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The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness

What makes for a happy life, a fulfilling life? A  good  life? According to the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted, the answer to these questions may be closer than you realize.

What makes a life fulfilling and meaningful? The simple but surprising answer is: relationships. The stronger our relationships, the more likely we are to live happy, satisfying, and overall healthier lives. In fact, the Harvard Study of Adult Development reveals that the strength of our connections with others can predict the health of both our bodies and our brains as we go through life. The invaluable insights in this book emerge from the revealing personal stories of hundreds of participants in the Harvard Study as they were followed year after year for their entire adult lives, and this wisdom is bolstered by research findings from this and many other studies. Relationships in all their forms—friendships, romantic partnerships, families, coworkers, tennis partners, book club members, Bible study groups—all contribute to a happier, healthier life. And as  The Good Life  shows us, it’s never too late to strengthen the relationships you have, and never too late to build new ones. Dr. Waldinger’s TED Talk about the Harvard Study, “What Makes a Good Life,” has been viewed more than 42 million times and is one of the ten most-watched TED talks ever.  The Good Life  has been praised by bestselling authors Jay Shetty (“Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz lead us on an empowering quest towards our greatest need: meaningful human connection”), Angela Duckworth (“In a crowded field of life advice and even life advice based on scientific research, Schulz and Waldinger stand apart”), and happiness expert Laurie Santos (“Waldinger and Schulz are world experts on the counterintuitive things that make life meaningful”). With warmth, wisdom, and compelling life stories,  The Good Life  shows us how we can make our lives happier and more meaningful through our connections to others.

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research on happiness books

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What the Longest Study on Human Happiness Found Is the Key to a Good Life

The Harvard Study of Adult Development has established a strong correlation between deep relationships and well-being. The question is, how does a person nurture those deep relationships?

This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic , Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.       

T urn your mind for a moment to a friend or family member you cherish but don’t spend as much time with as you would like. This needn’t be your most significant relationship, just someone who makes you feel energized when you’re with them, and whom you’d like to see more regularly.

How often do you see that person? Every day? Once a month? Once a year? Do the math and project how many hours annually you spend with them. Write this number down and hang on to it.

Book cover of The Good Life.

For us, Bob and Marc, though we work closely together and meet every week by phone or video call, we see each other in person for only a total of about two days (48 hours) every year.

How does this add up for the coming years? Bob is 71 years old. Marc is 60. Let’s be (very) generous and say we will both be around to celebrate Bob’s 100th birthday. At two days a year for 29 years, that’s 58 days that we have left to spend together in our lifetimes.

Fifty-eight out of 10,585 days.

Of course, this is assuming a lot of good fortune, and the real number is almost certainly going to be lower.

Since 1938, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has been investigating what makes people flourish. After starting with 724 participants—boys from disadvantaged and troubled families in Boston, and Harvard undergraduates—the study incorporated the spouses of the original men and, more recently, more than 1,300 descendants of the initial group. Researchers periodically interview participants, ask them to fill out questionnaires, and collect information about their physical health. As the study’s director (Bob) and associate director (Marc), we’ve been able to watch participants fall in and out of relationships, find success and failure at their jobs, become mothers and fathers. It’s the longest in-depth longitudinal study on human life ever done, and it’s brought us to a simple and profound conclusion: Good relationships lead to health and happiness. The trick is that those relationships must be nurtured.

From the June 2009 issue: What makes us happy?

We don’t always put our relationships first. Consider the fact that the average American in 2018 spent 11 hours every day on solitary activities such as watching television and listening to the radio. Spending 58 days over 29 years with a friend is infinitesimal compared with the 4,851 days that Americans will spend interacting with media during that same time period. Distractions are hard to avoid.

Thinking about these numbers can help us put our own relationships in perspective. Try figuring out how much time you spend with a good friend or family member. We don’t have to spend every hour with our friends, and some relationships work because they’re exercised sparingly. But nearly all of us have people in our lives whom we’d like to see more. Are you spending time with the people you most care about? Is there a relationship in your life that would benefit both of you if you could spend more time together? Many of these are untapped resources, waiting for us to put them to use. And, enriching these relationships can in turn nourish our minds and bodies.

Y ou don’t have to examine scientific findings to recognize that relationships affect you physically. All you have to do is notice the invigoration you feel when you believe that someone has really understood you during a good conversation, or the tension and distress you feel after an argument, or how little sleep you get during a period of romantic strife.

In this sense, having healthy, fulfilling relationships is its own kind of fitness—social fitness—and like physical fitness, it takes work to maintain. Unlike stepping on the scale, taking a quick look in the mirror, or getting readouts for blood pressure and cholesterol, assessing our social fitness requires a bit more sustained self-reflection. It requires stepping back from the crush of modern life, taking stock of our relationships, and being honest with ourselves about where we’re devoting our time and whether we are tending to the connections that help us thrive. Finding the time for this type of reflection can be hard, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable. But it can yield enormous benefits.

Many of our Harvard Study participants have told us that filling out questionnaires every two years and being interviewed regularly have given them a welcome perspective on their life and relationships. We ask them to really think about themselves and the people they love, and that process of self-reflection helps some of them.

Read: 10 practical ways to improve happiness

This is a practice that could help anyone. Looking in the mirror and thinking honestly about where your life stands is a first step in trying to live a good life. Noticing where you are can help put into relief where you would like to be. Having some reservations about this kind of self-reflection is understandable. Our study participants were not always keen on filling out our questionnaires, or eager to consider the larger picture of their life. Some would skip difficult questions or leave entire pages blank, and some would just not return certain surveys. Some even wrote comments in the margins of their questionnaires about what they thought of our requests. “What kinds of questions are these!?” is a response we received occasionally, often from participants who preferred not to think about difficulties in their life. The experiences of the people who skipped questions or entire questionnaires were also important, though—they were just as crucial in understanding adult development as the experiences of people eager to share. A lot of useful data and gems of experience were buried in the shadowed corners of their lives. We just had to go through a little extra effort to excavate them.

One of these people was a man we’ll call Sterling Ainsley. (We are using a pseudonym to protect his confidentiality as a study participant.)

Black line drawing illustration of a person inside a bubble of curly cues

S terling Ainsley was a hopeful guy. He graduated from Harvard in the 1940s and then served in World War II. After he left the service, he got a job as a scientist and retired in his 60s. When asked to describe his philosophy for getting through hard times, he said, “You try not to let life get to you. You remember your victories and take a positive attitude.”

The year was 1986. George Vaillant, the then-director of the study, was on a long interview trek, driving through the Rocky Mountains to visit the study’s participants who lived in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. Sterling had not returned the most recent survey, and there was some catching up to do. He met Vaillant at a hotel to give him a ride to the diner where Sterling wanted to do his scheduled interview. When Vaillant buckled himself into the passenger seat of Sterling’s car, the seat belt left a stripe of dust across his chest. “I was left to wonder,” he wrote, “the last time somebody had used it.”

Sterling was technically married, but his wife lived far away, and they hadn’t slept in the same room in years. They spoke only every few months.

Read: The six forces that fuel friendship

When asked why they had not gotten a divorce, he said, “I wouldn’t want to do that to the children,” even though his kids were grown and had children of their own. Sterling was proud of his kids and beamed when he spoke of them, saying they were the most important thing in his life. But he rarely saw them and seemed to prefer to keep his relationships with them thriving mostly in his imagination. Vaillant noted that Sterling seemed to be using optimism to push away some of his fears and avoid challenges in his life. Putting a positive spin on every matter and then pushing it out of his mind made it possible for him to believe that nothing was wrong, he was fine, he was happy, his kids didn’t need him.

He didn’t travel to see his son’s new home abroad, because he didn’t “want to be a burden”—even though he’d been learning a new language to prepare for the trip. He had another child who lived closer, but he hadn’t visited in more than a year. He didn’t have a relationship with his grandchildren, and he wasn’t in contact with any friends.

When asked about his older sister, Sterling seemed startled. “My sister?” he said.

Yes, the sister he had told the study so much about when he was younger.

Sterling thought about it for a long time, and then told Vaillant that it must have been decades since he last spoke with her. A frightened expression came over his face. “Would she still be living?” he said.

Sterling tried not to think about his relationships, and he was even less inclined to talk about them. This is a common experience. We don’t always know why we do things or why we don’t do things, and we may not understand what is holding us at a distance from the people in our life. Taking some time to look in the mirror can help. Sometimes there are needs inside of us that are looking for a voice, a way to get out. They might be things that we have never seen or articulated to ourselves.

This seemed to be the case with Sterling. Asked how he spent his evenings, he said he spent time with an elderly woman who lived in a nearby trailer. Each night he would walk over, and they’d watch TV and talk. Eventually she would fall asleep, and he would help her into bed and wash her dishes and close the shades before walking home. She was the closest thing he had to a confidant.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if she dies,” he said.

