The pursuit of happiness is an all-consuming aspiration for a lot of us. Reflections on what is happiness and how to attain it abound. Whether through meditation, mindfulness, exercise, the practice of positive thoughts or the attainement of excellence, you will find a lot of inspiration and enlightenment from the following titles.
Practising happiness / Ruth A. Baer.
“Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that originates in Eastern meditation traditions but is increasingly discussed and practised in Western culture. It is usually defined as focusing one’s complete attention on present-moment experiences in a non-judgemental and accepting way. Buddhist traditions suggest that the cultivation of mindfulness through the practice of meditation reduces suffering and cultivates positive qualities, such as insight, wisdom, compassion and equanimity. In recent years, the Western mental health community has adapted mindfulness meditation practices for use in medical and mental health settings, and several interventions based on mindfulness training are now widely available. Those with the best scientific support include mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). These treatments can be applied to a wide range of problems, disorders and populations and the evidence increasingly supports their efficacy. Practising Happiness is the first self-help book to integrate the wisdom, skills and practices available from the four leading evidence-based mindfulness treatments.” (Syndetics summary)
The tell : the little clues that reveal big truths about who we are / Matthew Hertenstein.
“Drawing on poker’s concept of the “tell,” a mannerism that can yield clues to an opponent’s cards, and numerous behavioral studies in which he has been involved, psychologist Hertenstein has produced a study that is lively and engaging yet unremarkable in its conclusion that both environment and genes influence our decision-making. For example, he reveals that we’re able to predict ways an adult might behave by looking at early tells; thus, infants that have insecure attachments to their parents are more likely than those with secure attachments to develop some form of psychopathology later. Various studies have found that facial features can be useful in predicting aggression or lying and cheating: “In carefully controlled studies, men with wider faces were three times more willing to lie than slim-faced men.” In dating, women choose men based on facial attractiveness, symmetry, smell, and masculinity, while men choose “women who are attractive, youthful, and display signs of fertility.” Despite the inconclusiveness of evolutionary psychology, Hertenstein offers much material to ponder and suggests that we embrace the power of these tools for helping us predict behavior, though he also cautions against an overly prescriptive use of these approaches, which could lead to harmful cultural stereotypes. 31 b&w figures.” (Publisher Weekly)
Making hope happen : create the future you want for yourself and others / Shane J. Lopez.
“Draws on research to offer strategies for adopting a high-hope attitude and shaping a successful future, and provides real-life examples of people who create hope and have changed the lives of their communities.” (Syndetics summary)
Smarter : the new science of building brain power / Dan Hurley.
“With vivid stories of lives transformed, science journalist Dan Hurley delivers practical findings for people of every age and ability. Along the way, he narrates with acid-tongued wit his experiences as a human guinea pig, road-testing commercial brain-training programs, learning to play the Renaissance lute, getting physically fit, even undergoing transcranial direct current stimulation.” (Syndetics summary)
The people you are / Rita Carter.
“In The People You Are, Rita Carter – award-winning science writer and international speaker – offers a new and vital understanding of personality. Rita explains that nearly every one of us is a team of personalities, working together, for the most part, to give the impression of a unified self. We are used to thinking of ourselves as one thing or the other – either introvert or extrovert, say – but things are rarely that simple for most of us. That’s why we sometimes feel like a different person depending on mood, company and surroundings, why we sometimes suffer unaccountable memory lapses, why we buy something we then decide we didn’t want in the first place, or why ‘somebody else’ turns off the alarm clock in the morning.Importantly, The People You Are is also a practical guide to building a happy ‘household’ of personalities, explaining how to identify these different versions of ourselves and how to enable them to co-operate so that we can function successfully in life. The People You Are is both an eye-opening and highly practical account of personality.” (Syndetics summary)
Hardwiring happiness : the new brain science of contentment, calm, and confidence / Rick Hanson, Ph. D.
Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated? Your brain was wired this way when it evolved, primed to learn quickly from bad experiences, but not so much from the good ones. It’s an ancient survival mechanism that turned the brain into Velcro for the negative, but Teflon for the positive. Life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated and stressed, instead of confident, secure and happy. Every day is filled with opportunities to build these strengths inside, but the brain is designed to ignore and waste them. This makes you come down harder on yourself than you do other people, feel inadequate even though you get a hundred things done, and lonely even when support is all around. Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed neuropsychologist and internationally bestselling author, shows us what we can do to override the brain’s default programming. Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures that stick to happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build a brain strong enough to withstand its ancient negativity bias, allowing contentment and a powerful sense of well-being to become the new normal. In mere minutes each day, we can transform our brains into oases of calm and happiness. We can hardwire in happiness.” (Syndetics summary)
Meditation made easy : with step-by-step guided meditations to calm mind, body and soul / Stephanie Brookes.Trying to find a work/life balance can be exhausting, and we are always looking for ways to release tension and relax. Meditation is the perfect solution, and yet people often worry that to meditate properly they need to sit for hours in a contorted position! Written in a down-to-earth, accessible style, Stephanie Brookes sweeps aside these outdated stereotypes, and shows us how to incorporate simple meditation techniques into our busy, non-stop lives. Stephanie has outlined bespoke meditations for a wide range of situations, including meditations for self-healing, meditations for relationships and meditations on the go. Packed with engaging and insightful information on meditation’s well-being benefits, this book will show you how even a very short meditation can reduce stress, ease tension and set you on the path to inner peace.” (From inside cover)
How to think about exercise / Damon Young.
“A look at how and why exercise affects the way we think and feel. It can often seem like existence is split in two: body and mind, flesh and spirit, moving and thinking. In the office or at study we are ‘mind workers’, with superfluous bodies. In the gym we stretch, run and lift, but our minds are idle. Damon Young challenges this idea, revealing how fitness can develop our bodies and minds, together. Exploring exercises and sports with the help of ancient and modern philosophy, he uncovers the pleasures, virtues and big ideas of fitness. By exercising intelligently, we are committing to wholeness: enjoying and enhancing our full humanity.” (Syndetics summary)
The Dude and the Zen master / Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman.
“Actor Bridges engages in a philosophical dialogue with friend and Zen master Glassman, an aeronautical engineer and mathematician in his early years, for an easy, fun read that poses some serious questions. The presentation is light-hearted and analogies are frequent; in discussing a fear of taking action, Glassman invokes “Joe, the centipede with a hundred legs, trying to figure out which leg to move first.” Later, Glassman recommends a musical approach to dealing with change: “Bear witness to the voices and the instruments-whether it’s a jazz band or life-and then move with them, flow with them, because in life you’re always in a band and you’re always swinging.” The Zen influence means a lot of nature imagery, with “Leaves turning, flowers popping open, rain falling on a leaf,” but it’s not cheap spirituality. Both men are involved in programs to promote peace and defeat hunger and they share stories of community artists, Holocaust survivors, and even Bridges’s long-time stand-in. Recognizing that frustration results from expectations, they say, “Work with whatever you have and make something beautiful.” Lest it all get too lofty, Glassman recalls his judo master’s advice: “When you get into trouble, the best judo defense is to run.” (Syndetics summary)
Focus : the hidden driver of excellence / Daniel Goleman.
“The ubiquitous reality of technological tools and gadgets in contemporary society can seem to impede the development of a conscious awareness of the world. Goleman, author of several works, including the acclaimed Emotional Intelligence (1995) and Social Intelligence (CH, Oct’07, 45-0941), explores here the issues this loss of awareness can create on an individual and global scale. He looks at the physiology of the brain and the way in which information, experiences, and emotions are tracked and processed. A storyteller at heart, Goleman makes complex scientific material accessible and captivating. He moves from personal to organizational to global in evaluating the need to strengthen “systems awareness” through three kinds of focus–inner, other, and outer–all of which are required for “a well-lived life.” Drawing on work with children and adults in multinational corporations and small inner-city schools, Goleman explores the dynamics of attention training. He draws the reader into a dialogue with critical long- and short-term dilemmas that will require a new type of systems focus if they are to be resolved. Realism is tempered by a positive optimism in this engaging work.” (Syndetics summary)
Mindful learning : reduce stress and improve brain performance for effective learning / Dr Craig Hassed & Dr Richard Chambers.
“Mindfulness is now being used in educational environments to help students learn more effectively, develop personally, enhance their physical and emotional health, and deal with study and exam-related demands. In ‘Mindful Learning’, practical insights and exercises are given on how to successfully apply mindfulness in the educational setting.” (Syndetics summary)