The “positive psychology” field has been around for decades, but in the past several years, thanks to some notable research, we recognize its profound impact on society.
It means creating an environment that is enjoyable and productive; one that protects its most valuable resource–its people–daily from the emotional and physical effects of stress, burnout, fear (from power-based and oppressive leaders), and job insecurity.
As I researched the field for practical resources to give my readers, I stumbled into a gold mine by one of the top purveyors of the movement.
Enter the Positive Psychology Program, quite possibly the best positive psychology resource on the Web. Co-founders Seph Fontane, an entrepreneur with a background in online marketing, and Hugo Alberts, professor of psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, teamed up to gift us with a one-stop shop that includes blogs, courses, exercises, quotes, conferences, and a database of top positive psychology researchers.
The Mother of All Positive Psychology Book Lists
In this outstanding blog, Fontane offers up a comprehensive “living list” of positive psychology books for newcomers, hardcore fans of the movement, and anyone in between.
Since Fontane’s list is multifaceted and continues to grow, I am highlighting my favorites below (in no particular order), focusing less on scholarly works and more on accessible material that people can apply in broad work and entrepreneurial settings.
1. Positive Psychology in a Nutshell: The Science of Happiness (3rd edition), by Ilona Boniwell
If you’re just being introduced to the field, this is your book. Fontane says, “We recommend this book for absolute beginners because it describes positive psychology as it is rather than attempting to influence future research directions, so it is an excellent way to just learn about the field.”
2. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Csikszentmihalyi is an expert on getting into a state of “flow,” and one of the pioneers of positive psychology. What exactly is flow? Fontane says, “(F)low is a state of focus that not only helps you with whatever you are working on but also helps you be happier with your work.” For added perspective, I wrote on flow here.
Seligman, commonly known as the founder of positive psychology and a leading authority in the field, wrote this seminal book as a “handbook aimed at introducing people to positive psychology concepts that they can use to increase their own well-being.”
4. Positivity, by Barbara L. Fredrickson
This handbook is a great option for people struggling to achieve greater positivity in their life, or just anyone looking for actionable ways positive psychology research can help them. A life of positivity is a thriving, flourishing, appreciative life–in which someone looks for what’s good and what’s right in each person and situation.
5. Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, by Tal Ben-Shahar
Ben-Shahar is an author, serial entrepreneur, and lecturer who taught two of the largest classes in Harvard University’s history–Positive Psychology and the Psychology of Leadership. He ingeniously combines scientific studies, scholarly research, self-help advice, and spiritual enlightenment and weaves them together into a set of principles that you can apply to your daily life to feel more fulfilled, more connected, and, yes, happier.
6. Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener
This book describes the new concept of psychological wealth, which extends beyond material riches and popular concepts like emotional intelligence and social capital. Psychological wealth includes your attitudes toward life, social support, spiritual development, material resources, health, and the activities in which you engage.
7. Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance, by Kim Cameron
The author’s goal in writing this book “is to help the reader reach ‘positively deviant performance’–a level of performance way higher than average,” states Fontane. It’s a great resource for business leaders looking for tips on positive leadership–for example, how encouraging compassion in employees (and themselves) can greatly improve overall happiness and organizational health.
8. Profit From the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business, by Margaret H. Greenberg and Senia Maymin
According to Fontane, “The authors will teach you several actionable ways to start being a more effective leader, whether it is by retooling your hiring process or reconfiguring how you think about employee performance.” Overall, this is a good resource for leaders looking to increase workplace happiness and productivity.
9. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, by Shawn Achor
My favorite book on this list. In it, TED talk sensation Shawn Achor uses stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries to explain how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work. A good choice for bosses or employees.
10. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
From Fontane: “The author interviews people in several high-stress situations, from spelling bee participants to soldiers training for the military to football coaches to CEOs, and identifies the common traits and mindsets that make them all successful. Anyone looking to find career success (or any type of success, really) with the teachings of positive psychology should find value in this book.”
11. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, by Ron Friedman
My second favorite book on this list. Award-winning psychologist Ron Friedman uses the latest research on motivation, creativity, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and management to reveal what really makes us successful at work. Highly entertaining and full of anecdotes and scientific evidence.