We 100% guarantee that Meaghan B. Murphy’s interview with Zibby will put a smile on your face! In this inspirational chat, the editor-in-chief of Woman’s Day discusses ‘doing’ happy and shares some of the active choices we can make every day to live more positively. Yay!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Meaghan. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Meaghan Murphy: Yay!

Zibby: Do you have to say that at the beginning of every interview now?

Meaghan: It just comes out of my mouth kind of naturally. Yay!

Zibby: You have to do one of those things where you take a sip however many times you say yay in a given hour or something.

Meaghan: Oh, my gosh, I would be drunk. It’s dry January, so that would be a problem.

Zibby: Okay. Well, in February if you need something to do.

Meaghan: I feel like my kids will eventually play that game. It will be funny.

Zibby: Maybe it could be with Oreos or something.

Meaghan: James would be into that.

Zibby: Anyway, Your Fully Charged Life, thank you for this fantastic advice/memoir book that’s just exactly what we all need right now to get us out of the bad moods that we’re all probably in and get some amazing tips from you and all of your experience. Can you tell listeners, first, what is your book is really about? Maybe hold it up for people watching on YouTube. Thank you. It’s upside down.

Meaghan: upside down.

Zibby: Beautiful.

Meaghan: I got a tattoo to match the cover.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, you are committed to the logo here.

Meaghan: I’m proud. Yes, I am owning the bolt. Your Fully Charged Life is A Radically Simple Approach to Having Endless Energy and Filling Every Day with Yay. It is really a science-backed guide to living your best life one day at a time. I really, really believe you are not broken. I am not broken. We don’t need fixing, but I’m pretty sure tomorrow could be more awesome. I think one of these tips, one of these tricks, one of these strategies is going to stick to get you there.

Zibby: Amazing. Why put this book together?

Meaghan: I’ve been a service journalist for twenty-five years. I really used myself as a guinea pig, interviewing PhDs, writing stories. I would say there was a moment when I was working at Cosmo as a senior editor. I did a story on the seven secrets of happiness. As I was writing and researching that piece, it was the first time it kind of dawned on me that you can’t be happy, you have to do happy. Happy is an action step. It’s not even a state of mind. It’s in the doing that we become happier. There are things that we can all do right here, right now, in this moment today to get a little piece of that happy pie. Once I started to actively do happy, I started to retrain my brain. I grew up, my nickname was Grumpy. My negativity bias was strong. I was a crabby little kid and had some crap life experiences that sort of reinforced all of that negativity. In reporting and researching this story, I began to see the light and realized that I could make active choices every day to live more positively. Once you begin to live that way, you realize how good it feels. Then it’s addictive. Wow, I want to feel good. I want to be happy. I want to live on the bright side. This ain’t so bad. It’s more fun to live that way.

I identified different pockets that helped me do what I call fully charged. The health charge, for instance, I squeezed in a run before this podcast because I function better in the world when I move my body, whether that means I go for a run or I hop on the Peloton. Things look a little different these days. As long as I move my body, I feel better. I have to check that box for myself. I really realize if I sleep well and I protect my sleep, I function better in the world. I’m very protective of my sleep. I realize I need the love charge. I need people. I don’t just need the people in my house, my three kids and my husband. I need cashiers and baristas and train conductors. I need those so-called weak ties to charge me. I want to give you a compliment in the supermarket so that we have an exchange. I want to smile with my eyes now behind a mask and smize at the cashier in the drugstore and have an interaction because I thrive on connection, as many of us do. I thrive on those things. Basically, the whole fully charged life looks at all of those different things that have the ability to charge us all when you pick and choose the things that work for you.

The work charge is really about, what’s your passion and purpose? Okay, you need a job to pay the bills. Maybe you’re not going to be passionate about it, but how can you find passion somewhere else so that you come to the job with purpose? It’s about looking at what makes you tick and doing more of that. I’m all about the extra charge. Hey, listen, dress in lightening bolts. Dress how you want to feel. I dress in color because I think of my wardrobe as a costume. I have an acting background. If I were playing a nurse, I might put on scrubs and a stethoscope. If I’m playing happy Meaghan, maybe that means today I’m wearing orange and a lightning bolt. I’m going to fake it until I make it. Maybe those clothes are going to help charge me. If I dress in all black, that’s also a state of mind and a state of being. How do I want to feel? I’m not going to a funeral. I’m going to life. I dress the way I want to feel. I do happy. I figured out a lot of those things that work for me. I know a lot of those things will work for you and the readers.

