvement practice
    • The quote, “open your mouth and you’re wrong” 
    • Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of of healing 



    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/jon-kabat-zinn-580 


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    Mayim Bialik On: Anxiety, Anger, Believing in Both Neuroscience and God, and the Pressures of Being a Teen TV Star

    Mayim Bialik On: Anxiety, Anger, Believing in Both Neuroscience and God, and the Pressures of Being a Teen TV Star

    Historically on this show, we want guests who either have skills that they can teach us (i.e. meditation teachers or happiness researchers) or we want people who are willing to get super personal about their interior lives—and today you're gonna meet a bold-faced name who happens to have both qualifications in spades.

    Mayim Bialik burst onto the scene in the 1990s as the star of the TV show Blossom. Then she stepped away, got a bachelor's and a PhD in neuroscience, and became a mom. She returned to TV with another sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. And now she has a very full plate as the co-host of Jeopardy! and the host of a podcast of her own called Mayim’s Breakdown. Oh, and she’s also written four books, including Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart, and Spectacular and Boying Up: How to Be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant


    In this episode we talk about:


    • The pressures of being a teen star
    • Mayim’s fascination with the brain
    • How she squares her scientific expertise with her religious beliefs
    • Why she half-jokingly says she was born “a mental health challenge” 
    • The difference between anxiety attacks and panic disorder
    • Why she's chosen to be so public about her complicated psychiatric history
    • Whether it's possible to be overdiagnosed
    • The tools she personally uses to stay afloat
    • What’s behind her busyness, and what happened when she decided to stop working all the time
    • And why at age 47, she's now taking the time to learn how to express her anger in a healthy way


    A note that there are some mentions of suicide and addiction in this episode. 


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/mayim-bialik-600 

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    Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist Jennifer Egan On: Panic, Awe, Fetishizing Authenticity, and Our Possible AI Futures

    Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist Jennifer Egan On: Panic, Awe, Fetishizing Authenticity, and Our Possible AI Futures

    Jennifer Egan is not only a novelist, she's also written short stories and award-winning magazine journalism. She's one of those writers who can both spin a fascinating yarn and load it up with insights into everything from human nature to the future of technology, all while pulling off bewitching turns of phrase; what the writer Jonathan Franzen has called “micro felicities.” 


    Egan is as funny, fascinating, and open IRL as she is on the page although it’s not clear she feels that way given she talks about how much smarter she feels in writing than in speaking!


    In this episode we talk about:


    • Egan’s writing process 
    • The power of writing by hand 
    • The shocking, relentless, ruthless discipline that she imposes on herself to never do the same thing twice as she’s writing
    • Curiosity, awe, and panic attacks
    • How she handles feedback
    • Her feelings of insubstantiality 
    • Our cultures fetishization of authenticity
    • The impact of success on her work
    • AI and our possible technological futures


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/tph/podcast-episode/jennifer-egan

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    A Three Part Plan for Anxiety | Dr. Luana Marques

    A Three Part Plan for Anxiety | Dr. Luana Marques

    The notion of “being your authentic self” might sound like too much of a tired trope, but getting real and stripping away your fears and hang-ups can help you live a more meaningful life. 


    In her new book, “Bold Move: A 3-Step Plan to Transform Anxiety into Power”, Dr. Luana Marques shares her story about growing up in chaos and learning early skills of cognitive behavioral therapy that helped her cope with anxiety and live boldly. 


    Dr. Luana Marques is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, a former president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), and a renowned mental health expert, educator, and author.

    In this episode we talk about:

    • Luana’s personal story growing up in Brazil and struggling with anxiety as a child
    • What it means to live boldly
    • What is psychological avoidance and the 3 R’s of Avoidance
    • Luana’s three step plan to transform anxiety into power
    • How to be comfortably uncomfortable
    • Why the brain is a faulty predictor
    • Why being bold is not the same as being fearless
    • Why social support is the number one buffer across any mental health issue
    • How aligning your daily actions with your values can help you deal with anxiety 
    • How to identify your values by looking at pain
    • And what Luana means by “being the water not the rock”  



    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/dr-luana-marques-604

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    Jennifer Senior On: Grief, Happiness, Friendship Breakups, and Why We Feel Younger Than Our Actual Age

    Jennifer Senior On: Grief, Happiness, Friendship Breakups, and Why We Feel Younger Than Our Actual Age

    It’s likely uncontroversial to assert that Jennifer Senior is one of our finest living journalists. She’s currently a staff writer at The Atlantic and before that she spent many years at the New York Times and New York magazine. Jennifer’s written on a vast array of topics, but she has a special knack for writing articles about the human condition that go massively, massively, viral. One such hit was a lengthy and extremely moving piece for The Atlantic that won a Pulitzer Prize. It was about a young man who died on 9/11, and the wildly varying ways in which his loved ones experienced grief. That article, called “What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind,” has now been turned into a book called, On Grief: Love, Loss, Memory.


    In this interview, we spend a lot of time talking about this truly fascinating yarn, but we also talk about her other articles: one about an eminent happiness researcher who died by suicide, another about why friendships often break up, and a truly delightful recent piece about the puzzling gap between how old we are and how old we think we are. Jennifer has also written a book about parenting, called All Joy and No Fun which we also reference a few times throughout.


    In this episode we talk about:

    • Jennifer’s perspective on the Bobby McIlvaine story 
    • Lesser known theories of grieving from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
    • The work involved in finding meaning in loss
    • Why – from an evolutionary standpoint – we hurt so badly when we lose someone we love
    • Commitment and sacrifice
    • The puzzling gap between how old you are and how old you think you are
    • The power and perils of friendship
    • Why Jennifer has chosen to focus so much of her writing on relationships


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/jennifer-senior-583

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