9 Books That Can Make You Happy & Help You Achieve Your Goals

The first time I was introduced to the Law of Attraction, I was twelve years old. My dad sat me down on the couch, popped in The Secret DVD, and said, “I wish I knew this stuff when I was your age.” The Secret essentially suggests that rewiring your brain for happiness (whether you do so by reading books that make you happy, or by other means) is the most efficient and rewarding way to finally reach your goals.

The problem is, however, that most people have no idea how to be happy. That’s why I enlisted the help of Sara Oliveri, a life coach and a Master of Applied Positive Psychology. She was more than willing to give me tons of invaluable insight into what happiness is, why it’s important to have it, and even a few helpful books that can make you happier, too. Having these guided books on being happier actually does help, as I've often found that the things you think about become your reality. (Think about the last time you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and everything after that seemed to go horribly wrong, one thing after the other, like a line of life-ruining dominos.)

Positive thoughts always find their way to positive situations and positive people. Here are some of Oliveri's best, as well as a few books about being happier to help you out, if you don't know where to begin. 

Start With How Happiness Works

The How Of Happiness, $12, Amazon

Before someone tries to find happiness, it’s imperative to first find out how it works. The How Of Happiness is a book by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a psychology professor (directly recommended by expert Sara Olivieri), that explains exactly what positive psychology is, how it works, and how someone can learn to utilize it. This book is filled with insights from years of scientific research, and author Lyubormirsky offers tons of techniques for altering the 40 percent of happiness that is within our control. 

Oliveri said, “Where classical psychology studies human dysfunction and how to help people feel fully functional, positive psychology posits that people desire to be more than merely functional." Oliveri explained that positive psychology studies the second half of the equation — “things like meaningfulness, fulfillment, close relationships, and enjoyment,” and which types of environments, thought processes, and behaviors create those things.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Hold Onto The Good Stuff; Let The Bad Stuff Go

Learned Optimism, $11, Amazon

When I asked Oliveri which habits bring about the biggest change in attitude, she told me, “Optimism is a thinking tool that I teach to all of my clients and that I find one of the most valuable cognitive frameworks available to us." Learned Optimism was one of her direct recommendations. It’s written by Martin Seligman, a renowned psychologist and clinical researcher who’s been deemed “the father of positive psychology.” This book ties in more than 20 years of research that proves how drastically optimism can improve the quality of one’s life, as well as the steps anyone can take in order to make it a habit. 

"Essentially," Oliveri said, "[optimism] involves remembering to see good things as personal, long lasting, and able to have a widespread effect on our lives, while we see bad things that happen the other way around — impersonal, temporary, and not going to ruin everything.” Reviewers have said that it’s a life-changing book, and because it’s insightful, yet practical and logical, it’s ideal for people who often find themselves thinking their way to into a web pessimism, and need a way out.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Your Intellect Might Be In The Way Of Your Happiness

If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Happy?, $17, Amazon

Next on Oliveri’s to-read list is If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Happy? This very recent release by Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., that suggests the very intellect and motivation that drives you might be at the root of your unhappiness. This fits hand in hand with Oliveri’s own insights, as she says, “Something I have found that poses a barrier to happiness is being too goal-oriented and outcome-driven.” While people often think that external goals (like wealth, success, and relationships) will make them happy, what they’re actually looking for is happiness itself, as that’s the reason they want those things in the first place. When our lives become all about chasing those things down, we lose track of our initial motive. Raghunathan creates an original and engaging book filled with clear, easy-to-follow exercises, and the reviewers so far have been very impressed.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Put Extra Effort Into Your Relationship

Wired for Love, $12, Amazon

“Science shows that we need to be even more positive in our relationships than we have to be within ourselves,” Oliveri said. Wired for Love uses scientific studies to show how pattern-oriented the human brain is, especially when it comes to relationships. The book teaches readers how to stay connected through daily rituals, learning to fight productively, and becoming an expert on exactly what your partner needs to feel loved. It helps you pinpoint autopilot responses that cause relationship problems in the first place, so you can instead focus on all the positive emotions you need to feel in order to keep the relationship strong, happy, and healthy.

