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What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  909 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
What Happy People Know

Dr. Dan Baker, director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch, has devoted his life to teaching people how to be happy. And apparently, most of us could use a little tutoring.

Research has shown that the root of unhappiness--fear--lies in the oldest, reptilian part of our brains, and negative reactions are often dictated by primal instincts.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 4th 2003 by Rodale Books
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Oct 30, 2010 Cara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heard about this book from a Chris Guillebeau-follower who lives in his car, plays guitar at small gigs and for hospital patients, and wanders around enjoying life.

As far as clarity, simplicity, and utility, this is one of the best books I have ever read. Even though it hasn't actually changed my life, I'm putting it on the life-changers shelf, because if I had found it earlier, it would have. Instead, I had to gather the same information from tons of other books, only to have it all confirmed
May 12, 2011 Kimberly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Happy people know not to read books by shameless self-promoters.
Aug 16, 2016 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book ten years ago and read half of it. I liked what I read. Baker has some good ideas about using thought & language to reinterpret a situationin order to reclaim it from unhappiness. (If you have a nightmare boss, refer to him or her as "a challenge". If you get a dodgy diagnosis, re-frame it as an opportunity, etc.)

I had no memory of why I stopped midway through and thought it was simply because I'd gotten distracted by some other book. When I picked it back up recently--at
Nov 14, 2012 Laurie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have had this book on my shelf for along time and finally took it down. And now I wish I had read it long ago. So many things he says makes perfect sense. I have a close friend who is battling severe depression and a lot of things in this book has put a lot of what she is going thru into a great framework. It is about time someone told the world that typical "talk therapy" doesn't work for everyone. Wow! Really found this book useful and helpful.
Feb 24, 2013 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprised I liked it. Parts were predictable, but quite a few places made me think about something in my life in a new way. I'd recommend it, if you go into it with an open mind and can ignore the parts that are a little obvious. I'm already noticing positive impacts in my life. :)
Marcela A. Wanderley
It is certainly in my "top 10" books of life. It is "easy" to be happy. There is no magic. The truth is that being happy is easier than it sounds. People tend to complicate everything and complicate / extend your own happiness. When these people put their happiness on the backs of others is when they err tremendously! Happiness is an achievement that you do alone and on their own. Happiness is knowing that alone or together, you will be fine, and will see positive in everything and in all circum ...more
Jason Alexander
Self-help type reading that is intellectually stimulating and largely commonsensical, but still enlightening for anyone that is willing to be honest with themselves and open enough to let go of their fears and actively work on happiness.

This is not 'preachy', nor too 'new-age(y)', nor filled with technical 'psycho-babble'. The book is written in a conversational way, and yet fairly formulaic. Essentially a premise is presented, expanded upon, and then a specific case/personal story allows the re
borrowed from the library (Rodale, 2003)
copy p 155 table of values

Post-Doctoral Fellow in Medical Psychology, University of Nebraska Medical College// Doctorate, Counseling Psychology, University of Nebraska// Certified in Mediation, in Assessing Emotional Intelligence, in Clinical Hypnosis

Dan Baker, Ph.D., is a pioneer in the positive psychology initiative, which seeks to study and understand strengths, best practices and, in general, what is right with
Scott Dinsmore
Jul 09, 2009 Scott Dinsmore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why I Read this Book: Happiness is the key component to success. This shows why some people seem to know and do what it takes to be happy and others unfortunately do not. These words allow us to realize that happiness is possible for anyone.


It is a funny thing to think about, what happy people know. Happiness has got to be the number one key ingredient to success. In fact by many measures happiness is success. Yet in the end happiness comes down to knowing the things that make for a happy
Feb 11, 2008 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Near the beginning of this book, Dan Baker states: "We all have a neurological fear system embedded deep within our brains, a neural network that once helped us survive as a species, but now limits our lives. This biological circuitry of fear is the greatest enemy of happiness." His basic premise in this book is that we have to learn ways to override our natural physical tendencies to react to daily stresses in our lives that prepare us for fight or flight in a life threatening situation. If we ...more
Aug 05, 2008 Rachelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachelle by: Mom
This book is fantastic. It wasn't only some doctor theorizing about what makes people happy, but it is also full of studies, tests and real science that demonstrate what works and what doesn't. Much of it corresponds and backs up the things I have been taught and believe as a member of the LDS faith.. which is always nice. Most (or all) of what motivates our negative behaviors is fear... fear of not having enough or fear of not being enough. The major message I take from the book is that those w ...more
Mar 09, 2012 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*Happiness demystified*

One of the early books to layperson-ize the wisdom of the emerging positive psychology movement, _What Happy People Know_ is packed with information, insight, and inspiration for improving the happiness factor in your life. In addition to being highly readable and applicable, the book takes such a realistic approach to finding happiness which centers upon finding contentment despite--and perhaps even due to--life's inevitable pain and obstacles.

