Interview with Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”

by guest on December 15, 2009

From time to time, we will post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.

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Gretchen Rubin is the author of  the “The Happiness Project,” a blog and about-to-be-published book which will be released on Dec. 29th.

Drinking Diaries: What do you think is the relationship between drinking and happiness?

Gretchen: A few years ago, I realized that for me, drinking didn’t bring happiness. I never had much tolerance for alcohol, and after two pregnancies, I was woozy after one glass of wine or beer. I’m not a cheerful, convivial person when drinking – I become belligerent, snarky, and mean. Over and over, after social events, I’d feel full of remorse about my conversations with people. Finally it dawned on me – stop drinking! Then you won’t feel guilty about the way you acted! It’s surprising that it took me so long to realize this – I never really much enjoyed drinking to begin with – but once I basically stopped drinking, I’ve been much happier. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

Also, I’m very calorie-conscious. I realized that I’d rather eat candy than drink booze.

Has drinking ever made you happy?

Not particularly.

Can you comment on the difference between temporary happiness/pleasures and long-term happiness?

This is one of the big challenges of happiness, of course. The things that make you happy in the short term and the things that make you happy in the long term are often quite different. Also, we’re not always very skilful at anticipating what will make us happy in the long term, even when we try to take it into account. But this is certainly true: practically everyone will be happier in the long term if they get more sleep and more exercise. So that’s a good place to start.

Why do you think people choose the short-term pleasures over the long term?

Because it’s more fun!

Can you envision a scenario where drinking could cause, or enhance, happiness?

I can see that for many people, obviously, drinking is a big source of enjoyment. I enjoy that vicariously. I wrote a biography of Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, and one thing I loved about him was his zest for drinking. People disagree about how much he actually drank – some people say he drank a lot, others maintain that he made a big show of it, but didn’t actually drink much. But however much he drank, he really got a big kick out of it.

Have you ever had a bad drinking experience? What was that like?

I never had one terrible drinking experience – and in fact, I’ve never even had a hangover! Not even when I was in college, when I was drinking enough that a hangover was likely.

But for me, drinking just brings out my belligerent, indiscrete, attacking side. And it also makes me incredibly sleepy. So even if I’m celebrating with good friends, so my obnoxious side doesn’t come out, I have to cut the evening short to go to bed. So I’m happier in every way if I just skip drinking, or have just half a glass.

If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?

Champagne – because it’s the drink most closely associated with happiness and celebration.

Gretchen’s essay,Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol (More or Less)” was posted on Drinking Diaries on July 1, 2009. The Happiness Project can be pre-ordered, and you can also read some sample chapters. Gretchen’s Twitter handle is @gretchenrubin.

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