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10 Great Psychology Books To Change Your Life

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10 Great Psychology Books To Change Your Life

We’ve all been there, sitting in our local coffee shop with our book in hand, when suddenly you read something so enlightening, so unexpected that you choke a little on your double mocha frap. Maybe you stop to ponder for a minute that undeniable piece of wisdom, wisdom which flies in the frap-lathered face of an idea — or many — which you held so dear. This is a moment of epiphanic change, and it feels fantastic.

These are the moments with the power to change lives, and that right there is the highest value in reading. Sadly we all know that these moments are few and far between, so here at Lifehack we have compiled a list of the top 10 greatest psychology books which can change your life:

1. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Heidt

The Happiness Hypothesis

    Starting with my personal favourite on the list, Jonathan Heidt effortlessly brings to light the beliefs of ancient systems and puts them under the scrutiny of modern science. Heidt conveys his superior knowledge of psychology and neuroscience, and compares it with his understanding of such ancient systems in a witty yet comprehensive way. Heidt shows the flaws and misconceptions of various systems and practices — as well as their truths — whilst offering a tangible solution to the many vices and privations which trouble the modern person.

    Who’s it for: Anybody who is chasing their own tale in looking for a source of happiness. After all, there is more to life than ______ (fill this in for yourself)!

    2. Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

    Civilization and Its Discontents

      Who can dismiss the ferocious intellect practised by world renowned father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. In one of his most famous works, Freud breaks down the construct of civilization and our relationships with others for the primal, and sometimes savage construct that it is. This is for those who aren’t fazed by a slightly heavier and more dense read. That being said, if you can break through this book and grasp its meaning, the understanding of why our civilization is built they way it is will help you navigate it all the more effectively.

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      Who’s it for: Those interested in why our civilization exists. You’ll need patience, and thick skin.

      3. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

      Thinking fast and slow

        In a summary of decades worth of research, Kahneman challenges the various cognitive biases people subconsciously possess, and apply day after day. Understanding that our minds are composed of two parts — an instinctive and primal section, and a more critical and rational section — together with their manifestations in decision making will give you an “aha” moment of relatability. The applications of this book are vast, from daily tasks to major business decisions, you’ll never look at decision making the same again.

        Who’s it for: The indecisive person in you. Those who face make or break decisions regularly. But before you get this book, it’s best you read this first to have some understanding about these “fast” and “slow” systems.

        4. Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

        Influence: The Psychology of Persuesion

          If you’re the type of person who finds themselves constantly being rejected by others — someone who is never taken seriously despite your best efforts at being authoritative, constantly left feeling like a pushover — Robert B. Cialdini has your back on this one. In this best-seller, Cialdini teaches us the 6 principles of persuasion which will ensure that you’ll never be left feeling like a fool again. In applying these 6 principles you’ll be at the centre of attention, seemingly commanding people with your every word. Mind control in disguise? Maybe. Totally awesome? Definitely!

          Who’s it for: Those with great ideas, but who struggle to have them acknowledged.

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          5. Outliers: The Story Of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

          Outliers

            Do you want to find out how the worlds most successful people became, well, successful? Who better than to ask someone who has spent years studying them and finding out exactly that. This is precisely what Malcolm Gladwell has done, and shares with us in his book Outliers. Through these observations, Gladwell developed “The 10000 hour rule” amongst other associations made on how one achieves a high level of success. Whether you’re an athlete, musician — or anything really — If you want to become world-class at it, this book is for you.

            Who’s it for: Anybody looking to become a champion, leader and grand master.

            6. Flow: The Psychology Of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

            Flow

              In an unexpected yet mindblowing take on happiness, Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced cheek sent me high) shows through decades of research exactly how our happiness is effected by the work we commit ourselves to. He argues that happiness is achieved through a mental state known as Flow, where the high skill level of the individual is met with challenging work. Imagine a mathematician solving a perplexing problem, or an artist bringing their conception to life through seemingly perfect brush strokes. What happens to the brain during this state appears paradoxical!

              Who’s it for: Anybody working in a skilled profession, or who regularly practice a hobby.

              7. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art Of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

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              David and Goliath

                Yes you’ve read correctly, Malcolm Gladwell makes our top 10 list for the second time with this brilliant book. In using a dense array of examples, as is the style of Gladwell, we learn about the probability of improbable outcomes when small people face big challenges. Whether it is your unruly boss, a physical feat or mental condition, Gladwell shows us that it is possible to defeat things, even when the odds are stacked against you.

                Who’s it for: Those who struggle in the face of adversity.

                8. Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman

                Authentic Happiness

                  As one of the worlds most established Psychologists, Martin Seligman paves the way to happiness with this light and rewarding book. Proving that happiness is more a product of internal conditions rather than external, this book shows us how to develop the numerous aspects of life we often overlook. This is for anyone who wishes to become a more well-rounded version of themselves.

                  Who’s it for: People looking to develop their interactions with others.

                  9. Mindfullness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace In a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

                  Mindfulness

                    In today’s frantic world its easy to get lost in the lightening pace of everything around us, and to forget about the moment to moment occurrences which can bring us true happiness. In this mega-popular book, Williams and Penman show us how to exist in this state of tranquillity in an ever moving world. Finding peace in the moment — not in some hippy, woo woo sense — but based on tried and tested psychological findings is a proven path to lasting happiness.

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                    Who’s it for: Anyone who is easily caught up in the rapid pace of the world. Those with anxiety issues.

                    10. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

                    emotional intelligence

                      You may have noticed in recent years the fading of the IQ phenomenon, and the emergence of this new theory of EQ — or emotional intelligence — and for good reason. Psychology is now showing us that EQ is a bigger determinant of personal success and mental health than IQ. Emotional intelligence is exactly what the name implies, it is our ability to identify and handle not only our own emotions, but the emotions of others, and our ability to handle situations according to these principles. Overall a thought-provoking book.

                      Who’s it for: Anybody who lets their emotions, or the emotions of others get the better of them.

                      Featured photo credit: PixaBay via pixabay.com

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                      Last Updated on July 20, 2021

                      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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                      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

                      You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

                      Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

                      Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

                      Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

                      1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

                      According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

                      “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

                      Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

                      Warming up

                      If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

                      If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

                      Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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                      1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
                      2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
                      3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

                      Stay hydrated

                      Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

                      To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

                      Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

                      Meditate

                      Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

                      Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

                      Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

                      Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

                      2. Focus on your goal

                      One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

                      Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

                      Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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                      Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

                      If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

                      3. Convert negativity to positivity

                      There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

                      ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

                      It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

                      Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

                      Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

                      Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

                      4. Understand your content

                      Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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                      However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

                      “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

                      Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

                      Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

                      One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

                      5. Practice makes perfect

                      Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

                      In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

                      Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

                      6. Be authentic

                      There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

                      Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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                      Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

                      To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

                      With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

                      Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

                      7. Post speech evaluation

                      Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

                      Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

                      We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

                      You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

                      Improve your next speech

                      As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

                      Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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                      • How did I do?
                      • Are there any areas for improvement?
                      • Did I sound or look stressed?
                      • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
                      • Was I saying “um” too often?
                      • How was the flow of the speech?

                      Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

                      If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

                      Reference

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