We all get tired at some point. Sometimes, burned. In those times, we don’t need to be cynical or skeptical to get by. We just need to embrace life’s promise of happiness with open arms. Here are seven great books that can help you do just that. They have a wide range of tools, from the light visceral stimulation of optimistic design to the serious neuroscience findings about our proclivity for the positive.
THE LITTLE PRINCE
You need to read The Little Prince, one of the most poetic and hopeful books about human life ever written. It’s one of our favorite books for grown-ups to read with their kids. In a word, it’s beautiful. It’s poetic, charming, and written in a way that makes you smile. It takes you on a journey through childhood imagination to get to the heart of the world and our place in it.
Here is the secret I have. “It’s very simple: It’s only with the heart that one can see rightly, and what’s important can’t be seen with the eye.”
In 1943, Exupéry’s famous novella was published. Since then, it has been translated into 180 languages and used in almost every medium. It is one of the best-selling books of all time. It’s also one of the most important guides to being a thoughtful, introspective, and, yes, hopeful person.
For his research on learned helplessness, Martin Seligman is a regular at Brain Pickings. His Authentic Happiness is one of seven books that you should read about how to be happy, and his Flourish made our 2011 Summer Reading List. But his second book, which came out 20 years ago, is still one of his most important. Learning to be optimistic: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life doesn’t use the typical self-help cliches. Instead, it gives a clinical researcher’s clear advice on how to learn the cognitive skills that will help you overcome pessimism, which Seligman says is completely doable.
Depression has become a big problem for young people and for children in the United States today, and you’ll learn this when you read this book. Depression isn’t just about mental pain; it also lowers productivity and makes people sick. If this epidemic keeps going, I think that America’s place in the world could be in danger. America will lose its place in the world’s economy to countries that are less pessimistic than us. This pessimism will make us less likely to work for social justice in our own country. He said this in 1990: Martin Seligman
Throughout the book, you’ll learn about the study and psychology of optimism, as well as hands-on tests you can do at home with your child. You’ll also be able to see how far you’ve come by looking at real-world indicators of your progress.
EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK
In a world full of cynicism, it’s a rare and wonderful thing to find an oasis of honesty and hope. That’s what you’ll find in Everything Is Going To Be OK, a pocket-sized anthology of positive art from a wide range of artists, designers, and illustrators, including Brain Pickings favorites Marian Bantjes, Marc Johns, and Mike Perry. The project is an invitation to look at existential truths in a new way, in a setting that is both honest and simple. It is delivered through a medium that is so well-designed that the medium itself is part of the charm of the message.
THE OPTIMISM BIAS
Martin Seligman thinks that pessimism is easy to get out of because it’s the opposite of what we’re naturally wired to do. Tali Sharot, a British neuroscientist, says this in her book The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain. It’s a fascinating and easy-to-read look at how and why our brains construct a positive outlook on life even in the worst of situations.
Sharot has been studying “flashbulb memories” since the 9/11 attack, and he wants to know why the brain tends to “Photoshop” these images, adding contrast, enhancing resolution, inserting and deleting details. These memories are usually about things that were unexpected or traumatic. This led her to look more closely at the neural system that helps us remember these past events. This system, she found, wasn’t just for remembering, but also for imagining the future. In this study, researchers looked at how the brain makes hope, why we can move forward after trauma, and what makes the brains of optimistic people so different from those of people who don’t have hope.
In this book, I say that people don’t have a positive bias because they’ve read too many self-help books. Instead, optimism may be so important to our survival that it is built into our most complex organ, the brain. She is called Tali Sharot.
AN OPTIMIST’S TOUR OF THE FUTURE
A year after Mark Stevenson’s life took an unexpected turn, he set out to find an antidote to the dark visions of a technology-driven future that are so common in today’s culture. He traveled 60,000 miles across four continents and talked to scientists, philosophers, inventors, politicians, and other thought leaders from around the world. He put them all together in An Optimist’s Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer “What’s Next?” It’s an insightful and refreshingly hopeful guide to our shared future.
Stevenson looks at the most cutting-edge ideas in science and technology from around the world, as well as the important ethical and philosophical questions they raise. He also looks at how these ideas and disciplines can be combined to make new things.
If you want to know how to think about the future, this book isn’t for you. It will give you the tools you need to make up your own mind. There is no right or wrong way to feel about the future, but I think you should be aware of all the options we have. When we talk about the future, we often talk about it as a way to avoid or limit damage. This made me very worried. That doesn’t have to be the case. It could be a Renaissance. This is a quote from Mark Stevenson.
We’ve talked about the future of the Internet and what the web is doing to our brains before. An Optimist’s Tour of the Future is an optimistic but realistic vision for what we’ve already talked about.
The artist Eric Smith was diagnosed with three different types of cancer, so he came up with the idea for a project with other artists that would encourage people to live in the moment and make art that was beautiful, poetic, and honest about life. This year, the project was turned into a book called Live Now: Artful Messages of Hope, Happiness, and Healing. It’s full of beautiful illustrations and design that remind us of the simple pleasures we can enjoy if we choose to ignore our cynicism and look for the good in everything.
A lot of things changed in my life because of cancer, like how I looked and how I slept. In the beginning, I was like most people, just going about my business. Cancer changed that for me, though. It was during my treatment that I started to learn about what cancer could do for me. “It gave me the ability to enjoy every moment as if it were my whole life,” I said. This is a quote from Eric Smith
THE TAO OF POOH
Winnie-the-Pooh is more than just a beloved children’s book. It’s also one of the most important books for adults because it’s full of wisdom for kids. In 1982, Benjamin Hoff took that wisdom and gave it a twist. He made a connection between A. A. Milne’s classic book and the Eastern philosophy of Taoism by making a joke about Milne’s book and Taoism. People who read the book “The Tao of Pooh” will learn about compassion, moderation, and humility. It’s simple, fun, and well-written, and it’s still an invitation to a life of quiet happiness, even in the midst of the relentless reality and superficial preoccupations of Western culture.
‘What are you writing?’ asked Pooh as he climbed on top of the writing table.
That is what I said.
When Pooh smudged one of the words I had just written, he asked, “How about Pooh?”
To which I replied: “The Tao of Pooh.” I poked him in the paw with the end of my pencil.
This is what Pooh thought. He rubbed his paw.
‘Well, it’s not,’ I said with a snort.
‘What’s the point?’ leaned forward and smeared another word on Pooh’s face as he asked.
“It’s about how to stay happy and calm no matter what.”
‘Have you read it?’ Pooh asked.
Hoff wrote The Te of Piglet, a companion book, ten years later. It talks about the Chinese concept of Te, which can be translated as “virtue,” “integrity,” or “inner power.”