When you're a kid, you didn’t have to think about happiness. You wake up happy. You play and giggled, and live in the moment. As adults with stressful lives, it’s a challenge to maintain good spirits, let alone that kind of carefree happiness. But that doesn't stop us from trying.
Lately there has been an explosion of books that aim to help us find happiness—everything from collections of quotes with bright yellow covers to serious tomes written by psychology professors. In-between are plenty of straight-up self-help guides, and a few Buddhist-tinged titles as well.
Some of the books we chose for this list are more focused on finding success, while others take a spiritual approach. But they have one thing in common: They take happiness seriously.
10% Happier by Dan Harris
Synposis: Meditation can help you focus on the present moment rather than worry about the future. Improve your health, sharpen your focus and enjoy a sense of inner calm. Start by sitting quietly for five minutes and just focus on your breathing. Find out more.
The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama
Synopsis: When life gets complicated, take a step back and remind yourself of your overall purpose or goal. Reflect on what will truly bring you happiness and then reset your priorities accordingly; this can give you a fresh perspective on what direction to take.
Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman
Synopsis: What is the good life? It’s actually a simple path. A pleasant life might be champagne and a sports car, but the good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification. Written by the founder of the positive psychology movement.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Synopsis: 1. Be impeccable with your word and speak with integrity. 2. Don’t take anything personally and realize people say and do things because of their own reality. 3. Don’t make assumptions and communicate clearly with others. 4. Always do your best. There, now you don't even have to read the book.
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Synopsis: Insights gained from Harvard studies on happiness include: Habits are like financial capital. Forming one today is an investment that will automatically give out returns for years to come.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Synopsis: Are you focused on the things that really matter to you? Set measurable goals in an area of your life you want to improve (marriage, parenting, work, self-fulfillment) and build on those goals cumulatively with specific action steps. For example, increase your energy by going to bed early, getting organized and exercising more.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Synopsis: Give up perfection. Take risks and put your true self out into the world. Use courage, compassion and connection to live a fuller life. Each day think, “I am enough.”
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
Synopsis: Believe it can be done and you will succeed. When you really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing in a solution paves the way to making that solution a reality.
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Synopsis: It’s great to have dreams and aspirations, says Live Happy founder Jeff Olson. But it’s the small things we do in the moment that have a cumulative, compounding effect. You can achieve anything you want, but the only way to make it happen is not through quantum leaps, but by doing the little things over and over every single day. Find out more.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Synopsis: We aren’t very good at predicting what will make us happy, says Harvard professor Gilbert. Challenge what your imagination dreams up for the future. Strike a balance between feeling good enough to cope with a situation but bad enough to do something about it. Use your emotions as a compass to tell you what to do.