Listen to Robert Waldinger in conversation with Arthur Brooks and Rebecca Rashid on "How to Build a Happy Life":

L oneliness has a physical effect on the body. It can render people more sensitive to pain, suppress their immune system, diminish brain function, and disrupt sleep, which in turn can make an already lonely person even more tired and irritable. Research has found that, for older adults, loneliness is far more dangerous than obesity. Ongoing loneliness raises a person’s odds of death by 26 percent in any given year. A study in the U.K., the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, recently reported on the connections between loneliness and poorer health and self-care in young adults. This ongoing study includes more than 2,200 people born in England and Wales in 1994 and 1995. When they were 18, the researchers asked them how lonely they were. Those who reported being lonelier had a greater chance of facing mental-health issues, partaking in unsafe physical-health behaviors, and coping with stress in negative ways. Add to this the fact that a tide of loneliness is flooding through modern societies, and we have a serious problem. Recent stats should make us take notice.

In a study conducted online that sampled 55,000 respondents from across the world, one out of every three people of all ages reported that they often feel lonely. Among these, the loneliest group were 16-to-24-year-olds, 40 percent of whom reported feeling lonely “often or very often.” In the U.K., the economic cost of this loneliness—because lonely people are less productive and more prone to employment turnover—is estimated at more than £2.5 billion (about $3.1 billion) annually and helped lead to the establishment of a U.K. Ministry of Loneliness.

Read: Why do we look down on lonely people?

In Japan, 32 percent of adults expected to feel lonely most of the time during 2020. In the United States, a 2019 study suggested that three out of four adults felt moderate to high levels of loneliness. As of this writing, the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which separated us from one another on a massive scale and left many feeling more isolated than ever, are still being studied.

Alleviating this epidemic of loneliness is difficult because what makes one person feel lonely might have no effect on someone else. We can’t rely entirely on easily observed indicators such as whether or not one lives alone, because loneliness is a subjective experience. One person might have a significant other and too many friends to count and yet feel lonely, while another person might live alone and have a few close contacts and yet feel very connected. The objective facts of a person’s life are not enough to explain why someone is lonely. Regardless of your race or class or gender, the feeling resides in the difference between the kind of social contact you want and the social contact you actually have.

Black line drawing of two people connected by curly line

I t never hurts —especially if you’ve been feeling low—to take a minute to reflect on how your relationships are faring and what you wish could be different about them. If you’re the scheduling type, you could make it a regular thing; perhaps every year on New Year’s Day or the morning of your birthday, take a few moments to draw up your current social universe, and consider what you’re receiving, what you’re giving, and where you would like to be in another year. You could keep your chart or relationships assessment in a special place, so you know where to look the next time you want to peek at it to see how things have changed.

If nothing else, doing this reminds us of what’s most important. Repeatedly, when the participants in our study reached old age, they would make a point to say that what they treasured most were their relationships. Sterling Ainsley himself made that point. He loved his older sister deeply—but he lost touch with her. Some of his fondest memories were of his friends—whom he never contacted. There was nothing he cared more about than his children—whom he rarely saw. From the outside it might look like he didn’t care. That was not the case. Sterling was quite emotional in his recounting of his most cherished relationships, and his reluctance to answer certain study questions was clearly connected to the pain that keeping his distance had caused him over the years. Sterling never sat down to really think about how he might conduct his relationships or what he might do to properly care for the people he loved most.

Sterling’s life reminds us of the fragility of our connections, and it echoes the lessons of science: Relationships keep us happier and healthier throughout our life spans. We neglect our connections with others at our peril. Investing in our social fitness is possible each day, each week of our lives. Even small investments today in our relationships with others can create long-term ripples of well-being.

This article is adapted from Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz’s new book, The Good Life: Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness .

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The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want Paperback – Illustrated, December 30, 2008

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Sonja lyubomirsky.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. She received her B.A., summa cum laude, from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in social psychology from Stanford University. Her research – on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness — has been honored with a Science of Generosity grant, a John Templeton Foundation grant, a Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, and a million-dollar grant from NIMH. Lyubomirsky’s 2008 book, The How of Happiness (Penguin Press) has been translated into 19 languages, and her forthcoming book, The Myths of Happiness, will be released on January 3, 2013. Her work has been written up in hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, and she has appeared in multiple TV shows, radio shows, and feature documentaries in North America, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Lyubomirsky lives in Santa Monica, California, with her family.

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The secret to happiness? Here’s some advice from the longest-running study on happiness


I have always considered myself a happy person, even though I may not always look it thanks to inheriting my father’s furrowed brow. Are there times when I’m not happy? Of course. Do I wish I could be happier more often? Who wouldn’t? While it seems everyone is looking for the answer to the age-old question, “What’s the secret to happiness?” the better question may be, “Is it even possible to be happier?”

About half of our level of happiness is based on genes. Some people are just predisposed to be happier and more upbeat than others. But that does not mean you cannot increase your level of happiness if it does not come naturally. In fact, research has suggested that 40% of people’s happiness comes from the choices they make.

Come on, get happy

So what are the right choices for happiness? You may find inspiration from the participants in the Harvard Study of Adult Development — one of the longest-running studies on happiness.

The project has followed 724 men since they were teenagers in 1938. (Approximately 60 men, now in their 90s, are still left.) The group consisted of men from various economic and social backgrounds, from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods to Harvard undergrads. (President John F. Kennedy was even part of the original group.) Over the years, the researchers have collected all kinds of health information, and every two years they ask members questions about their lives and their mental and emotional wellness. They even interview family members.

They found that specific traits and behaviors were linked with increased levels of happiness across the entire group.

Know when to let go

As the people got older, they tended to focus more on what’s important to them, and didn’t sweat the small stuff to the degree they did when they were younger, according to the project’s director, Dr. Robert Waldinger. Other research supports this mindset, and has found that older adults are better about letting go of past failures. “They tend to realize how life is short and they are more likely to pay more attention on what makes them happy now,” says Dr. Waldinger.

You could do the same. What activities make you happy and what’s stopping you from doing them? Think back to your childhood. What did you enjoy when you were younger? Singing? Playing games? Doing certain hobbies? “When you are older you have more opportunity to return to the activities you associate with happiness,” says Dr. Waldinger. So begin that coin collection, join a choir, or play poker or bridge.

Stay connected

The Harvard Study has found a strong association between happiness and close relationships like spouses, family, friends, and social circles. “Personal connection creates mental and emotional stimulation, which are automatic mood boosters, while isolation is a mood buster,” says Dr. Waldinger. This is also an opportunity to focus on positive relationships and let go of negative people in your life, or at least minimize your interactions with them.

If you need to broaden your social life, try volunteering for a favorite cause. Odds are you will meet more like-minded people. Volunteering also is another way to boost happiness by providing a sense of purpose. In fact, a study published online May19, 2016, by BMJ Open found that this benefit was strongest among people age 45 to 80 and older. Look for volunteering opportunities in your area that match your interests.

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15 Best Happiness Books and Are They Worth Your Time?

Books on Happiness

Perhaps your ‘taste-buds’ have been tempted by reading about happiness – either on this website, in your practice, or forming research.

You would have found that there are some fantastic books on what is a very broad topic. But it can be hard to decide which to read.

The purpose of this article is to provide a summary of fifteen of the most popular and best happiness books that have been written on this topic. Hopefully, by knowing more about what each of these books are about, and (in some cases) by reading a few short reviews of the books, you can decide which ones may take your fancy.

The books have been written from authors including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to renowned professors of psychology, and even an economist. They explore topics from a wide variety of perspectives, some you may enjoy learning about. It is hoped that you can use this article as a resource to guide your decision as to which happiness book to read. I hope it is helpful!

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free . These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values and self-compassion and will give you the tools to enhance the happiness and wellbeing of your clients, students or employees.

This Article Contains:

A Take-Home Message

1. the art of happiness – dalai lama.

Book by the Dalai Lama on Happiness

This book was actually written by a psychiatrist, Dr. Cutler, based on interviews conducted over a period of one week with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is renowned for his personal sense of peace and in this book, readers can learn what they can do to discover this same serenity.

In ‘ The Art of Happiness ’, Howard C. Cutler puts forward a “western” (i.e. science-based) view of the Dalai Lama’s (a Buddhist monk, also known as Tenzin Gyatso) teachings. It provides an overview of Tibetan Buddhism and the messages from its’ leader the Dalia Lama.

A key feature of the book is the direct quotations from the Dalai Lama. So, what are the Dalai Lama’s teachings about happiness?

Happiness is, according to this book, the purpose of life. Once a person’s basic needs are met, happiness is more the result of the mind rather than events, external conditions, and circumstances.

This book explains that we each hold the key to our own happiness. It argues that, by training our hearts and minds, and by actively working on our attitudes and outlook, we can all achieve happiness.

How does the Dalai Lama suggest we find happiness? Well, he advises readers to pay attention to the things that make us happy and to eliminate the things that make us suffer. Further, by achieving peace of mind in this way, the Dalai Lama says this means we can move away from material goods and to seek contentment and an inner sense of worth.

According to the teachings, all people have the potential to do this. It also presents the idea that compassion is a state of mind whereby a person is not violent, harming, or aggressive. The Dalai Lama says we should show compassion to everybody, and that universal compassion towards the right of other people to be free some suffering is important. He explains that showing empathy can help to generate and foster compassion.

