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7 Essential Books on the Art and Science of Happiness

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/01/25/must-read-books-happiness/ http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2010/12/01/tedify-happiness/

The Secret of Happiness: A TED Remix


by Maria opo!a

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project fame, who inspired me to excavate an old pet project of mine featured here nearly two years ago: An exploratory story of what happiness is, told in !" soundbites and #inetic typography $ a true labor of love that too# three wee#s to compose, audio%edit and animate& !njoy' (pea#ers, in order of appearance:

Dan

i!bert

"atthieu #icard $ameron %inc!air Da&id $arson %herwin 'u!and Dan i!bert

"artin %e!igman (au!a %cher "atthieu #icard Dan i!bert

"artin %e!igman "atthieu #icard

"artin %e!igman (ao!a )ntone!!i %ir *en #obinson %herwin 'u!and "artin %e!igman Dan Dennett "artin %e!igman "atthieu #icard (au!a %cher

)or a complementary read, see these * essential boo#s on the art and science of happiness&

by Maria opo!a

From Plato to Buddha, or what imperfection has to do with the neuroscience of the good life.
If you, li#e me, are fascinated by the human +uest to understand the underpinnings of happiness but brea# out in hives at the mere mention of self%help boo#s, you,re in luc#: I,ve sifted through my personal library, a decade,s worth of obsessive reading, to surface seven essential boo#s on the art and science of happiness, rooted in solid science, contemporary philosophy and cross%disciplinary insight& )rom psychology and neuroscience to sociology and cultural anthropology to behavioral economics, these essential reads illuminate the most fundamental aspiration of all human existence: -ow to avoid suffering and foster lasting well%being&

THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS


he +uestion of what ma#es us happy is li#ely as old as human cognition itself and has occupied the minds of philosophers, prophets and scientists for millennia& In The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, psychology professor Jonathan Haidt unearths ten great theories of happiness discovered by the thin#ers of the past, from .lato to /esus to 0uddha, to reveal a surprising abundance of common tangents& 1)or example, from (ha#espeare: 2 here is nothing either good or bad, but thin#ing ma#es it so&3 )rom 0uddha: 24ur life is the creation of our mind&35

Human rationality depends critically on sophisticated emotionality. It is only because our emotional brains work so well that our reasoning can work at all. -aidt ta#es this ambitious analysis of philosophical thought over the centuries and examines it through the prism of modern psychology research to extract a remar#ably compelling blueprint for optimi6ing the human condition for happiness&

STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS
7early four years ago, -arvard psychologist Daniel Gilbertpublished Stumbling On Happiness& o this day, it remains the best%researched yet captivatingly digestible boo# on the art and science of happiness, exposing with e+ual parts wit and scientific rigor the many misconceptions we have about happiness, the tric#s our minds play on us in its pursuit and how the limitations of our imagination get in the way of the grand +uest&

(ample the boo#,s nuggets of wisdom with Gilbert,s excellent !" tal# from 899::

http://www.youtube.com/watch+&,c--f!nux'.-

We have within us the capacity to manufacture the very quality we are constantly chasing. ~ Daniel "ilbert

THE ART OF HAPPINESS


(cience may be a reliable source of illumination, but it would be short%sighted to let it completely eclipse centuries of spiritual tradition investigating the underbelly of human nature& here is hardly a cultural figure more revered in that realm than -is -oliness the Dalai La a&

The Art of Happiness, a landmar# articulation of the philosophy of peace and compassion as a foundation of happiness by Gyatso, -is -oliness the )ourteenth "alai ;ama, has served as a powerful guide to well%being for secular and spiritual happiness see#ers ali#e for the past twelve years& If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~ His Holiness the ourteenth !alai "ama 0oth timeless and timely in today,s cultural landscape of ubi+uitous moral, political and environmental turmoil, where it,s all the more important to develop the s#ills for finding inner peace amids chaos, The Art of Happinesscaptures with elo+uent simplicity the most important point of all: -appiness, li#e any art, re+uires diligent study and disciplined practice&

HAPPINESS
)rench scientist%turned%0uddhist%mon# Matthie! Ri"ard is one of our greatest intellectual heroes& he son of prominent )rench philosopher and intellectual /ean%)ran<ois Revel, Ricard got a degree in molecular genetics, then decided to step away from his career in science and devote his life to the study of 0uddhism& -is inner scientist, however, remained wide awa#e as he developed a #een interest in the neurological effects of meditation and mindfulness training&

In Happiness: A Guide to De eloping !ife"s Most #mportant S$ill, he distills 8= centuries of 0uddhist spiritual tradition alongside bleeding%edge neuroscience and the most compelling findings of >estern cognitive psychology $ an intelligent and refreshing vision for fusing the life of the mind and the life of the heart into a path of genuine psychoemotional fulfillment& )or a taste of Ricard,s genius, don,t miss his fantastic !" tal#, one of our top five of all time:

http:??www&youtube&com?watch@vAvb;!fB-R*B!

