This year, like every year, most of us are trying to get more done, be happier, and have better relationships. Given the high levels of burnout across professions (50 percent by some accounts), we all could use some tools for higher efficiency and better self-care. The good news is that these 10 books provide valuable science-backed information for how to have the best year yet.
- Reach your peak efficiency: Do you ever feel like you sit at your desk for hours and still don’t get anything done? There’s a reason: Most of us haven’t understood how to capitalize on our moments of peak energy and creativity. In his new book, WHEN, New York Times best-selling author Dan Pink distills thousands of research studies to help us hack time. This highly entertaining and practical book may just help you get more done faster so we have time to do what we really want to do.
- Become emotionally intelligent. Thousands of studies now show that meditationcan help make us be more emotionally intelligent by reducing our negative emotions and helping us make better decisions. Popular Good Morning America anchor Dan Harris (also a #1 New York Times bestselling author) just released a brand new book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, making meditation practical, accessible and highly entertaining (Dan is hilarious!). Download a meditation app onto your phone like Dan’s 10 percent Happier app or the Sattva app.
- Spend more time in nature. So much research points to the healing effects and mood-boosting impact of time spent outside in nature! Spend more time in green places, stroll in the park, buy some plants and plan nature vacations; it will help your kids so much too! For more on this fascinating topic, check out Florence Williams well-researched and fascinating book, The Nature Fix. Sure made me put my hiking boots on.
- Create meaning in your life. Even if we have all the stuff we want (or the fame, money, or power) research shows that if we don’t have meaning or purpose, we still may not really be happy. People who live meaningful and purposeful lives are not just happier, they are truly fulfilled. Check out Emily Esfahani Smith’s beautiful book, The Power of Meaning.
- Cultivate compassion. Part of a life of meaning is a life that contributes to other people’s lives. Studies are showing again and again that cultivating compassion doesn’t just contribute to others but also powerfully boosts your own happiness and well-being. Watch Stanford neurosurgeon Dr. James Doty talk about the powerful impact of compassion on happiness and health in this TED talk and read his NYT bestselling book Into the Magic Shop.
- Stop the gaslighting. Self-respect and self-compassion don’t always come easily; we are our own worst critics and we tend to give a lot of weight to other peoples’ opinions. Too often, we allow others to bring us down or, if others aren’t doing it, we beat ourselves up. Dr. Robin Stern, Associate Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence just released a groundbreaking book called The Gaslight Effect to help us understand and overcome these tendencies. Here’s to a year of not constantly second-guessing ourselves or letting others do so.
- Maximize your energy: Research shows that learning how to breathe properly will calm your heart rate, help you de-stress and clear your mind in minutes – you save energy and this calmer frame of mind can help you make better decisions, improve your relationships and be more innovative. See my TEDx talk and check out The Happiness Track or take a breathing workshop. From over a decade of research on the topic of happiness, I’ve seen time and again that one of the greatest predictors of an energized joyful life is kindness – it will make you not only happier but it may also make you healthier and help you live longer! Make daily random acts of kindness a new year’s resolution.
- Learn to Love Yourself & Others. Most of us want loving relationships yet we’ve never stopped to consider what love really means. Sharon Salzberg is a love expert. Not just romantic love but love in its broader sense. Love for others, compassion, kindness, self-love, romantic love…she has spent her life exploring this deep and multi-faceted topic and has educated thousands through her sold-out classes. Her latest book, Real Love, is a beautiful and deeply inspiring ode to love and how to make it grow in our lives.
Finally, why not become wise. The science is clear: yoga, meditation, breathing, compassion, kindness, self-compassion and meaning all contribute to a life well-lived; a life that is happier and healthier. This is nothing new – ancient wisdom and spiritual traditions have taught these ideas for centuries. Sometimes picking up age-old texts like this one reveal as much if not more insight than modern psychology has today. After all, psychology is a young field, but humans have been thinking about these topics for a long time.