Whilst this book clearly explores spiritual teachings, the Dalai Lama contends that all religions should be accepted and that spirituality is about benefitting oneself through a sense of being calm and feeling happy.

Furthermore, ‘ The Art of Happiness ’ suggests that happiness can be achieved by ‘systematical training of our hearts and minds’.

Available from Amazon as a hardcover book, audiobook or for Kindle.

2. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment – Martin E.P. Seligman

Book by Martin Seligman on Happiness

‘ Authentic Happiness ’ was published in 2004, written by Martin Seligman.

Seligman, a psychologist and best-selling author puts forward the idea that happiness is not due to ‘having the right genes’ or ‘being lucky’.

Rather, according to Seligman, true, enduring happiness (i.e. ‘authentic happiness’) is the result of paying attention to one’s personal strengths rather than focusing on perceived weaknesses.

Seligman , who has been described as the father of positive psychology, applies psychological research that has been developing over a long period of time. He shares what he proposes to be the 24 strengths and virtues that make up our psyche. He then explains how to look into the strengths and virtues that each person has. He calls these ‘signature strengths’.

Seligman’s book suggests that authentic happiness is achieved when an individual is able to use their personal strengths in order to improve every area of their life. Seligman has developed resources, including a series of practical exercises, short tests, and a dynamic website program.

Taking these resources, Seligman – an esteemed author – demonstrates to readers how to become aware of their highest virtues and act in accordance with them in a new way.

This book describes how by using their ‘signature strengths’, a person can create a buffering effect against ill fate and negative emotions. However, as well, using one’s signature strengths enables individuals to also make the world around them a better place.

According to ‘ Authentic Happiness ’, discovering authentic happiness can lead to new, sustainable joy, meaning, and contentment in aspects of life such as work, relationships, and parenting. This book, described as groundbreaking, heart-lifting and extremely useful, explains that happiness can be learned, or, in other words ‘cultivated’.

Amazon has declared that ‘ Authentic Happiness ’ is the most powerful work of popular psychology in years. Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence ) calls ‘ Authentic Happiness ’ “a practical map for a flourishing life”.

‘ Authentic Happiness ‘ can be purchased from Amazon .

3. Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

This book, written by Professor Daniel Gilbert, was the winner of the Royal Society of Science Prize in 2007. It has been described as very interesting, and funny.

Gilbert demonstrates that most of us don’t know how to make ourselves happy, and he explains why this is the case. All of us wish to be happy, but how do we do so?

According to Professor Gilbert, people don’t know how to predict what will please our future selves. ‘ Stumbling on Happiness ’ sees Gilbert explain how our brains predict the future and explore whether the brain is able to imagine what it will enjoy.

Prof. Gilbert draws upon the fields of psychology, neuroscience, economics, and philosophy. Gilbert, who is a pre-eminent psychologist, explores another area in this book – human motivation.

Within ‘ Stumbling on Happiness ’, the author reveals the so-called secrets of motivation. He explores some interesting questions, including: why people order different meals when eating with others, rather than instead selecting what they want; why shoppers who can’t get refunds are happier; and, why even though couples claim their children are a source of joy, they are less satisfied after having their children.

Professor Daniel Gilbert (born in 1957) is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He has previously won a number of awards for teaching and research.

Get this great read from Amazon .

4. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT – Russ Harris and Steven C. Hayes PhD

The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living

Dr. Russ Harris is a medical practitioner with particular expertise in stress management and he trains coaches, psychologists, doctors and other health professionals in the use of mindfulness. This is an easy-to-read self-help book that was published in 2013.

‘ The Happiness Trap ’, which has been described as empowering and practical, introduces ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). ACT is a relatively recent approach to psychotherapy that has been developed out of leading research in behavioral psychology.

ACT is centered on a mindfulness-based program designed to decrease stress, conquer fears and find fulfillment. Harris’ book is an international best-seller that has been published in more than 30 countries and in 22 different languages.

In it, Harris explains the myths about happiness and popular ideas about it and suggests that these myths are misleading and inaccurate, and even that in part they cause the widespread experiences of stress, anxiety, and depression. He says that many current psychology programs are, in fact, making things worse.

The title (The Happiness Trap) encapsulates the main argument of the book – that the more people try and achieve happiness, the more they actually suffer in the long-term. Therefore, ACT is suggested as a way to escape ‘ The Happiness Trap ’. ACT is an innovative new method based on mindfulness.

According to this book, by making one’s values clear and practicing being mindful (in other words, focus on living fully in the present moment), ACT can enable readers to leave the happiness trap behind and discover meaning and satisfaction in their lives.

Mindfulness skills can be learned easily, and are quick ways proven to decrease stress, improve performance, effectively deal with emotions, enhance health, improve vitality and – overall – really improve quality of life!

Harris’ book employs scientifically proven techniques for developing a meaningful, fulfilling life, and can be purchased from Amazon .

5. The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life – Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The author, Shawn Achor, is a lecturer at Harvard University and he co-designed Harvard’s ‘Happiness’ course. He presents over 150 lectures each year on the science of happiness and human potential.

He conducted the largest ever study on happiness and human potential, surveying more than 1600 students.

Based on this study, Achor reveals the 7 core principles of positive psychology that every person can practice to enhance our performance, improve our careers and achieve success at work.

Most people are hoping to be more successful and everyone wants to be happy. Generally, it is believed that, if you work hard, this will lead to being more successful and that becoming more successful will lead to being happy. Achor dispels the myth that we will feel happy if, and when, we become successful.

Positive Psychology suggests that the proposition that we will feel happy if, and when, we become successful is not true. In fact, as Achor explains in ‘ The Happiness Advantage ’, happiness actually drives performance and success.

When you stop and think about it, this makes sense! I am sure that if we reflect on a time when we felt happy, we will notice that when we are more positive, we are also more engaged, more creative, more able to cope with stress, and more productive.

‘ The Happiness Advantage ’ is a useful book for those seeking practical advice on the ways to become happier, and also more successful.

To attain that success, visit Amazon for this excellent book.

6. Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life – Sylvia Boorstein

Happiness Book by Silvia Boorstein

Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D., is a practicing psychotherapist and co-founding teacher at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.

She frequently presents at psychology conferences and training seminars, and has written bestselling books – including ‘Pay Attention, for Goodness’ Sake ’, ‘It’s Easier Than You think ’, ‘ Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There ’, and ‘ That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist ’.

Boorstein considered the following questions when starting to write ‘ Happiness Is an Inside Job ’:

In this inspiring book, Boorstein details advice that offers warmth and wisdom. She explores how, in spite of the odds being against us, that we can still feel a sense of happiness. From her work over three decades, Boorstein has noticed that the ‘secret’ to happiness is to develop and connect with kindness.

She suggests that happiness is found by being kind – not only to our friends, family, and colleagues, but also towards ourselves , others who we don’t know well, and even people we don’t really like!

Boorstein introduces some key lessons from Buddhism – Wise Effort, Wise Mindfulness, and Wise Concentration. She reveals how engaging with these teachings can move us from feeling angry, anxious, or confused and rather find a state of calmness, clarity, and enjoying living in the present moment.

By developing these qualities, according to Boorstein, we are able to deal with all that we encounter with a sense of balance and intelligence. This, according to the author, helps us have a grounded sense of true contentment.

Boorstein shares her knowledge as a psychotherapist, a spiritual teacher, and her role as a grandmother, to deliver a book that has been described as beautiful and comforting. Her engaging stories will draw in the reader’s hearts and minds. The book also features straightforward activities that can be done whilst the book is being read.

The take-home message from ‘ Happiness is an Inside Job ’ is that, in reality, we all share this journey – life – that, deep down we all seek to console and love one another and, finally, that the best way to live is to live happily.

Available for Kindle or as an affordable hardcover on Amazon .

7. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun – Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

More than one million of Rubin’s book have been sold! This book was written by best-selling author Gretchen Rubin. Rubin has a weekly podcast called “Happier with Gretchen Rubin”.

She has written on a broad range of topics, including biographies of Sir Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. Rubin is a graduate of Yale Law School.

‘ The Happiness Project ’ details Gretchen Rubin’s year-long investigation into what truly leads to a state of contentment. Fellow author, Sonja Lyubomirsky, who is an expert in the topic of happiness, described The Happiness Project as “ a cross between the Dalai Lama’s ‘The Art of Happiness’ and Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love ”.

This book ties in up-to-the-minute science along with classical philosophy and real-world applicability. Rubin’s book has been described as a compelling, completely related tale of transformation.

The structure of this book is interesting. The book is divided into one chapter per month, and each month Rubin chooses to focus on a different topic. Then, in exploring each month’s topic (for example, February: Improve marriage), she sets a few goals to work on – ‘monthly resolutions’.

‘ The Happiness Project ’ has been described as relatable and funny, and that it provides motivation to focus on, and work on, goals. It shares a very personal and honest story.

Visit Amazon to purchase this very popular book.

8. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom – Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt is a psychology teacher at the University of Virginia. This book is his first for a general audience.

Society relies on so-called truths derived from folk wisdom that has been passed down for generations. This unique book draws from inspiration coming from both science and philosophy.

Psychologist, Haidt, exposes the messages that have arrived as being ‘common sense’ because our grandparents and THEIR grandparents have handed them down…

Think of messages such as “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “do unto others as you would have done unto you” and “happiness comes from within”.

Whilst we rarely question these truisms, most of us hold onto the idea that we will feel truly happy when we earn more money, or find love, or discover success. ‘ The Happiness Hypothesis ’ examines traditional wisdom by looking to modern science.

Haidt exposes somewhat provocative ideas such as that virtue in and of itself is not actually rewarding, that extroverts are indeed happier than their introverted counterparts, and that conscious thought is nowhere near as important as we may believe.

‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ has been described as remarkable and original – “ancient wisdom in our time”.

You can purchase ‘ The Happiness Hypothesis’ on Amazon .

9. The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything=Have Everything – Neil Pasricha

Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha

Susan Cain, the author of QUIET, described this book as “a two-hour ticket to changing your life”. Pasricha is a New York Times best-selling author of a series called ‘ Book of Awesome ’.

He was awarded an MBA from Harvard, is eminently popular as a TED presenter, and he also founded the Institute for Global Happiness.

‘ The Happiness Equation ’ reveals the nine secrets of happiness, and shows readers that to ‘have everything’ one should want nothing and do anything! Described as counterintuitive, this book is also somewhat controversial.

In exploring the secrets to happiness, Pasricha turns a common ideal upside down and presents the ideal in a whole new light. The author then gives step-by-step guidelines and even handwritten notes that detail how to put each secret into place in order to find a happier life.

Pasricha demonstrates some apparently contradictory teachings, such as why success isn’t the path to happiness and how to make more money than a Harvard MBA.

Furthermore, he dispels multi-tasking as a myth and describes how we actually find more choice is we eliminate options. The author acknowledges that even successful people have negative thoughts and that it is not wrong to have such thoughts.

This book combines humor with wise, practical advice. It introduces the concept that a ‘Culture of Enough’ will lead to more happiness than a ‘Culture of More’. It emphasizes that the choices/decisions we make every day contribute to our happiness and that we should prioritize our happiness.

‘ The Happiness Equation ’ argues that external rewards are actually demotivating in the long run, and suggests that happiness can be derived by random acts of kindness, regular walks, and owning and accepting who you are as a person.

For hours of happy reading, purchase this inspiring book on Amazon .

10. Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life – Paul Dolan

Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life by Paul Dolan

Happiness expert, Daniel Kahneman, described ‘ Happiness by Design ’, which is a Sunday Times bestseller, as ‘bold and original’. This is Paul Dolan’s debut book.

He is a Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics. He looks at how to influence behavior in order to improve wellbeing.

This book answers the question of how we can make it easier to be happy. Dolan argues, by applying recent, significant research that wellbeing is a result of what we do rather than how we think.

The title refers to ‘re-designing’ our lives in order to maximize happiness. How? Well, according to Dolan, it is about our decisions. He argues that by making informed, deliberate choices without thinking too hard about maximizing happiness, we can discover a life that is characterized by meaning and pleasure.

Jenni Russell (from the Sunday Times) is quoted as saying that ‘few books change one’s life; in 48 hours this has improved mine.’

This book is available on Amazon as a book or Audio CD.

11. The Happiness Factor: How to Be Happy No Matter What! – Kirk Wilkinson

The Happiness Factor: How to Be Happy No Matter What

This book, said to be practical and rooted in the real world, was published in 2008. On p. 33, Wilkinson says: “ change the way you look at things…and the things you look at change ”.

‘ The Happiness Factor ’ provides a perspective on how to cope with adversity and overcome it in order to discover true, lasting happiness. It explains that we are not defined by our circumstances or our problems.

Wilkinson suggests that every person has the capacity to overcome the set of issues that they are dealing with and to be happy.

Wilkinson uses the acronym P-E-A-S-E-F-U-L to describe an approach to discovering happiness using an unforgettable group of principles that are applicable universally. This approach ameliorates the deleterious effects of stress and other such barriers to happiness.

Therefore, it is proposed that the key to lifelong happiness is overall wellbeing, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Purchase this practical book on Amazon .

12. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want – Sonja Lyubomirsky

The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. A research psychologist, a feature of this book is that it is solidly grounded in scientific research. It is comprehensive but easy-to-follow.

The book provides a guide for us to find happiness in our lives in the short and long term.

‘ The How of Happiness ’ reveals what happiness is (and isn’t!), and what we can do to approach the happy life we imagine for ourselves. It explains the notion of the ‘Happiness Set Point’ – i.e. the biological determinants that explain 50% of our happiness.

Further, Lyubomirsky explains that 10% of our happiness can be determined by life circumstances/situations SO, actually, 40% of our happiness is within our own ability to change.

Lyubomirsky reveals more than a dozen “happiness strategies” that are mindful, intentional activities to engage in that can result in a happier life – including exercises in behaving and thinking optimistically when imagining the future, a guide of how to savor the pleasures of life in the moment, and an explanation of remaining active in order to be happy.

‘ The How of Happiness ’ provides an overview of the multiple barriers to happiness, and how to utilize one’s own unique strengths to overcome such obstacles.

The book includes a quiz that helps readers to identify the actions that will be most helpful to them. Almost all of the factual statements include a citation, and the book also incorporates an evaluation designed to be used to check in with in order to determine whether the happiness strategies. It has been said by some readers that the book is slightly repetitive.

The 12 ‘hows’ to being happy are:

According to Lyubomirsky, by following these twelve strategies, we can find happiness. To read more about it, you can get this book from Amazon .

13. Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening – Gary Weber

Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Gary Weber

Weber has lived a full, successful ‘worldly’ life; however, he has also sought to fully understand life and achieve a sense of enlightenment.

Incorporating Zen Buddhist teachings with current brain research, Weber provides a set of yoga practices that are designed for practitioners looking for a path to enlightenment.

The practices (asana, pranayama, chanting, and meditation) are designed to provide readers with a practical path to awakening. They are simple and easy to follow, developed from Weber’s pursuit of knowledge with Ramana Maharshi – his primary teacher.

Weber shares his ongoing pursuit of Zen meditation practice and the things he has learned about bettering one’s life from the laboratory… which is actually his yoga mat!

To access these enlightening practices, visit Amazon .

14. Happiness: Lessons from a New Science – Richard Layard

Happiness: Lessons from a New Science

Richard Layard is a leading economist. He believes that the income of a society does not determine happiness. His research into happiness is drawn from the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, economics, sociology, and philosophy.

His best-known studies have looked at unemployment and inequality.

‘ Happiness: Lessons from a New Science ’ is noted to be the key book in ‘happiness studies’. It puts forward Layard’s argument – that, despite people wanting more money that, paradoxically, income does not lead to happiness.

As society has developed, people have not become happier despite the fact that, on average, incomes have more than doubled over the last fifty years.

Scientific research has shown this paradox in Britain, the US, Continental Europe, and Japan. In fact, compared to fifty years ago, the First World has seen increases in depression, crime, and alcoholism. Layard actually published the second edition of this book in 2011 to adequately reflect the developments since the first publication.

‘ Happiness: Lessons from a New Science ’ explores the reasons that determine how we make decisions. Rather than the pursuit of happiness, many personal decisions are reflected as economics, on the level of society. This book promotes re-considering our reasons for making decisions by refocusing on goals.

Make the right decision and purchase this book from Amazon .

15. Happiness for Dummies – W. Doyle Gentry

Dummies' Guide to Happiness

This book is promoted as “ Your hands-on guide to reducing stress, being happier, and living a more fulfilling life ”.

It was written by W. Doyle Gentry, Ph.D., who is a clinical psychologist, a Distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and he was the founding editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

‘ Happiness for Dummies ’ claims to provide the way to live a life that is meaningful, healthy and productive regardless of life circumstances. It incorporates strategies to alter one’s behavior in order to develop good habits and act in accordance with one’s surroundings.

Doyle Gentry’s book also describes how to determine one’s current capacity for happiness, to live one’s desired life, to overcome barriers to happiness, and look into one’s unique strengths and virtues.

It aims to outline the meaning of happiness at each stage of self-actualization and provide readers with an understanding of why cultivating positive emotions can lead to better health and wellbeing.

The author aims to dispel the common misunderstanding in the construal of happiness in terms of modern valued outcomes such as wealth, power and success.

This book also promises to its’ audience that by pursuing what they truly wish to, seizing the day, and finding the ‘silver lining’ in everyday challenges, they can improve their spiritual and emotional life and discover meaningful social relationships, as well as learning to appreciate being alone.

‘ Happiness for Dummies ’ also provides lists of 10 tips of how to raise a happy child, a discussion of common barriers to happiness, and a guide as to which personal habits help to develop happiness.

‘ Happiness for Dummies ‘ can be bought from Amazon .