Zibby: Wow. It’s so interesting to hear it packaged up like an option. Would you like to choose happy today at Starbucks, or would you like to stay in grumpy land? It seems so easy the way you say it and the way you wrote it.

Meaghan: The thing is, it’s a process, though. It’s just like, you brush your teeth. Do you think about brushing your teeth? No, but you probably brush your teeth every day. Eventually, choosing happy becomes more automatic. Doing happy becomes more automatic. It’s not this daunting choice. I have to choose happy today. You just automatically do it. You automatically begin to default to the good thought, to the positive. I knew I had to write the book two years ago. My dad died five years ago. After my dad died five years ago, I undertook this thing called Operation Good Grief. He had pancreatic cancer. He was gone in five months. It was earth-shattering. I had three small kids. I didn’t know how to pick up the pieces. I didn’t know how to get to tomorrow. I started this thing called Operation Good Grief which was really just a process of, initially, looking for one thing that didn’t suck every day. I told you my negativity bias was strong. I’m inherently negative. I trained to live the way I do now, farting rainbows. I trained to do this. During that period, I just had to actively say to myself every damn day, what doesn’t suck? You know what doesn’t suck today? I got this new workout tank that says “Stronger than you think you are.” I’m going to focus on that. I’m going to take a picture of that. I’m going to put that on Instagram. I’m going to share it with the hashtag #OperationGoodGrief.

I did that every single day for two years. Sometimes it was heart foam on a latte. Sometimes it was daffodils blooming at the end of my driveway. Sometimes it was taco Tuesday. I just shared that every day until it created a community around Operation Good Grief, other people who were suffering, other people who had moved through the stages of grief that I was going through. Eventually, I stopped saying, what doesn’t suck? and I started saying, what made me say yay today? There was so much of it. There was just so much of it. The neuroplasticity of your brain is amazing. The pathways were rewired. I see good now. It’s like that old movie. I see dead people. No, I see good people. I just see good people, so many of them. There’s so many good things. It was a process. I had to choose to look for those things. They’re there, but bad is loud. Bad is glaring. Especially right now, the bad is so loud and it’s so glaring. You have to acknowledge it. You have to notice it, but you don’t have to live there. You don’t have to be blinded by it because there’s also so much good. Guess what? There’s more good, but you have to open your eyes to it. You have to be willing to see it. You have to make that choice.

Zibby: That’s very inspirational and motivating. I love that.

Meaghan: The thing is, listen, I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert. I’m the guinea pig. I tried this crap. It works. I feel so grateful to get to live this way. My days are good even when they’re bad because I’ve got the strategies in place to recharge.

Zibby: Wow. I think that’s so much more motivating than hearing this from an expert. You’re just saying you figured this out and you want to share it from the goodness of your heart because it helps so much. How can you turn that down? It’s like somebody’s giving you a gift.

Meaghan: Here’s the cool part. I figured it out, and then I have all the science in the world. That was the really cool part. I went backwards. I’m like, this works. I’m a researcher. I’m a journalist. Why does it work? Then I needed to know why. I’ve talked to some of the best positive psychologists and PhDs and researchers and looked some of the best studies out there to back it up. I didn’t want it to be like, this is what Meaghan Murphy thinks. No, this is how Meaghan Murphy lives. Guess what? Science says, here’s why it works. I promise you, if just one of these little tricks sticks, you will be that much happier.

Zibby: Amazing. That’s all it takes, little tricks just to get through life.

Meaghan: That’s all it takes. I think that’s the biggest thing. I didn’t want my book to come out in January because I hate all that new year, new you crap. You don’t need to be a new you. What if you, the you you already are, could just be a little bit happier? What if there’s just this one thing that’s going to turbocharge your happiness? You’re already okay, but how we can turbocharge that? How can you wake up more optimistic, more joyful every day?

Zibby: Why not pursue that? Why not make your life better by doing all these things?

