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10 Great Psychology Books To Change Your Life

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 January 15, 2021

                      7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                      7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                      The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

                      Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

                      Posture

                      First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

                      • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
                      • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
                      • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
                      • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

                      All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

                      Facial Expressions

                      Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

                      • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
                      • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
                      • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

                      If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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                      1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

                      A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

                      The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

                      This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

                      2. Relax Your Face

                      New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

                      The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

                      To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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                      3. Improve Your Eye Contact

                      Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

                      The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

                      To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

                      3. Smile More

                      There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

                      Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

                      4. Hand Gestures

                      Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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                      It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

                      5. Enhance Your Handshake

                      In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

                      “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

                      It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

                      6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

                      As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

                      Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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                      Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

                      Final Takeaways

                      Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

                      If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

                      More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

                      Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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