With such a vast array of self-help and psychology books about happiness on the market, it can be a challenge to try and work out which ones to invest time in. Hopefully, this summary of ‘happiness books’ can act as a guide to the content of these books to help you make a (slightly!) more informed decision!

The books have a variety of foci, from spiritual studies to positive psychology, and even economics. I hope you have found this article to be helpful in summarising the main happiness books out there.

I am very interested in your thoughts… have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? Would you recommend any to someone with a bit of time on their hands? Please comment below!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free .

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What our readers think.

Olujide Jacob Olúmọfẹ

Am happy to see these preambles on the Topic, Happiness. Which has been in my mind to work on in poetry, text and motivational speech. And I believe it will impact life positively.

David Shinfield

My parents never taught me how to be happy, and today, as a father of a adult son, I realised that how important task for a parent to teach their children the code of happiness. And I have been thinking if my son had only one book he could have from me, which would be the one ultimately for him ?

Thanks for your summary, and until I have the answer, your insight thoughtfulness will always have me inspired.


Hey, David. Do you have the answer yet? It’s been 6 months now and I’d find it very interesting.

Tracey L Sloan

I am writing a book about happiness so this was super useful to me to understand the various angles others have taken…can’t wait to take the road less traveled!! Tracey Lorraine 🙂

Austin Macauley Publishers

Great Post. I like reading and it’s very useful for me. Thank you for Sharing.


Thank you for the nice and useful list. I also sent it off to my wife and kids to browse through. I am very curious. From this list, do you have a personal favorite? Also, there is another you might want to look at. https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Serious-Problem-Nature-Repair-ebook/dp/B0014Y09OI Dennis Prager wrote this one, and I found it to be clear and insightful.

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The science of happiness: seven books to bring a smile to your face

Stay positive, these science books have more than a few tips on how to be happy.

Whether you want to read about what’s going on in the brain, what makes people happy, or just how to be happy, we’ve gathered seven science books that are sure to bring a smile to your face.

Read more about the science of happiness:

The Atlas of Happiness

What does happiness mean to you? Is it the pleasure of doing nothing, or, as the Italians would say, dolce far niente ? Is it the sense of community and shared contentment that the Māori people find in performing a haka? Or maybe it's the Finnish habit of drinking at home in your pants?

In The Atlas of Happiness , Helen Russell explores all the different ways to be happy from around the world, and how our cultures inform what we think of as happiness. She also takes a look at the science behind various aspects of happiness, and suggests how we can experience worldly happiness ourselves.

Listen to our interview with Helen Russell about her book on the Science Focus Podcast below.

The Atlas of Happiness Helen Russell £16.99, Hodder

Happy Ever After

Marriage, children, a successful career, your health - this is all we need to be happy, right? In Happy Ever After , Paul Dolan encourages us to reject these narratives and choose our own path. Some of these might make us happy, or none at all, but it’s up to us to work out which for ourselves.

Dolan uses his expertise in behavioural science to deconstruct these ideas and get to the bottom of where happiness really comes from. With reference to contemporary research, he explores the themes of status, empathy, monogamy, and many more. After all, there is no one type of person, so why should happiness be one-size-fits-all?

Happy Ever After Paul Dolan £20, Penguin

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Take one look at the news and you’d be more than forgiven in thinking the world is a scary place, especially with its split screens and news tickers bombarding us with information. With constant access to more information than we could ever process, how are we supposed to relax? Social media, originally intended as a place to connect with people, is filled with politics, division and anger. We are stressed, nervous, and busy.

Matt Haig’s book Notes on a Nervous Planet draws on his personal experience to explore the effect that this world has on us. He explores the sources of anxiety in the modern world that surround us, the very modern challenges we face, and how we can remove ourselves from them to stay happy and calm.

Notes on a Nervous Planet Matt Haig £12.99, Cannongate

The Happy Brain

Where does happiness come from, scientifically speaking? From chemicals like dopamine and serotonin? From pulses of electricity travelling down neurons? And what causes these reactions in the first place? In The Happy Brain , neuroscientist Dean Burnett explains the cutting-edge research and the neuroscience behind happiness.

So, if we can spot what goes on in our brains when we’re happy, surely that means that we’ve found the answer. Just release these chemicals and send these signals, and then we’ll be happy, no? Unfortunately, the truth isn’t quite so simple. For starters, there isn’t just one kind of happiness. Euphoria and contentment, while both under the umbrella of ‘happiness’, are vastly different feelings.

Burnett is keen to point out that this is not an instruction manual or a self-help book, but an exploration of what it means to be happy. Happiness is subjective: what makes one person joyful may do nothing at all for another. To understand happiness, we need lots of different perspectives, so Burnett interviews people from all walks of life, including pop stars, comedians, businessmen, and, of course, neuroscientists.

More like this

Listen to our interview with Dean Burnett on the neuroscience of happiness on the Science Focus Podcast below.

The Happy Brain Dean Burnett £12.99, Guardian Faber Publishing

The Little Book of Hygge

The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’) exploded into our cultural consciousness in 2016, thanks in part to this book and others on the same theme — so much so that the Collins English Dictionary named hygge as one of its top ten words of the year in 2016 . Its success is no doubt related to the fact that Denmark consistently scores highly on the World Happiness report, making its people among the happiest in the world .

This untranslatable word is often described as cosiness, but its nuance is easier to understand through examples: hygge is curling up with a book in front of a fire, or relaxing with your family and friends with candles and good food. Who better to introduce us to hygge than Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen? In The Little Book of Hygge , Wiking mixes his personal perspective as a Dane with his own studies to delve into why the Danish are so happy. His conclusion - hygge.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking is out now (£9.99, Penguin)

More science books:

The Other Side of Happiness

For more surprising advice, try psychologist Brock Bastian’s The Other Side of Happiness : perhaps happiness and pain aren’t so far removed as we might think. In fact, Bastian argues that pain and sadness are necessary parts of a happy life. How much better does good food taste after a difficult hike? How much more do we enjoy a holiday when we worked hard to save up for it? How much happier are we to pass an exam when there was a risk we would fail?

Pain is something we try to avoid, both physical and emotional. Bastian argues that the pressure we place on ourselves to be constantly happy actually makes us less happy in the long run. Maybe it’s time for us to allow ourselves to be miserable sometimes and appreciate the happy times even more when they come around.

The Other Side of Happiness by Brock Bastian is out now (£9.99, Penguin)

Solve for Happy

Mo Gawdat’s Solve for Happy is a personal and optimistic account of the pursuit of happiness. Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer for Google X, recounts his gradual realisation that money and possessions would never make him happy, and his determination to find out what would. After a period of intense, analytical study, he developed an equation for happiness: your total happiness is greater than or equal to your perception of the events of your life, minus your expectation of how life should behave.

Gawdat’s happiness equation faced its biggest challenge after the tragic and preventable death of his son, Ali. Solve for Happy is Gawdat’s tribute to Ali, and his attempt to spread his hard-earned wisdom in the hope of making global happiness a reality.

Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat is out now (£14.99, Macmillan)

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.

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Best Books on Happiness Cover

Each year, a group of experts gathers to assess the global state of happiness. The result, the World Happiness Report , is released on March 20, the International Day of Happiness.

This sounds like a positive thing, but, since 2005, overall happiness is decreasing while negative feelings like sadness and anger are on the rise. What’s worse is the trend of more young people experiencing mental illness, addictions, and their consequences. To an extent, this is understandable.

It’s tough to stay afloat mentally with everything going on in the world these days. No wonder we can crack at the slightest problem. But then we feel bad for not knowing how to handle it all and slip even deeper into unhappiness.

How do we stop this spiral? How can we actively combat our common enemy? What do we need to stop doing? And which habits will allow us to harness the power of happiness?

Dozens of books can help educate ourselves about happiness from a multitude of perspectives. We can take the view of science, of history, of philosophy, mindfulness, and spirituality.

At Four Minute Books, we’ve hand-summarized over 1,000 books . In the course of doing so, we’ve learned a thing or two about happiness, and we recorded which experts and books have the most potential to add more joy to your life.

If you want to be happier, consider the following 33 books, sorted by category. For each one, we’ve included our favorite quote, a one-sentence-summary, our three key takeaways, and a few points on why you might want to read it. Use the clickable table of contents below to jump to any book or category.

Here are the 33 best happiness books of all time – they’ll change your life forever!

Table of Contents

1. Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat

2. stumbling on happiness by dan gilbert, 3. the happiness advantage by shawn achor, 4. the happiness hypothesis by jonathan haidt, 5. flourish by martin seligman, 6. the power of no by james altucher.

8. Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin

12. If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Happy by Dr. Raj Raghunathan

23. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

28. The Art Of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama

29. trying not to try by edward slingerland.

33. The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Other book lists by topic, other book lists by author, best happiness books overall, favorite quote.

“If you can afford the brain cycles to worry about the future, then by definition you have nothing to worry about right now. Right now, you’re okay.”  — Mo Gawdat

The Book in One Sentence

Solve For Happy lays out a former Google engineers formula for happiness, which shows you that it’s our default state and how to overcome the obstacles we face in remaining in it.