Meaghan: I think the cool part is that — so I finished the book at the beginning of the pandemic. I have three kids. I’m homeschooling. I started a new magazine job in March without ever meeting my team or actually being in an office. We reinvented Woman’s Day magazine. We did all of this isolated from our homes while I was finishing a book and doing a podcast and all of the things. I really had to lean into my tips and tricks and strategies hardcore. I had a week where I was just rock bottom. I’m like, I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I’m taking Zoom calls in the pantry after crafting a kindergarten sloth. I can’t. I’m done. I miss people. I miss my life. I miss the world. Then I’m like, let me look at myself. What am I doing? What am I not doing? Why do I feel this way? Oh, I haven’t worked out in three days. Oh, I haven’t showered or beach waved my hair or thrown on mascara or gotten out of sweats in six days. I wasn’t making my bed. I was staying up until one o’clock in the morning to binge-watch crap because I had no reason to get up early. Oh, wait a second, I function better when I go to bed at a reasonable time, get my seven hours of sleep, and wake up early before the kids. I function better when I have on a swipe of mascara and maybe try to do something with my hair, when I’m not completely in sweats. Once I started to just check those boxes, I was like, wait a second, I feel better. I feel even better. I feel even better. Oh, I’m okay. I had to do the inventory and go through the checklist. Once I started to charge up in those areas, I was okay again.

Zibby: That is impressive. I love your approach to this whole thing. It’s funny. In the beginning of your introduction, you were talking about how you’re not for everyone. Maybe people find you annoying. You’re cool with that because you are just a positive person. That’s just the way you are now. Take it or leave it. This is the way you are. Then you go into your whole backstory about — well, maybe not in the introduction, but further into the book — about the pain that you’ve been through. You have been through a lot of stuff. I feel like it’s so important to say relatively early that you’re not just little miss sunshine over here and that everything is all roses and rainbows. You’ve lived through a lot of stuff. I was hoping maybe you could just talk a little about your history with losing your friend and your eating disorder and the TV movie and the whole drama that characterized that time of your life.

Meaghan: It’s so surreal. People who know me now and didn’t know me then are like, wait, what? How is that possible? I love some of my oldest and dearest friends who are like, you’ve transformed, oh, my god. You had to know me then. I had some shit life experiences. I just cursed. I hope that doesn’t get me an explicit thing.

Zibby: It’s okay. It’s all right.

Meaghan: It’s surreal to look back on it now. As a teenager, I had an eating disorder. My best friend and I were what we called tandem anorexics. We fueled each other’s eating disorders, exercised for ninety hours and ate nothing. I wound up in the hospital. Our moms happened to be best friends as well. My best friend was going to be admitted into the hospital with me as well. On the drive to the hospital, she jumped out of the car. She subsequently died. That was tough, living with the guilt of that, the devastation of that. Losing your best friend in such a tragic way at sixteen years old was pretty intense. As I said, I was already a miserable human, suffering. I subsequently had three lengthy hospital stays and didn’t finish my junior year of high school, had to go back and move in with my aunt and uncle to finish in a different town. I wound up writing an essay about it, though. There’s a grain of good, not all bad. I wrote an essay about it which wound up getting me a ten-thousand-dollar scholarship and the attention of NBC. I was on an NBC special with Trisha Yearwood and Don Johnson and Bob Costas which wound up getting me an internship and subsequently, a contributing editor job at YM magazine and sort of springboarded my career. In that moment, my deceased friend’s parents then came back and tried to sue me. I was served with papers in my college dorm for having shared our story and having talked about her life, which was intense as a not-fully-formed nineteen-year-old person being served with papers for having shared something so deeply personal. The sharing was cathartic for me.

I wound up becoming, as I healed and got well, a body positivity kind of person. I had a column for YM magazine about body positivity and sort of became a champion for loving yourself and loving yourself as you are and using food and exercise as fuel and treating yourself with kindness. That was a bit of a harrowing experience. It seems like someone else’s life now, which kind of feels good to be so separate from it. Coming through that was intense. It was tough. It did shape me and inform who I am and give me a very deep appreciation for life. My father’s death from pancreatic cancer was also pretty intense. My dad was my person. Losing him so suddenly also just grounded me in the present and made me appreciate and grateful for everything we get to have and the people we get to love and the experiences we get to have. My dad’s death was the reason I knew I had to write this book. Moving through that grief, moving through that loss, and really landing in this place of joy and optimism, everything that I’ve had to navigate really made me feel like I had to share it. I feel like I figured out some kind of secret sauce here. If other people can feel this way and this kind of energy can be contagious, it sounds so naïve, but I really think the world could be a better place. It feels good to live this way. I’m good to other people and other people are good to me by virtue of this energy.