Happiness in relationships is important because “the ratio of positive to negative emotions necessary for individual thriving has found to be about 3:1," Oliveri says. "Whereas in our relationships, when we are not engaged in an argument, that number needs to be closer to 20:1, in order for the relationship to thrive!” How do people find that amount of happiness with their partners? “Greeting one another kindly, celebrating each other's successes, praising one another, and creating a widespread positive sentiment in the relationship,” she says.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Ditch Those Toxic People In Your Life

Letting Go Of Friends, $12, Amazon

I ask Oliveri how the newly-popularized theme of toxicity plays into this, and she says, “It’s one of the most difficult things to overcome because we can't control other people. However, I think we can keep away from toxic environments to the best of our ability. I am a big fan of trimming down your friend group, if needed.” Letting Go Of Friends is a book specifically geared toward identifying and fixing (or ditching) bad relationships. To quote Mean Girls, “girl-on-girl crime” is a pretty common occurrence, and author Debra Barton teaches women how to recognize a bad friendship, understand what kind of toxic person you’re up against, and either remedy the situation or learn to let it go. It’s an incredible read for those who often find themselves feeling hurt and betrayed in their friendships, rather than supported and loved — which is how they should feel — and reviewers really appreciated the extensive research, intellectual tone, and universal truths.

Look For Joy In The Moment Instead Of The Future

The Moment, $13, Amazon

Oliveri has some helpful insights on living in the moment: “We live in a culture that is all about results: lose weight, find a mate, get a promotion, make money.” However, these things often don’t bring happiness (even though we think they will), so what’s the solution? The Moment is an incredible read by Achim Nowak that teaches exactly that — how to live in the moment. It outlines a clear four-step process that allows people to return to their senses in any moment to feel gratitude for the world as it is. 

Oliveri's advice for living in the moment? “Slowing down and taking care of ourselves so that we have the bandwidth to enjoy the happiness opportunities that are already available in our lives: a sunny day, a kind stranger, an opportunity to help a friend.” As you return to a child-like view of the circumstances around you, where everything is fine as it is, you'll see your professional life, personal relationships, and overall sense of happiness start to improve. This book has been called a “truly wonderful read,” and if you’re someone who feels as if happiness is always one step away, it’s definitely worth your time.

Apply Positive Psychology To Your Work Life

The Happiness Advantage, $13, Amazon

“[The ability to think optimistically] is also very much relevant to interpreting workplace successes and failures,” Oliveri says. The Happiness Advantage is a book by Shawn Achor that utilizes positive psychology through a professional work lens. It teaches readers that success at work won’t create your happiness; rather, being happy makes you better at your job because your brain becomes more engaged, creative, and resilient. While this book is written from a business perspective, it can be applied to any area of life, as these seven tried-and-true principles are meant to set you up for success, no matter what. Achor’s writing is built on years of prior research, and reviewers say his voice is original, fresh, hilarious, and perceptive.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Follow Your Life’s Purpose For Satisfying And Enjoyable Work

The Essential Self, $17, Amazon
Another recommendation from Oliveri, The Essential Self is an insightful book by Dr. Elliott Rosenbaum that teaches people how to access their inner “music,” which connects you to your life goals and true purpose. By listening, you’re able to create an existence that’s both deeply satisfying and entirely enjoyable. Reviewers say that the message is deceptively simple, but upon taking a closer look, Rosenbaum’s narrative is especially profound, and has the ability to be life-changing. 

When I asked Oliveri how one might find happiness at work, she said, “Ideally, you would choose work that you find intrinsically rewarding, so that you are not just working to make money. I believe this can be done with almost any job — even if you are not in love with the primary focus, you can find ways to uplift the people around you, and allow that to be the intrinsic benefit you reap from your job.”

Create A Ritualistic Practice, Like Meditation

Buddha in Blue Jeans, $4, Amazon

Another small thing that works miracles: “We can create rituals for ourselves that allow us to ‘snap out’ of this toxicity and return to our true selves; this is one of the benefits of having a life coach, [but] some of us have a yoga practice, a meditation, a poem, or a prayer practice that may have a similar effect,” Oliveri told me. Perhaps the most accessible and modern book on meditation, Buddha in Blue Jeans takes the practice and outlines it in simple, straightforward, and easy-to-comprehend language. It’s written to engage anyone from any religion, race, gender, background, or faith, as it includes universal topics that everyone can practice and benefit from: Sit Quietly, Care For Your Body, Accept Your Feelings, Give Thoughts Room, Listen to Others, Live Gratefully, and so on. Tai Sheridan offers everything you need to know about meditation in a short, precise book, and it’s one of the most popular and well-reviewed on the subject.

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Images: Fotolia (1); Amazon (9)

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