Why should you read it?

Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to understand happiness is a choice. Mo Gawdat knows. He lost his 21-year-old son Ali. He taught himself to choose happiness instead of sadness regardless. What made Gawdat’s choice an obvious one was the formula that he and Ali had been working on for years: “Happiness is equal to or greater than the events of your life minus your expectation of how life should be.” This incredible book shows you why your perspective, more than anything else, determines your happiness.

Key Takeaways

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

“The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.”  — Dan Gilbert

Stumbling On Happiness examines the capacity of our brains to fill in gaps and simulate experiences, shows how our lack of awareness of these powers sometimes leads us to wrong decisions, and how we can change our behavior to synthesize our own happiness.

This book examines how your brain tries to lie to you, specifically about what will happen in the future. Dan Gilbert’s years of research show just how our minds trick us into worrying, which makes us unhappy with our decisions even before we make them. It turns out that a big key to happiness is figuring out how to tell the difference between fact and fiction!

“I could care less about whether it’s half full or half empty — as long as I can fill it up.”  — Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage turns the tables on happiness by proving it is a tool for success rather than of the result of it, sharing seven actionable principles you can use to increase both.

Shawn Achor’s research reveals the lies in the conventional idea that hard work and success lead to happiness. He’s identified, with science, that happiness comes first , then you will become successful. This book points to several ways that you can start being happier right now.

“Love and work are to people what water and sunshine are to plants.”  — Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis is the most thorough analysis of how you can find happiness in our modern society, backed by plenty of scientific research, real-life examples, and even a literal formula for happiness.

This book dives into the neurological aspects that contribute to happiness with a twist. Instead of getting lost in medical terms, Haidt employs the memorable analogy of a rider on an elephant. The metaphor shows how we can harness our brains to make us happy. More importantly, you’ll learn how to build thinking and relationship habits that will lead to long-term happiness.

“I’m trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.”  — Martin Seligman

Flourish establishes a new model for well-being rooted in positive psychology, building on five key pillars to help you create a happy life through the power of simple exercises.

Martin Seligman is the father of positive psychology. Prior to his work, brain science was based solely on the problems with the mind. Seligman changed that with his research. He is one of the best sources for beating dysfunctional thinking patterns. This book stands out with simple but powerful exercises you can do immediately to improve your happiness.

Best Books About Happiness For Beginners

“When you get in the mud with a pig, you get dirty and the pig gets happy.”  — James Altucher

The Power Of No is an encompassing instruction manual on using the power of a little word to get healthy, rid yourself of bad relationships, embrace abundance, and ultimately say yes to yourself.

Ultimately, this book is not about saying no, although you’ll get a lot of tips on how to do that. The benefit of this book lies in learning to eliminate unnecessary things from your life so that you can say yes to yourself . It’s packed with practical tips for ridding your life of that which pulls you down, which will make you feel freer and happier.

7. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff  by Richard Carlson

“Success is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.” — Richard Carlson

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff (… And It’s All Small Stuff) will keep you from letting the little things drive you insane, like your email inbox, rushing to trains, and annoying co-workers, and help you find peace and calm in a stressful world.

This book spent 100 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. If you’ve ever rushed in traffic only to end up next to the same person you passed a couple of miles back, this book might change your life. It’ll open your mind to the idea of letting go of the unimportant things that society has trained us to think of as vital. The author left a great legacy that lives on in this good book.

“I am living my real life, this is it. Now is now and if I waited to be happier, waited to have fun, waited to do the things that I know I ought to do, I might never get the chance.”  — Gretchen Rubin

Happier At Home is an instruction manual to transform your home into a castle of happiness by figuring out what needs to be changed, what needs to stay the same, and embracing the gift of family.

This book is a result of the author feeling homesick while standing in her own kitchen. Knowing it was time to make some changes, she worked hard for the next nine months to improve her home and family life. She investigates four themes that make for a happy home: time, possessions, parenthood, and marriage and family. Reading this book will help you feel happy at home.

9. How To Stop Worrying And Start Living  by Dale Carnegie

“Let’s not allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. Remember: life’s too short to be little.”  — Dale Carnegie

How To Stop Worrying And Start Living is a self-help classic that addresses one of the leading causes of physical illness - worry - by showing you simple and actionable techniques to eliminate it from your life.

This book is a classic in identifying roadblocks to happiness and how to eliminate them. Nobody likes worrying, it’s a killer of joy, but it has several different causes. Having sold six million copies, this book can help you deal with all kinds of negative emotions like confusion, stress, grief, and criticism.

Best Books About Happiness For Advanced Learners

10. happiness  by richard layard.

“Competition for status is a zero sum game.”  — Richard Layard

Happiness will teach you how our desire for it developed, what its benefits are, why money actually hurts our happiness and where it really comes from, and how Western countries could easily increase their happiness with a few changes.

The author of this book has researched happiness for almost 50 years. He takes a holistic approach to this emotion we all seek. You’ll learn the history of happiness in mankind, what money has to do with it, and why higher taxes might, counterintuitively, be a good thing.

11. Everything Is F*cked  by Mark Manson

“Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness and depression. It is the source of all misery and the cause of all addiction.” — Mark Manson

Everything Is F*cked explains what’s wrong with our approach towards happiness, providing philosophical suggestions that make our lives worth living.

Despite the clickbait title, Mark Manson delivers on his promise. This is “a book about hope.” Manson argues trying to avoid pain and discomfort makes us more unhappy than simply accepting and dealing with the negatives in our lives. He shows us it’s okay for not everything to be awesome all the time, and that having a more detached attitude will make us happy without depending so much on externals.

“Although happiness is a very important goal for most people, they also seem to devalue it as they go about their lives. That is, people seem to routinely sacrifice happiness for the sake of other goals.”  — Dr. Raj Raghunathan

If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy walks you through the seven deadly sins of unhappiness, which will show you how small the correlation between success and happiness truly is and help you avoid chasing the wrong things in your short time here on earth.

This book follows the most popular course on the online learning platform Coursera in 2015. The author, Dr. Rajagopal Raghunathan, went on a quest to find out why so many of his intelligent friends were unhappy. He found out that we must not de-prioritize happiness, but that we also can’t be too desperate in chasing it. This book sums up his insights and findings.

13. A Guide To The Good Life  by William B. Irvine

“The easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.”  — William B. Irvine

A Guide To The Good Life is a roadmap for Stoicism, showing you how to cultivate this ancient philosophy, why it’s useful, and what Stoics are really about.

We’re not the first humans to think about what it takes to be happy, and we certainly won’t be the last. This book dives into the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and how it can help us live better. The author gives many firsthand examples on how these principles are improving his life, and in practicing it for several years, both Luke and I have found the same.

Best Happiness Books (Positive Thinking)

14. the power of positive thinking  by norman vincent peale.

“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget yourself, think of others. Try this for a week. You will be surprised.” — Norman Vincent Peale

The Power Of Positive Thinking will teach you how to believe in yourself, break the habit of worrying, and take control of your life by mastering your thoughts and changing your attitude.

This book was on the New York Times bestsellers list for 186 weeks. For 48 of them, it held the top spot. It was translated into 40 languages and has sold five million copies. Peale uses affirmation and visualization to develop a positive mental attitude, practices which are just as sound today as they were in 1952, the book’s original year of publication. An “old but gold” read.

15. Loving What Is  by Byron Katie

“I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality.” — Byron Katie

Loving What Is gives you four simple questions to turn negative thoughts around, change how you react to the events and people that stress you out, and learn to love reality as it is.

Byron Katie had a powerful realization at 43 years old. She’d been battling mental illness and anger issues for 10 years. One morning, she woke up and asked: What if I didn’t believe my own, negative thoughts? With a few simple questions, like “Is this thought true?” and “Who would I be without this thought?” she completely turned her life around. After she gave up destructive thinking patterns, all that was left was joy and gratitude to be alive. A powerful case study and proof that we can all change — even in a single day.

16. Hardwiring Happiness  by Rick Hanson

“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience — even the comfort in a single breath — you’ll turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.” — Rick Hanson

Hardwiring Happiness tells you what you can do to overcome your negativity bias  – focusing on and exaggerating negative events  – by relishing, extending, and prioritizing the good things in your life to become happier.

It’s easy to obsess over the negative. If you assess what’s going on in your mind right now, you’ll quickly find several things that are “not working.” In identifying why we linger on bad events and feelings so much, Hanson helps us change these patterns. He suggests our brains are like velcro for bad experiences and like teflon for good ones. His tips will make your happy memories stick, with negative ones sliding away like water off a duck’s back.

Best Books on Happiness (Psychology)

17. the happiness equation  by neil pasricha.

“Motivation doesn’t cause action. Action causes motivation.” — Neil Pasricha

The Happiness Equation reveals nine scientifically backed secrets to happiness to show you that by wanting nothing and doing anything, you can have everything.

This book does away with unimportant factors of life that we think are vital. Pasricha teaches us to love the little things in life that have big potential to make us happy. In total, it includes nine different tips to help you become happier. Some you might have heard of before, but their unique delivery makes even those a good reminder.

