The only sad thing about books on happiness is that they’re associated with the category of self-help, which is where, supposedly, lonely women can be found covering their blotchy black mascara flooded eyes with big sunglasses as they search for the meaning of life in the dark shades of a bookshop corner!
Self-improvement books, as I like to call them, are my favourite genre of literature (except for Victorian fiction) and I love that by the time the last page is turned I have a small list of ways to live life more meaningfully. Every time I finish one of these books, I get the same feeling as I would from a new pair of shoes. I don’t read these books because I am unhappy, I am a very happy person with the occasional up and down moment, but rather because I find learning about the science behind happiness and experimenting with methods practiced by brilliant authors just fascinating.
There is an abundance of books on happiness, you may know. So here is my top 5 to help you narrow down your search. None of them offer a secret to happiness (doesn’t exist), but they do offer simple life hacks, suggest ways of putting in the hard work to increase your levels of non-genetic based happiness, or simply make you feel good with brilliant illustrations that you can ponder over before closing your sleepy eyes at night.
There are also 2 links at the bottom to my favourite podcasts on happiness that I have listened to this week, which will undoubtedly leave you with a flame of inspiration too and you’ll be resetting your levels of happiness in no time!
5. Happiness is… by Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar (2014)
This delightful little book of illustrations, that I discovered in Newmarket’s Flo & Frankie when using retail therapy to overcome that time I had in prison, sparked little chemical reactions in my brain as I was gently reminded of the small things in life from the wonders of glitter to how exciting it is to be at a costume party where the effort is triumphant. Mustard yellow is, of course, also my favourite colour, which made this book brilliant even to just stare at from a distance.
4. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (2015)
Gretchen Rubin is an author who I fell upon in Kikki K, which is a dreamy stationary shop that descended from the famously peaceful Sweden and has recently made it to Covent Garden, London. They don’t just sell stationary that leads you to believe that merely owning these office tools will make you a success, but they hold workshops from Happiness to Mindfulness and Goal Setting too. It is in this shop that I discovered American happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin, and I have ever since been in love.
This book teaches you how to form habits that become as natural as brushing your teeth (you can do this with 3 weeks of persistence, according to Rubin) such as running every day and writing daily paragraphs that will ultimately grow into your best-selling book, which will get you on the Cheltenham Literary Writer’s Festival stage. Rubin looks at personality types and why we can’t form a habit because someone told us to (Rebel) or if we’re only forming a habit because someone asked us to (Obliger). As a cross between a Rebel and an Upholder, I don’t like to be told that I need to form a habit, but rather I like to think of it myself and tell everyone I am going to achieve it so that I become accountable to my audience. It’s a revelatory read.
3. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam (2011)
I am half way through this transformative read. With a mere 494 followers on Instagram, this author is still off the radar, but not for long I am sure. “We have 24 hours in our days, and 7 days in our weeks. If you do the math, that comes out to 168 hours each week to create the lives we want”. She’s forced me to sit down and take note of my 100 Dreams (the kind you think future you will achieve when you have more money, which will, in my case, be never), what I am actually good at and passionate about, and how I can choose the way I use every single minute of every single hour in the 168 I have in a week. We have the same 24 hours as Beyonce, let us not forget. People argue we work too much to take control of doing the things we want, but we work 45-50 hours per week leaving 113-118 hours to explore, read, write, sleep, eat, exercise, take up a hobby, etc. We’re simply limited by the choices we make around how we spend our 168 hours!
2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (2009)
A close first is the book that started this fascination with happiness. Gretchen Rubin spent 12 months of her life experimenting with her happiness based, scientific research. This includes concentrating on boosting energy, remembering love, aiming higher, lightening up, making time for friends (not a hard one for me out here as I only have 3), and so on and so forth. I was inspired, and so I went to the Happiness Workshop in Kikki K with a friend who was feeling abandoned and sad, and I was lured into designing how I could live out the next 12 months based on Gretchen’s own 12 month project using the beautiful Happiness Journal we all received. With my ADD, though, I failed to complete the 12 month project and instead just bought more books that taught me more about happiness. I aim to read this delightful little yellow book of happiness again after 168 hours. There’s enough time in my 168 hours, after all.
1. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (2016)
I don’t feel words are necessary for why this book is No. 1, because you can see from the pictures and font of this hardback on Danish Hygge how beautiful it is for yourself. The only thing I will say is that as a lover of stationary this book has the highest quality paper with meticulously crafted images, which makes the sensory pleasures of reading this book more dramatic than any book I have ever come across. I wanted to say ‘touching’ in place of ‘reading’, but it sounded like some sort of odd book-ish sex act. A great fact for you though from this wonderful read, is that atmosphere controlled by light is imperative to creating Hyggestund (hoogastun). So much so, 30% of Danish houses are filled with fireplaces compared to 3.5% in the UK, and 89% of Danes fill their homes with candles. More candles = Hygge.
Two of my favourite podcasts on Happiness. From now on, I will post one every week for you to be as inspired by as I am!
Want to be happy? Be grateful.
Jeremy was reading Tim Ferris’ book before he passed away, and now I see Tim Ferris every where. Define your fears.