Zibby: Wow. My husband is similar to you in that he thrives with connection and talking to people. When we first got together, I was much more, not guarded, but maybe from being a shy child, I just didn’t often talk to strangers, like in the elevator, say. Once we got together, every opportunity he could get to give someone a compliment, he just takes. It’s like what you’re saying about habit. He doesn’t think twice about it. That’s just what he does. I don’t know if it stemmed from a conscious choice. We’ll be in the elevator and he’ll be like, “Wow, what a great scarf you have on.” It makes that person’s day. It’s almost like that ad campaign where somebody says something nice and then the next person says something nice to the next person. I totally believe that once you put that positive energy out there, it ripples. Then that person takes it on. You put it out. It’s great. I totally am on board and have seen this work because now I’ve adopted it too.

Meaghan: It’s even cooler than you think. Compliments are magic. Your husband compliments that woman on that scarf. Great. In the moment, that feels good, but guess what? That also feels good the next time she puts on the scarf, the next time she looks in the mirror in that scarf. There’s this massive ripple effect that you can’t even fathom. I am big compliment giver. It’s a way to connect. It’s a way to share kindness. Especially in a world where we’re all masked, you can only smile so hard with your eyes. A compliment goes really far. I had someone who was sort of rude to me in the store. Instead of being rude back and meeting negativity with negativity, I was like, “Your mask is so fun. Oh, my goodness, your mask is just making me smile.” The next thing I know, she’s like, “Oh, thank you. My daughter gave it to me as a gift.” It softened the blow of her initial crap interaction. It’s easy to be rude. It’s easy to meet rude with rude. It’s easy to meet negativity with negativity. What if you diffuse all of that with joy and goodness and kindness just even as an experiment? It’s actually really funny. You can always gamify it. I was running today. This guy almost hit me in a crosswalk. The default’s just to flip him the bird. That would’ve been really easy to flip him the bird. Instead, I gave him a fist pump and a smile, like, all right, man, we got this. That’s the better choice. That’s the fully charged choice because you know what? My middle finger then makes him drive with anger and angst. Why? I’d rather make you smile with a crazy fist pump than turbocharge your anger with a middle finger.

Zibby: I had this one experience this is reminding me of. Years ago, I was in Tasti D-Lite back when I was having that every day no matter how cold it was. It would be snowing, and I was in there with my Tasti D-Lite, the only person. This one lady was rude behind the counter to me one day. You could tell she was in the worst mood. She totally snapped at me as I was trying sixty-seven flavors or something. Instead of getting all huffy back, I remember deciding in that moment, I wonder what’s going on with her. As she said something rude to me, I was like, “I think you’re having a really bad day. Are you okay?” She starts crying. She was like, “Thank you so much. I’m having the worst day.” Then she was so nice and, of course, gave me free ice cream. It was the first time I had decided that I wasn’t going to buy into someone else’s bad stuff. It just changed the way I looked at things.

Meaghan: It’ll just change the way you move through the world. That rude, that nasty, that miserable — they’re everywhere. You can get dragged down with all of them or you can rise above. Rising above is really simple. It’s not giving the person who almost hit you with a car in the crosswalk the finger, not letting the cashier ruin your day, just not letting that happen. I enjoy it. It’s so fun to change someone’s bad to good. It really is.

Zibby: Now how great that there is actually a book that teaches people how to do this, essentially, which is fantastic. It’s really fantastic. I’m totally on board with this whole book and concept and lifestyle. I just think it’s the best. Tell me the actual writing piece of this. I know you finished it in the pandemic. You alluded to that in your book and added a chapter at the end and everything. What was it like having to manage all the other things in your life and then also writing this? When did you get it all done? What advice would you have on somebody else trying to accomplish a feat like this?

Meaghan: I sometimes feel like it’s twenty years in the making. I feel like I’ve been living this since my first job at YM magazine when I was nineteen years old. This writing process was pretty grueling. A book starts with a proposal. The proposal itself took a year. That was a hard year of pushing and pulling and what this book should be. I love my agent, Laura Nolan, because she really worked me and worked the proposal to get it to a place of, this is a book. Once that was in place, that’s when we did the shop it out to the publishers. We went to auction and signed that deal with Penguin Random House, which was honestly probably the best day of my life. I came home and my kids had made me a big sign with penguins all over it that said Your Fully Charged Life and a cake with a lightning bolt. I made them proud. They had seen how hard I’d worked on it. It was a big moment because it could’ve gone nowhere. It could’ve just been an idea in my head. It might not have been a book. I really felt very vulnerable in that process and was just elated, beside myself when somebody else actually wanted to publish it, and a couple people, actually, but Penguin was the dream.