18. The Happiness Project  by Gretchen Rubin

“The days are long, but the years are short.”  — Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project will show you how to change your life without uprooting it, thanks to the findings of modern science, ancient history, and popular culture, which the author tested for a year.

One day, Rubin realized she was working hard but not on what would ultimately matter to her at the end of her life. She hit pause and did happiness experiments for a year. The result is this amazing book full of practical advice.

19. The Little Book Of Hygge  by Meik Wiking

“To paraphrase one of the greatest philosophers of our time, Winnie the Pooh, when asked how to spell a certain emotion: ‘You don’t spell it, you feel it.’”  — Meik Wiking

The Little Book Of Hygge is about how you can cultivate the hard-to-describe, yet powerful Danish attitude towards life, which consistently helps the country rank among the happiest in the world.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute. He’s also from Denmark, which ranked #1 in the World Happiness Report from 2013–2016. Hygge might sound strange, but this noun, adjective, and verb represents a way of life for the Danish — or, rather, a way of happiness. Wiking takes us through all the meanings behind this word and explains how Danish culture has made it the happiest place on earth.

20. Habits Of A Happy Brain  by Loretta Graziano Breuning

“You can increase your pleasure if you’re willing to do things that don’t feel good at first.”  — Loretta Breuning

Habits Of A Happy Brain explains the four neurotransmitters in your brain that create happiness, why you can’t be happy all the time, and how you can rewire your brain by taking responsibility for your own hormones.

Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin. These are the four chemicals that regulate our moods and greatly contribute (or detract from) our happiness. This book does explains them in a way we can understand them and, more importantly, use them to become happier.

Best Happiness Books (Work)

21. the happiness of pursuit  by chris guillebeau.

“It’s your life, so why not be intentional about it?”  — Chris Guillebeau

The Happiness Of Pursuit is a call to take control of your life by going on a quest which will fill your life with meaning, purpose, and a whole lot of adventure.

Chris Guillebeau wrote this book after visiting every country in the world. Can you imagine how much you’d learn on such a journey? Guillebeau made note of the people he met that were on a mission of their own. After his return, he wrote this book to help you find yours and become happier by doing so.

22. Ikigai  by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles

“Essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”  — Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Ikigai explains how you can live a longer and happier life by having a purpose, eating healthy, and not retiring in a traditional sense.

The book identifies how Japanese people use the principles of ikigai to build happy lives through purpose and health. What’s remarkable is that some of the oldest people in the world never retired. Instead, they built healthy habits, good relationships, and a meaningful career. This book explains how to start doing the same with a few simple questions.

Best Books on Happiness (Mindfulness)

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” — Robin S. Sharma

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a self-help classic telling the story of fictional lawyer Julian Mantle, who sold his mansion and Ferrari to study the seven virtues of the Sages of Sivana in the Himalayan mountains.

After fictional lawyer Julian Mantle has a stress-induced heart attack, he realizes he doesn’t need his Ferrari and sells it. Instead of pursuing worldly possessions, he begins seeking wisdom. What he eventually learns can teach us how to live happier lives by changing our focus to what really matters. As of 2013, this book had sold over three million copies.

24. The Miracle Of Mindfulness  by Thich Nhat Hanh

“In mindfulness, one is not only restful and happy but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

The Miracle of Mindfulness teaches the ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness and how living in the present will make you happier.

Depression is living in the past. Anxiety is living in the future. Peace, then, is living in the present. This great book is a helpful introduction to the world of mindfulness and the huge impact it can have on your happiness. The author is a world-famous Vietnamese monk and zen master. You’ll learn straight from the master of mindfulness himself.

25. The Power Of Now  by Eckhart Tolle

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”  — Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now shows you that every minute you spend worrying about the future or regretting the past is a minute lost because we can only live in the present and act in every moment as it occurs.

One late night, Tolle had deeply depressing thoughts, wondering what made his life so difficult. In a lightbulb moment, he realized the answer was in his “I” — the picture of himself that his brain had created. When he woke up the next day, he felt reborn. He’d finally let go. His advice on how to better focus on the present is contained in this multi-million-copy bestseller.

26. Wherever You Go There You Are  by Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity, which at bottom is not about trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else but simply to realize where you already are.”  — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wherever You Go, There You Are explains what mindfulness is and why it’s not reserved for zen practitioners and Buddhist monks, giving you simple ways to practice it in everyday life, both formally and informally, while helping you avoid the obstacles on your way to a more aware self.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a legend in the mindfulness space. He studied under other experts, like Thich Nhat Hanh. As zen and intriguing as the title sounds, the book connects the power of mindfulness to science. The advice in it is simple and powerful and easy to implement immediately.

27. 10% Happier  by Dan Harris

“There’s no point in being unhappy about things you can’t change and no point being unhappy about things you can.”  — Dan Harris

10% Happier gives skeptics an easy “in” to meditation by taking a very non-fluffy approach to the science behind this mindfulness practice and showing you how and why letting go of your ego is important to living a stress-free life.

Former ABC News correspondent Dan Harris snapped under the pressure of his job. After having a panic attack on live television, he looked into what was really important. The Westerner thoroughly investigated mindfulness and then reported on useful ways even skeptics can embrace it to be happier.

Best Books on Happiness (Spirituality)

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” — Dalai Lama

The Art Of Happiness is the result of a psychiatrist interviewing the Dalai Lama on how he personally achieved inner peace, calmness, and happiness.

According to one of the world’s most celebrated leaders, the Dalai Lama, happiness comes from training our minds and hearts to respond appropriately to the experiences we have. This book is the kind of message that anyone can learn from, religious or not.

“The conscious mind, ungrounded by the wisdom of the body, is remarkably incapable of taking care of business.” — Edward Slingerland

Trying Not To Try explores ancient, Chinese philosophy to break down the art of being spontaneous, which will help you unite your mind and body, reach a state of flow, and breeze through life like a leaf in a river.

Sometimes, it feels like you’re hacking at the branches of a problem instead of getting at the root. When it comes to happiness, there are a lot of “hacks” that only work at a surface level. This book takes a deeper approach to analyze which philosophy will make us the happiest. It’s not the end of the journey but a useful first domino in a long chain of events that’ll make us happy.

30. Buddha’s Brain  by Rick Hanson

“Only we humans worry about the future, regret the past, and blame ourselves for the present.” — Rick Hanson

Buddha’s Brain explains how world-changing leaders like Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, Gandhi, and the Buddha used the power of their minds to become more positive, resilient, mindful, and happy people and how you can do the same.

This book combines thinking tactics, mindfulness techniques, spirituality, and neuroscience. It includes something for everyone, whether you’re deep into mindfulness already or don’t like meditating. Most of all, this book will give you permission to catch your breath and not worry so much. It’ll free space in your life so you finally have some room for peace and happiness.

Best Happiness Books (Minimalism)

31. the more of less  by joshua becker.

“Our excessive possessions are not making us happy. Even worse, they take us away from the things that do. Once we let go of the things that don’t matter, we are free to pursue all the things that really do matter.”  — Joshua Becker

The More Of Less  teaches you how to declutter your time, mind, and physical spaces to give more attention to the people and experiences that matter most.

The premise of this book is simple: You own too much stuff. That stuff makes you unhappy. Get rid of it, and you’ll become happier. Going further, the book explains how to get out of our consumerist habits and why doing so will give us the space we crave to deal with the things that really matter to us.

32. Minimalism  by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

“You needn’t settle for a mediocre life just because the people around you did.” – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Minimalism is an instructive guide to the philosophy of less, explaining how it helped two guys who had achieved the American dream let go of their possessions and the depressions that came with them.

Ryan and Josh worked hard for their nice jobs, cars, and houses. None of it made them happy. Instead, the debt burden crushed them. As a challenge, they changed their lifestyle, got rid of the stuff that held them back, and became happier. This book is the result. It’ll help you follow in their steps to live better.

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”  — Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up  takes you through the process of simplifying, organizing, and storing your belongings step by step to make your home a place of peace and clarity.

Konmari’s mega-bestseller has sold over six million copies world-wide and led to her own TV show. The power of behind this global phenomenon lies in the simplicity of its mantra: “Does this spark joy?” According to Marie Kondo, this single question can greatly improve our lives and homes.

We’ve summarized over 1,000 books to date, many of them about happiness. In our opinion, these are the best happiness books to read this year.

Let go of material possessions, focus on the people around you, learn the science of happiness, and practice some of the tips from these books. In finding out which ones work for you and which ones don’t, you’ll be well on your way to a happier life.

Don’t wait. Happiness is an urgent matter. Start reading some of the best books on happiness today!

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” — Dalai Lama XIV

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:

Last Updated on February 20, 2023

*Four Minute Books participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising commissions by linking to Amazon. We also participate in other affiliate programs, such as Blinkist, MindValley, Audible, Audiobooks, Reading.FM, and others. Our referral links allow us to earn commissions (at no extra cost to you) and keep the site running. Thank you for your support.

