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Come On, Get Happy

Gretchen Rubin’s 10 tips for a better you

Gretchen Rubin

Smallz & Raskind/Getty Images

Gretchen Rubin

If "Get happy" is your mantra for 2017, Gretchen Rubin is your go-to guru. At 51, the lawyer turned writer has had three best-sellers: The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better Than Before. Rubin's new book, The Four Tendencies, will hit stores this September. Here she shares with Deirdre Donahue her top 10 tips for making the New Year more joyous:

1. Get more sleep. Rather than waiting until you feel sleepy, give yourself a firm bedtime, and set an alarm to ring at that time each night to remind you. Rubin goes to bed around 10:30 p.m.

2. Broaden and deepen your connections. Join a group. If you can't find one that interests you, start your own. The activity you have in common can be hiking, reading — anything fun. "I know a group of friends who make fancy desserts for each other," Rubin says.

3. Make things more convenient. Want to exercise more? Join a gym closer to your workplace or home. Hate paperwork? "Upgrade the experience," Rubin recommends, by investing in an attractive tray you can use to keep your important papers in one place.

4. Tap into the power of smell. Vanilla extract. Fresh towels. Grapefruit. Taking the time to savor any one of these, Rubin says, is "an effort-free lift that connects you with the moment." (The author reveals she's a "sucker for flowers.")

5. Open your eyes to colors. Observe them throughout the day. Might you have a signature hue or pattern, such as polka dots or animal prints?

6. Adopt a spiritual master. Rubin finds inspiration in the writing of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a 19th-century French nun who described her life's journey in The Story of a Soul. Finding someone you admire in history "makes you think about your own life," says Rubin, "and how you might emulate that person."

7. Remind yourself how to play. "Many adults have forgotten how to have fun," says Rubin. If that sounds like you, think back on what you liked to do at 10 years old. Did you enjoy exploring the woods with your dog? Dancing around? Playing games? Cooking? OK, you know what to do next!

8. Reward your efforts with healthy treats. Food, drink, shopping and screen time are the usual ways people reward themselves, but that can lead to trouble. "My sister had to give up 'Candy Crush,'" reports Rubin. "Her fingers were cramping." Replace those easy indulgences with pleasures of a different kind: Download some new music, for example, or treat yourself to a manicure.

9. Write your manifesto. Distill your deepest values into a short bulleted list of five to 12 words or phrases. "Many people find this both clarifying and imaginative," Rubin says.

10. Say hello and goodbye like you mean it. In Rubin's household, all family members are expected to acknowledge one another whenever one of them arrives or departs. The same rules should apply in an office, she says, where everyone wants to feel recognized. "It doesn't take time or money, but it can deepen people's sense of connectedness."

Deirdre Donahue is the book editor for AARP The Magazine.