THE HAPPINESS PROJE#T


4n a rainy afternoon in 899C,New York Maga ine writerGret"hen R!bin found herself having one of those inevitable carpe diemepiphanies about the fleeting nature of life and the importance of savoring the moment& Instead of shrugging it off as a contrived truism, however, Rubin decided to turn it into an experiment: (he set out to test humanity,s ample arsenal of theories about what ma#es us happy, from ancient philosophies to pop culture prescriptions to the latest scientific studies& (he chronicled the experience on her blog and eventually adapted it in The Happiness %ro&ect: Or' Why # Spent a (ear Trying to Sing in the Morning' )lean My )losets' Fight *ight' *ead Aristotle' and Generally Ha e More Fun $ an enlightening and entertaining record of her journey through aw#ward moments and surprising successes that together weave a rich mesh of existential insight& >e reviewed it in full in 899D and, after having the pleasure of meeting Gretchen recently, fully recommend the The Happiness %ro&ect as a profound yet pragmatic guide to personal growth&

$%AUTHENTI# HAPPINESS

0ac# in the day, we had the pleasure of studying under Dr% Martin Seli& an, father of the thriving positive psychology movement $ a potent antidote to the traditional 2disease model3 of psychology, which focuses on how to relieve suffering rather than how to amplify well%being&Authentic Happiness: +sing the ,e- %ositi e %sychology to *eali.e (our %otential for !asting Fulfillment offers a tool#it for harnessing our core strengths to ma#e everyday interactions more fulfilling, complete with a range of assessment tools and self%tests rooted in cognitive science and behavioral psychology research& #elieving the states that make life miserable$ has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. %he time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what &ristotle called the 'good life.( ~ Martin Seli#man

AUTHENTI# HAPPINESS
0ac# in the day, we had the pleasure of studying under Dr% Martin Seli& an, father of the thriving positive psychology movement $ a potent antidote to the traditional 2disease model3 of psychology, which focuses on how to relieve suffering rather than how to amplify well%being&Authentic Happiness: +sing the ,e- %ositi e %sychology to *eali.e (our %otential for !asting Fulfillment offers a tool#it for harnessing our core strengths to ma#e everyday interactions more fulfilling, complete with a range of assessment tools and self%tests rooted in cognitive science and behavioral psychology research& #elieving the states that make life miserable$ has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. %he time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what &ristotle called the 'good life.( ~ Martin Seli#man (eligman gives a provocative primer on positive psychology in this must%see !" tal#:

http:??www&youtube&com?watch@vAD)0xfd*";E!

' THE

GIFTS OF IMPERFE#TION

Bren( Bro)n is no ordinary sociologist& (he calls herself, +uite accurately, a 2researcher%storyteller3 and her seminal research on vulnerability, shame and empathy has brought about a whole new understanding of an intricate dimension of human authenticity and worth: (omething she calls 2wholeheartedness&3 -er most recent boo#, The Gifts of #mperfection: !et Go of Who (ou Thin$ (ou"re Supposed to /e and 0mbrace Who (ou Are, isn,t the self%help bible the title may mislead you to expect& Rather, it,s a treasure trove of insight on emotional health and psychological balance, rooted in a decade,s worth of rigorous research but delivered in a deeply human way& It,s so fantastic, in fact, that when we first featured it late last year, it +uic#ly became one of the most%read, most%sharedBrain Pickings articles in all of 89F9& 0rown,s tal# from !"x-ouston is our favorite !"x tal# of all time and absolutely unmissable, so we,ll repost it here in case you did miss it:

http:??www&youtube&com?watch@vAD)0xfd*";E! http:??www&youtube&com?watch@vAGBHmDcGRub9
In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen ) really seen. The Gifts of #mperfection examines one of the greatest foundations of happiness $ our sense of and need for belonging, both with others and in our own s#in $ and brings to it a level of authenticity and understanding that fundamentally changes the way we relate to ourselves and each other&