Ask any random person what she wants out of life, and included in the answer is to be happy.
So, where do you start to “be happy”?
The answer is in how you think.
Your thoughts create your feelings which create your actions which create your results. If you want the result of being happier, then you need to change your thoughts.
One of the best ways to do this is from filling your mind with ideas from books.
So, here is my list of the 10 best happiness books to help you boost how you feel.
1. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor
The premise of The Happiness Advantage is that once you’re happy internally, you’ll be more successful – not the other way around. You can train your brain to be positive by training your brain to scan for the positive, not the negative (e.g. using things like exercise, meditation, practicing gratitude, acts of kindness).
There’s an awesome Ted Talk by Shawn Achor called “The Happy Secret To Better Work” that explains a lot of what the book goes over.
2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Happiness Project is about understanding all aspects of happiness and figuring out how to pursue the parts of happiness in your control. Gretchen Rubin explains that happiness is 50% genetically determined, 10-20% life circumstances (age, health, marital status, job, etc.), and the remaining 30-40% the way we think and act. We all have a natural range of happiness, but we can do things to push ourselves up to the top of our range. Examples include increasing your energy, getting enough sleep, exercising more, and volunteering. When we’re happy, we can focus on the outside world and are more generous (we want to help others). When we’re unhappy we focus only on ourselves.
Gretchen Rubin talks about the Happiness Project in her TED talk if you want to hear what she has to say.
3. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris
10% Happier is a book on how effective meditation can increase your happiness. The author, Dan Harris, had a panic attack on TV – on Good Morning America, actually. Since that moment, he’s been determined to spread the good news that he’s found through his meditation work. Harris claims that meditation isn’t weird and it’s not just for hippies. Meditation is useful and very practical to use in your everyday life — even if you’re very busy (perhaps especially if you’re busy). Meditation increases your calm and can help you become 10% happier from the inside out. Harris calls himself a “normal, suit and tie guy” who wants to make meditation more normal for everyone else. Meditation is the medicine that works for increasing happiness.
Dan Harris talks about 10% Happier in a his Google Talk.
4. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard C. Cutler
In The Art Of Happiness, Dr. Howard Cutler collaborates with the Dalai Lama to explain the core of what Buddhism is and how it can lead to a happier life. You don’t need to know anything about Buddhism going into this book. Instead, the authors explain how the life practices of Buddhism can increase your happiness. The book goes through 1) the purpose of life and how to train your mind to be happy, 2) deepening your connection with others through compassion, 3) how to deal with suffering, 4) overcoming obstacles, including anxiety, and 5) the importance of living a spiritual life. This book is a handbook for how to live happier.
5. Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat
Solve For Happy is a book about questioning what we assume it means to be happy and defining our own happiness instead. Mo Gawdat is a superstar tech engineer with a tragic story of his son dying after a routine surgery. The depth of his heart combined with the expertise of his knowledge is remarkable. Gawdat defines happiness as “equal to or greater than the events of your life minus the expectations you have for those events.” Using this definition as the guiding point, Gawdat defines five truths that walk through how to be happy within yourself no matter what is going on around you. You’ll learn how to control your thoughts so they promote your own happiness, despite the outside chaos of the world.
You can listen to Mo Gawdat during his interview with Andrew Ferebee on the Knowledge For Men podcast. This is one of the best interviews I’ve listened to.
6. Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
Chasing Slow is a book by Erin Loechner, who went from HGTV star to author, pursuing the slow life. In this book, Loechner explains how to define your personal priorities and focus on what makes you happy – not what society encourages you to do. In a world that focuses on “more” and “keeping up with the Joneses”, this book is a fresh perspective that more isn’t a good goal at all for being happy. Instead, you need to know your own values and design a life around living in accordance with them. The book teaches you how to live “a simpler life worth living.”
7. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
In Designing Your Life, Burnett and Evans show you how to use design theory and methodology called “design thinking” (that works on products and services) to create a meaningful and fulfilling life, regardless of your circumstances. The authors are founders of the Design Lab at Stanford. In this book, they explain 1) how to create a life connecting the dots between who you are, what you believe, and what you do (which requires answering questions like “what is the meaning of life” and “what is the purpose of work); 2) the necessity of be willing to solve your problems or accepting them and moving on; 3) how to create three ideal lives for yourself so you can choose which is best and worth purusing; 4) how to explore what those lives look like (e.g.: find someone already doing it and ask them their story to see if you like it and can identify with it); and 5) how to learn how to make good decisions. This book explains that it’s what you choose in life that makes you happy.
There’s a fantastic TED talk with Bill Burnett that you can listen to about this topic.
8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Blogger and author Mark Manson wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck and it instantly became a hit. This book focuses on shifting your mindset to one that makes you happier. It goes through conventional self-help wisdom and points out how it doesn’t work and will actually make you less happy. Instead of trying to be happy and comfortable all the time, you should seek being uncomfortable so you’re used to it and not freaked out when stuff happens in your life that you don’t like. Life is designed for crazy things to happen and pain is inevitable. The key is learning how to deal with these things and still be happy. You can be happy now. You don’t have to wait until you’ve accomplished your goals or achieved your dream weight. Happiness is an emotion – not an end destination. Choose your values carefully. Those become your metrics. Use those to determine whether you’re succeeding (not what society says). Remember you’re going to die – this will keep you less superficial.
9. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
You Are A Badass is a book about how to create your dream life right now. Jen Sincero walks you through why we do what we do and how you make decisions that lead you toward a happier life. The tone of this book is lighthearted, funny, and enjoyable. The takeaways are serious, but the way it’s written is very fun. You’ll not only learn how to decide what makes you happy, but also how to go after what you want and make money the way you want to.
10. The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear into Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein
The Universe Has Your Back is a book about letting go of your expectations, staying grounded, and being happy, regardless of your external circumstances. Bernstein walks through the steps for spiritual surrender that will lead to a happier life. It’s about stepping back and letting life happen and stopping trying to control things in your life. When you try to force things
You can listen to Gabrielle Bernstein on Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions talk about this topic – it’s super inspiring.
A Final Note!
There’s something for everyone in this happiness book list – or if you’re like me, you want to read all of them. 🙂
Looking for more happiness blog posts? Check out my Happiness Page.