Then setting out to write it was kind of daunting. I am the editor-in-chief of Woman’s Day. I was the Good Housekeeping executive editor. There was definitely a moment of, do I quit my day job and just work on this book? The answer was no because me holed up just writing, I’d lose my juice. I need to function in the world. I need to be around people. I need to be creating to be creative. The thought was, nope, you got to do it all. That meant, number one, asking for help. I hired a collaborator to do the research, to work really hard with me on the research, to make sense of the hamster on the wheel in my brain when I had nine hundred ideas at four o’clock in the morning. My collaborator, bless her heart, I think she was probably very happy to be out of my brain right now. We worked very closely together. It meant getting up at four o’clock in the morning, writing for an hour, going to maybe a five AM workout, writing for an hour, and then dealing with the kids. My commute to New York was writing, writing, writing. I have scribbles everywhere. I have notes in my phone. You’ll see when you read the book, it’s all life experiences. A lot of the science then ties back to vignettes or interactions or experiences in my life. If I were to write the book again today, it would be different again because my experiences and my interactions with the world change on a daily basis. I really wanted everything to feel very real life and practical and accessible. All of the stories, all of the anecdotes, all of those little moments were so important to me.

It was due in April. I took the new job as editor-in-chief of Woman’s Day. I’m on lockdown. I’ve got to reinvent that magazine, new logo, new whatever. The cool part was I just used the book to inform the redesign of Woman’s Day. Woman’s Day is now called Woman’s Yay, unofficially. It’s become destination celebration, no holiday left behind from taco Tuesday to Christmas. It has become this joyful place to escape the scary and celebrate life. The joke is I basically just made Your Fully Charged Woman’s Day because that was my mindset. I’m really proud of the work we’re doing. I’m really proud of the magazine. It is absolutely an extension of Your Fully Charged Life. I’m not going to sugarcoat. I made a magazine from everything I believe and live in the book. Then I had to rework a little bit because the recharge chapter is all about resilience and overcoming loss and how to bounce back. At that moment, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, the loss was real for all of us. I think it was the biggest moment of national grief imaginable. We’d lost our freedom. We’d lost, many of us, our livelihoods, our family members. I had to rewrite that chapter. It now starts with me walking to what was a prayer wall at the end of my block that I had passed for weeks. I just felt compelled to go write a message of hope on a ribbon and tie it to that wall. That’s not how that chapter started. That’s how that chapter then had to start because that’s where I was in that moment. Then eventually, I had to stop rewriting myself and turn it in.

Zibby: Do you have a whole line of fully charged stuff in the works like chargers with Your Fully Charged Life on it and all that?

Meaghan: Here’s the thing. My ten-year-old daughter will say to me all the time, “You need merch, Mom.”

Zibby: Yeah, you need merch.

Meaghan: The reality is I am a mother of three, the editor-in-chief of a magazine, a podcaster, and an author. If somebody could help me with the business of that, I would be so on board. I have all the merch. I love the merch. I would love to have my own merch. I’m not there yet because I’m just a bit overextended. It’s hard. One of the biggest philosophies or premises of Your Fully Charged Life is, say no. Say no a lot. Say no often so that you can say yes to what matters. I’m saying yes a little bit more because so many things excite me right now. I’m going to have to figure out what I can say no to so that I can yes to merch.

Zibby: Even if you just have a charger so that every time I were to plug in my phone I could get that jolt and remember to charge myself right there.

Meaghan: I’m so there. I’m a walking lightning bolt.

Zibby: I am not, so I need that in the present. Meaghan, thank you so much. I feel like even just talking to you has changed my mood around today. Thank you for that. I really needed it. Your book is fantastic. I can’t wait to have the hard copy and put it on my orange shelf.

Meaghan: It’s going to look so pretty in there.

Zibby: It’s going to look great. It looks amazing. Love the lightning bolt.

Meaghan: It was originally turquoise. Orange is my power color. They changed it to orange for me.

Zibby: Isn’t that nice.

Meaghan: Right?

Zibby: Awesome. Thank you so much. I really appreciate all your time. I am internalizing your messages and will be using them to live my life better. Thank you.

Meaghan: Yay! Thank you for having me.

Zibby: My pleasure. Take care, Meaghan.

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