The Harvard Gazette

Good genes are nice, but joy is better, bringing big data to the farm, health & medicine.


Harvard study, almost 80 years old, has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier

By Liz Mineo Harvard Staff Writer

Date April 11, 2017 November 26, 2018

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Second in an occasional series on how Harvard researchers are tackling the problematic issues of aging.

W hen scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression, they hoped the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives.

They got more than they wanted.

After following the surviving Crimson men for nearly 80 years as part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development , one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, researchers have collected a cornucopia of data on their physical and mental health.

Of the original Harvard cohort recruited as part of the Grant Study, only 19 are still alive, all in their mid-90s. Among the original recruits were eventual President John F. Kennedy and longtime Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. (Women weren’t in the original study because the College was still all male.)

In addition, scientists eventually expanded their research to include the men’s offspring, who now number 1,300 and are in their 50s and 60s, to find out how early-life experiences affect health and aging over time. Some participants went on to become successful businessmen, doctors, lawyers, and others ended up as schizophrenics or alcoholics, but not on inevitable tracks.

During the intervening decades, the control groups have expanded. In the 1970s, 456 Boston inner-city residents were enlisted as part of the Glueck Study, and 40 of them are still alive. More than a decade ago, researchers began including wives in the Grant and Glueck studies.

Over the years, researchers have studied the participants’ health trajectories and their broader lives, including their triumphs and failures in careers and marriage, and the finding have produced startling lessons, and not only for the researchers.

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger , director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School . “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

Dr. Robert Waldinger at his West Newton home with wife Jennifer Stone

"The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80,” said Robert Waldinger with his wife Jennifer Stone.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board among both the Harvard men and the inner-city participants.

The long-term research has received funding from private foundations, but has been financed largely by grants from the National Institutes of Health, first through the National Institute of Mental Health, and more recently through the National Institute on Aging.

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Researchers who have pored through data, including vast medical records and hundreds of in-person interviews and questionnaires, found a strong correlation between men’s flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.

“When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,” said Waldinger in a popular TED Talk . “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”

TED talk / Robert Waldinger

He recorded his TED talk, titled “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness,” in 2015, and it has been viewed 13,000,000 times.

The researchers also found that marital satisfaction has a protective effect on people’s mental health. Part of a study found that people who had happy marriages in their 80s reported that their moods didn’t suffer even on the days when they had more physical pain. Those who had unhappy marriages felt both more emotional and physical pain.

Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier, said Waldinger, and the loners often died earlier. “Loneliness kills,” he said. “It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”

According to the study, those who lived longer and enjoyed sound health avoided smoking and alcohol in excess. Researchers also found that those with strong social support experienced less mental deterioration as they aged.

In part of a recent study , researchers found that women who felt securely attached to their partners were less depressed and more happy in their relationships two-and-a-half years later, and also had better memory functions than those with frequent marital conflicts.

“Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains,” said Waldinger in his TED talk. “And those good relationships, they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”

Since aging starts at birth, people should start taking care of themselves at every stage of life, the researchers say.

“Aging is a continuous process,” Waldinger said. “You can see how people can start to differ in their health trajectory in their 30s, so that by taking good care of yourself early in life you can set yourself on a better course for aging. The best advice I can give is ‘Take care of your body as though you were going to need it for 100 years,’ because you might.”

The study, like its remaining original subjects, has had a long life, spanning four directors, whose tenures reflected their medical interests and views of the time.

Under the first director, Clark Heath, who stayed from 1938 until 1954, the study mirrored the era’s dominant view of genetics and biological determinism. Early researchers believed that physical constitution, intellectual ability, and personality traits determined adult development. They made detailed anthropometric measurements of skulls, brow bridges, and moles, wrote in-depth notes on the functioning of major organs, examined brain activity through electroencephalograms, and even analyzed the men’s handwriting.

Now, researchers draw men’s blood for DNA testing and put them into MRI scanners to examine organs and tissues in their bodies, procedures that would have sounded like science fiction back in 1938. In that sense, the study itself represents a history of the changes that life brings.

Psychiatrist George Vaillant, who joined the team as a researcher in 1966, led the study from 1972 until 2004. Trained as a psychoanalyst, Vaillant emphasized the role of relationships, and came to recognize the crucial role they played in people living long and pleasant lives.

In a book called “Aging Well,” Vaillant wrote that six factors predicted healthy aging for the Harvard men: physical activity, absence of alcohol abuse and smoking, having mature mechanisms to cope with life’s ups and downs, and enjoying both a healthy weight and a stable marriage. For the inner-city men, education was an additional factor. “The more education the inner city men obtained,” wrote Vaillant, “the more likely they were to stop smoking, eat sensibly, and use alcohol in moderation.”

Vaillant’s research highlighted the role of these protective factors in healthy aging. The more factors the subjects had in place, the better the odds they had for longer, happier lives.

“When the study began, nobody cared about empathy or attachment,” said Vaillant. “But the key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.”

The study showed that the role of genetics and long-lived ancestors proved less important to longevity than the level of satisfaction with relationships in midlife, now recognized as a good predictor of healthy aging. The research also debunked the idea that people’s personalities “set like plaster” by age 30 and cannot be changed.

“Those who were clearly train wrecks when they were in their 20s or 25s turned out to be wonderful octogenarians,” he said. “On the other hand, alcoholism and major depression could take people who started life as stars and leave them at the end of their lives as train wrecks.”

research on happiness books

The study’s fourth director, Waldinger has expanded research to the wives and children of the original men. That is the second-generation study, and Waldinger hopes to expand it into the third and fourth generations. “It will probably never be replicated,” he said of the lengthy research, adding that there is yet more to learn.

“We’re trying to see how people manage stress, whether their bodies are in a sort of chronic ‘fight or flight’ mode,” Waldinger said. “We want to find out how it is that a difficult childhood reaches across decades to break down the body in middle age and later.”

Lara Tang ’18, a human and evolutionary biology concentrator who recently joined the team as a research assistant, relishes the opportunity to help find some of those answers. She joined the effort after coming across Waldinger’s TED talk in one of her classes.

“That motivated me to do more research on adult development,” said Tang. “I want to see how childhood experiences affect developments of physical health, mental health, and happiness later in life.”

Asked what lessons he has learned from the study, Waldinger, who is a Zen priest, said he practices meditation daily and invests time and energy in his relationships, more than before.

“It’s easy to get isolated, to get caught up in work and not remembering, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen these friends in a long time,’ ” Waldinger said. “So I try to pay more attention to my relationships than I used to.”

research on happiness books

Michael Stern, CEO of The Climate Corporation, speaks of the need for farmers to immediately react to environmental setbacks as the effects of climate change reduce the viability of farm lands across the globe. “We’re going to have to figure out how to grow a lot more food on a lot less land and do it sustainably.”

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer


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  6. Mutluluk kendi kendine yetenlerindir. #shorts Arthur Schopenhauer


  1. The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific ...

    The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness by Robert Waldinger, Marc Schulz Details Author Robert Waldinger, Marc Schulz Publisher Simon and Schuster Publication Date 2023-01-10 Section New Hardcover - Nonfiction / Personal Growth Type New Format Hardcover ISBN 9781982166694

  2. What the Longest Study on Human Happiness Found Is the Key to ...

    Pierre Buttin Ideas What the Longest Study on Human Happiness Found Is the Key to a Good Life The Harvard Study of Adult Development has established a strong correlation between deep...

  3. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You ...

    This item: The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky Paperback $9.99 Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin E. P. Seligman Paperback $10.49 The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You by Sonja Lyubomirsky Paperback $18.00

  4. The secret to happiness? Here’s some advice from the longest ...

    The Harvard Study has found a strong association between happiness and close relationships like spouses, family, friends, and social circles. “Personal connection creates mental and emotional stimulation, which are automatic mood boosters, while isolation is a mood buster,” says Dr. Waldinger.

  5. 15 Best Happiness Books and Are They Worth Your Time?

    The Art of Happiness – the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler Authentic Happiness – Martin Seligman Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living – Russ Harris The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life – Sylvia Boorstein

  6. The science of happiness: seven books to bring a smile to ...

    Gawdat’s happiness equation faced its biggest challenge after the tragic and preventable death of his son, Ali. Solve for Happy is Gawdat’s tribute to Ali, and his attempt to spread his hard-earned wisdom in the hope of making global happiness a reality. Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat is out now (£14.99, Macmillan) Sara Rigby Online staff ...

  7. The 33 Best Happiness Books to Help You Find Joy & Live Happier

    Best Happiness Books Overall 1. Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat 2. Stumbling On Happiness by Dan Gilbert 3. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor 4. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt 5. Flourish by Martin Seligman Best Books About Happiness For Beginners 6. The Power Of No by James Altucher 7. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

  8. Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to ...

    In a book called “Aging Well,” Vaillant wrote that six factors predicted healthy aging for the Harvard men: physical activity, absence of alcohol abuse and smoking, having mature mechanisms to cope with life’s ups and downs, and enjoying both a healthy weight and a stable marriage. For the inner-city men, education was an additional factor.