7 Books on Positive Psychology
Let’s admit it, we’re a society that has a good knowledge of all the terms associated with happiness. We read just about any self-help book that falls into our lap, some people go to spiritual retreats, conferences, or mindfulness classes. But…a lot of us stay stuck in the same negative attitudes and thought loops. There are so many different ways we invest in personal growth, and yet still, we don’t fully achieve that internal well-being, that peace, that happiness.
Anyone and everyone can start in this world whenever they want, but if there’s one message to rescue from the tomb of forgetfulness it’s that there’s no exclusive magic recipe for reaching a “full life,” for reaching happiness. What there is is a process, a daily, minute, and permanent investment where we knock down those weakening attitudes, those defense mechanisms, and the obsessive cycle of all of those thoughts that act like true enemies.
To achieve it, we can certainly take multiple paths: get some coaching, let a motivation guru guide us, or start a good course. But, and strange as it may seem, there’s a model that contains it all, a science of human well-being that’s always there. It’s one we can already reach as an enriching layer that nourishes the majority of currents we have nowadays. Of course, we’re talking about positive psychology.
The professor, Martin Seligman, gave it the first push back in the 90s. It hasn’t taken long since then for there to be a flourishing of some aspects that are extremely relevant and well-known to the broader public. For example: resilience, Emotional Intelligence, creativity, or Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow…
So, if we truly want to make a change, to fully develop our personality in order to achieve well-being, it’s never wrong to go straight to the root, submerge ourselves in those main concepts and basic, essential tools we’ll find in the best books on positive psychology. They’re windows of knowledge that can come with us on this journey in search of happiness.
1. “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E.P. Seligman
Martin Seligman, psychologist, writer, and director of the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is without doubt the father of positive psychology. Or at least it’s most well-known proponent. It was him who took the first step towards a new perspective in the behavior science. He put aside a study of pathology in order to focus exclusively on enabling human well-being.
That’s why Seligman is the true pioneer of the development of a scientific method that explains how we can achieve happiness. So, in his book we won’t just find motivational statements, meaningless chains of pretty words. In this work there are studies, there are contrasting and valid perspectives that will show us how authentic happiness is born out of our human strengths.
Knowing how to enable them, understand them, and work on them is our priority.
2. “Being Happy,” Tal Ben-Shahar
In 2006 Harvard University’s most popular course of all time was added. The class was called “how to be happy,” and was taught by an Israeli professor named Tal Ben-Shahar. Nowadays, he’s one of the main proponents of positive psychology, and he gathers together all his perspective, practical observations, and theories in this book.
Similarly, something interesting professor Ben-Shahar gives us a a glimpse of is that authentic happiness doesn’t exclude having to take in and accept our own emotional discomfort. For that reason, he quotes Viktor Frankl: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
In the book “Being Happy,” we’ll also find everything from meditation techniques to strategies for daily gratitude.
3. “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
To talk about positive psychology is also to talk about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his work with “state of flow.” His presence on this list is an absolute necessity, and reading this book is extremely enriching.
We could certainly define state of flow in a lot of ways, but the simplest way is to see it as a dimension of gratitude. To see it as an “optimal experience” where the chaos and worry disappear from our minds once we’ve found well-being through a concrete task: whatever identifies us, whatever lines up best with our selves. It’s a pleasurable state, an epiphany where you actually find the essence of a happy life.
In this world of infinite technological and scientific advances, with this book Csikszentmihalyi invites us to center all our psychological energy and attention on concrete objects. He invites us to find the joy in simple tasks. We should put plans and goals of our own choice on our horizon in order to experience authentic well-being.
4. “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purposes,” Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle suffered from deep depression throughout the majority of his life. When he was 29 years old, he started to have suicidal thoughts, and one night he was at the point of putting and end to his life. But, the next morning everything had changed. The obsessive thoughts had disappeared because he’d found a new life’s purpose, an inner awakening, and an inspiration: he wanted to live.
In “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” Tolle takes one step further on from his book “The Power of Now.” He explores, for example, the structure of the ego and explains how it distances us from that thing Seligman talks about so much: human strengths.
5. “Overcoming Adversity: The Power of Resilience,” Luis Rojas Marcos
Luis Rojas-Marcos is a well-known psychiatrist and researcher. His writing is enriching and puts us in reach of those dimensions in the field of psychology we all need to understand in order to live better lives.
In “Overcoming Adversity: The Power of Resilience,” we learn how all of us, even if we don’t believe it, have psychological and biological mechanisms that prepare us to resist and confront adversity.
In fact, that’s what human beings have done throughout our history, because survival is the rule. And we’ve survived thanks to an amazing tool: resilience. In this book, we’ll learn how to work on it, how to take care of it’s pillars, those basic roots that are self-esteem, self-control, optimism, and, of course…positive thought.
6. “59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot,” Richard Wiseman
This is a book you have to read. In it, the Chair of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, Richard Wiseman, dispels all the classic myths and stereotypes about happiness in order to open our eyes. In ten chapters he originally and efficiently explores dimensions like motivation, persuasion, attraction, creativity, emotional well-being…
The most interesting and novel thing about professor Wiseman’s book is that it invites us to tear down negative ideas and false attitudes in just 59 seconds…
7. “How Full is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life,” Donald O. Clifton
If Martin Seligman si the father of positive psychology, Donald O. Clifton is the “grandfather.” His work is the basis for that science, and this book contains all his philosophy, roots, and those windows into masterful knowledge we never get tired of looking through.
It’s absolutely a book to keep on the shelf. Not only does it guide us towards “filling” our lives with positive emotions, but also inspires us with all those teachings he acquired in his daily work, helping people and assessing thousands of businesses. Tons of positive energy is hidden within its pages, and submerging ourselves within them is quite an experience.
To wrap up, we’re aware there are a lot more titles and proposed lists of books you can use to learn positive psychology. But these 7 suggestions are a good introduction, a point of departure where you can reflect, where you can sow the small seeds of change.
Seligman, Martin (2002). “Authentic Happiness” Simon & Schuster
Ben-Shahar, Tal (2009). “The Pursuit of Perfect”, McGraw-Hill
Ekhart, Tolle (2005). “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” Penguin
Rojas, Marcos (2011). “Superar la adversidad: el poder de la resiliencia” Booket
Donald O. Clifton, (2005). “How Full is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life,” Gallup Press