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Over the holiday, I managed to do a lot of reading, which made me very happy.

Among other things, I read Past Imperfect, a novel by Julian Fellowes (a man of many accomplishments, such as winning an Academy Award for best original screenplay for the brilliant movie Gosford Park).

The novel’s narrator made an observation that has stuck with me.

Years later, a friend would describe her world as being peopled entirely by radiator and drains. If so, then Damian was King Radiator. He warmed the company he was in.

More and more, it seems to me that ENERGY is an enormously helpful clue as to whether a person, activity, or place is a happiness-booster or not. @gretchenrubin  (Click to Tweet!)

I find it’s useful to ask: Does this person make me feel energized? or Does this activity, though intimidating and frustrating, make me feel more energetic in the long run?

Perhaps counter-intuitively, in my experience, some people who are quite low-energy nevertheless act as radiators—because it’s not their personal verve that matters but their level of engagement and quality of their ideas.

And some people who are very high-energy and gung-ho end up being drains—because they somehow make things harder instead of easier or put a damper on other people’s observations and ideas. (And by “other people’s observations and ideas,” I mean my observations and ideas. I admit!)

How about you? Do you think the distinction between “radiators” and “drains” is a useful way to think about things?


Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Hartwig HKD.

*Image courtesy of reclaimedhome.