The 5 Best Books on Happiness Ever Written (For Real!)

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If you’re looking for the “how of happiness,” you’re sure to find it in the five best books on happiness that I’m about to share with you.  Get ready, though, you’ll soon discover that these books on finding happiness in your life won’t point you outwardly, it turns out that happiness is an inside job. 

Happiness Lesson #1: 

The best way to find happiness is to seek it within yourself.  That means that the way to start being happier every single day is to begin looking at your mindset. Your thoughts control more of your life than you think they do  — and while it seems like your thoughts are often automatic, the truth is, you can teach yourself to think happier thoughts. As you’re about to learn in these best books on happiness, all change begins in the mind.  

Being happier isn’t just about thinking happy thoughts, though.  Abraham Lincoln said, “I have noticed that most people in this world are about as happy as they have made up their minds to be.”  Good quote and there’s lots of truth to that. If you want to be happy, you must be determined to be happy.  A great place to start is with one of these five books on happiness. 

Happiness Lesson #2: 

People who are determined to live a happy life are happier because they align their thoughts, words, and actions with their goal to be happy.  Happiness is a choice; it’s not a choice you make once and then forget it, though. Happiness is a choice that must be made each and every day.

These two short lessons I’ve just shared are just a few of the many gems I picked up with these 5 best books on happiness. I’m soooooooo much happier now that I’ve learned the principles of happiness from these amazing authors.  I can’t  wait to introduce these must-read books to you.

Creating a life that leads to more happiness and fulfillment is something nearly everyone wants.  Not everyone is willing to take the time and effort to make it happen, though.  Kudos to you for being here and researching the many things you can do to start creating more happiness in your life!

The 5 Best Books on Happiness That Will Change Your Life

You may be wondering …

  • What is the best way to find happiness?
  • What brings true happiness?
  • Is happiness a choice?
  • Can you control your happiness?
  • How do you feel happier?

These questions and many more are answered in these top 5 best books on happiness.  Happy reading!

1. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Reading Rubin’s work is like listening to a really wise friend tell you what’s what.  You know she has gobs of great advice, and you just want to soak it all in.

One of the main things I learned from Gretchen is to not put off happiness for the future. Learn to grab happiness every single day.  As she says, “When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself to ‘enjoy now.’  If I can enjoy the present, I don’t need to count on the happiness that is (or isn’t) waiting for me in the future.”

She also reminds readers to find joy in the little things; after all, they often end up being the big things that we’ll look back on fondly.  “It’s about living in the moment and appreciating the smallest things. Surround yourself with the things that inspire you and let go of the obsessions that want to take over your mind. It is a daily struggle sometimes and hard work, but happiness begins with your own attitude and how you look at the world,” says Rubin.

Too many of us think becoming happier will happen when some magic happiness fairy arrives and bestows us with an amazing magical life that then translates into abundant happiness.  It doesn’t work that way. As our Gretchen says, “Work harder to appreciate your ordinary day.” 

Even happiness requires effort. Preach, Gretchen, preach it loud! 

2. Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman

According to happiness expert Martin Seligman, “Authentic happiness derives from raising the bar for yourself, not rating yourself against others.”  Crushed it, right?

So many of us get caught in the comparison trap, yet more often than not, comparing ourselves with others is a surefire way to land in frustration. 

Cards on the table: Seligman’s work is not a light read, but it’s not over-your-head stuff, either.  Martin is a Ph.D. with a deep background in positive psychology.  His book. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Change Your Life, was flat-out groundbreaking. He’s a genius, and if you want to learn about happiness from an expert who has studied happiness and changing behaviors for decades, then Authentic Happiness is the right book to jumpstart your path to a happier life.

3. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyumbomirsky

Happiness, says Lyubomirsky, is not about finding something or someone one.  She says, “Happiness is not out there for us to find. The reason that it’s not out there is that it’s inside us.”   Ugh, why didn’t I ever think to look there?

In my opinion, Sonja has a beautiful definition of what happiness is, and it encompasses far more than I ever gave it credit for.  She says, “I use the term happiness to refer to the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”   

I think this book resonates so well with me because that while I thought I was looking for the “secret sauce” of happiness, what I was truly looking for is a way to experience both joy and peace in my life. I want my life to have meaning, too. 

Sonja warns that you can’t get lackadaisical about your happiness. She says, “You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

You’re going to love Sonja’s book, The How of Happiness. 

4. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson

I’ve adored Rick Hanson for just about forever. Hardwiring Happiness is Rick’s fourth book and became a New York Times bestseller.  In it, he teaches readers how to use everyday experiences to rewire their brains to lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

One of Hanson’s tips for boosting happiness is to stick with positive experiences longer.  He says, “By taking a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience — even the comfort in a single breath —  you’ll help turn a passing mental state into a lasting neural structure.”  

Rick is all about basking in the joy that the little moments in life bring to us.  If we take time to build up our “happiness muscles” in our brain, we’ll be happier more often.  And we all need to do this, because as Rick says, “your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.”  If you don’t hardwire your brain for happiness, negativity can win.

Rick teaches, “Stay with the positive experience … Open to the feelings in it and try to sense it in your body; let it fill your mind. Enjoy it. Gently encourage the experience to be more intense. Find something fresh or novel about it. Recognize how it’s personally relevant, how it could nourish or help you, or make a difference in your life.”

I always thought I appreciated the happy moments in life, but I now realize I let them pass by too quickly without really getting a good sense of how wonderful they were.  I’m not talking about the big things like new babies and weddings and graduations (those happy moments are easy to remember), I’m talking about the little things like hearing songbirds outside my kitchen window or noticing the beautiful shade of blue stretched before me in the morning’s sky.  When you learn to be more observant and grounded in every moment of joy, your life becomes happier.

These are just a few of the nuggets of brilliance in Rick Hanson’s work.  That’s why I wholeheartedly recommend Hardwiring Happiness. 

5. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg

You may know Sharon Salzberg from her work with  Jack Kornfield (she founded the Insight Meditation Society with Jack).  Her book, Real Happiness, is a gem that’s not to be missed.

As you might imagine, Salzberg’s work on happiness is quite a bit different than the other authors already mentioned.  I simply don’t feel that this list of 5 best books on happiness would be complete if Sharon’s Real Happiness wasn’t included.  

If you’re looking for a book on happiness, chances are it’s because you’re longing for something that you don’t feel is present in your life.  Sharon says, “When our lives feel like an interminable change of longing — when nothing satisfies us the way we thought it might — often the first link in the chain is not being fully present.”  In Real Happiness, you learn how to move from distraction to presence, and in that simple move, you harness the power to bring more joy, peace, and fulfillment into your life.

Sharon, like the other authors, points out that we’re looking for the big moments to usher happiness into our lives, when in fact it’s the little moments that have far more power than we’re giving them.  As Salzberg asks, “How many pleasures escape our notice because we think we need big, dramatic sensations to feel alive? Mindfulness can allow us to experience fully the moment in front of us — what Thoreau calls ‘the bloom of the present’ —  and to wake up from neutral so we don’t miss the small, rich moments that add up to a dimensional life.” 

Real Happiness brought me peace and joy, and if the words I’ve shared from Sharon Salzberg resonated with you, I’m certain this book will have a lasting impact on you, too.

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