After identifying the 12 qua
Lesley Keller
Aug 26, 2013 Lesley Keller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrow-finished
You know all those self-defeating activities and points of view that annoy you? The writer offers explanations for the origins of those behaviors.
The writing alternates between case stories from the writer’s personally career, his personal point of view, and condensed list. The stories draw an emotional connection from the reader. The lists aid a reader in summarizing the lessons in a short digestible form. It focuses on fear as the source of all negative behavior cycles. The writing links fe
Mar 24, 2016 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the approach that Dan Baker used in writing this book. It really has the perfect mix of research and personal experiences so I never got bored. He shares some amazing stories about clients he has helped along with some great practices and principles. One of my favorite teachings in this book is that appreciation and fear can't reside together in the same mind. My favorite quote from this book is, "There is always more, even in the deepest grief, to love than to fear."
May 20, 2015 Lesli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a fascinating book, I would recommend it to anyone struggling, and would recommend this book, to anyone with mild depression. Its really helped me put my life in perspective, I highlighted something on almost every page that I thought was insightful, which means its hard to sum. Also helpful at identifying paralyzing thoughts that make it hard to do anything else in life. Dr. Baker says play up your strengthens, stop thinking about your weaknesses, most likely they are still going to be yo ...more
Aug 14, 2015 Marina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the perfect mixture of science, case studies, and actionable steps. It didn't hit my "life changing book" target in the same way that other books have, but in terms of a practical guide to achieving a happier mindset, I haven't read anything better than this book. It's also an easy read, so I would recommend it to anyone who is curious about why some people seem to be happy no matter what's going on in their lives.
Aug 13, 2016 Aimee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was an interesting book. Psychology took a turn 10 or 15 years ago, when more people became interested in learning what made people happy, as opposed to the near-exclusive focus it had had on mental disease and dysfunction since about Freud's time. I like that we are starting to see the results of this research and focus in books like this. Interesting and useful bits and thoughts here.
Apr 11, 2015 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Some basic ideas form the book:
Happiness is a byproduct of a lifestyle. Fear is what causes unhappiness. In contemporary society there are two basic root fears, not having enough and not being enough.

Happiness equals rejecting fear.

The book gives lots of strategies for rejecting fears and replacing them with gratitude, love and other positive behaviors and thoughts.

Good book.
Jul 19, 2014 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We cannot be in fear and appreciative at the same time, nueroscience shows. This is an eternal principle that has been taught in the many important books of many religious faiths including the Bible. We are commanded to be grateful. And also,"men are that they might have joy." Great book! One to own and keep in a reference shelf to be read on many occasions.
If you're looking for a pop-psychology feel-good classic, you've come to the right book. Baker is a likeable narrator who intersperses his own story with inspirational stories about past patients. Baker also includes many helpful lists, such as "The 12 Qualities of Happiness," "The Five Happiness Traps," and so on. I quite enjoyed those. I have sort of a list fetish. Not in a weird way...?

The only questionable thing about this book is... well, "the new SCIENCE of happiness"? Please. Baker threw
Jun 28, 2016 Caitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
So many good things here, it's hard to know what to start with first. There are a few parts of the book where the science seemed a little suspect (can you really tell that the sixth neuron gives you "wisdom"??), but it was an excellent pep talk in the qualities and outlooks to become a happier person.
Georgia Smith
This was pretty good. It wasn't mindblowing, but it had some really nice anecdotes and was full of legitimate, science-bound tips. I learnt a lot about the reptilian brain which I hadn't known before. My favourite line went something like 'fear is always about the future, and the future we can't control'. It may sound obvious, that we fear the future BECAUSE we can't control it, but since we can't control it, why fear it? We always fear things that are not in the current moment, and we waste our ...more
Jun 19, 2009 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had some good points though I found it somewhat confusing to really get the big ideas to sink in. I did become aware that it was teaching gospel principles using different terms. Once I figured that out, I was so thankful for the gospel because it is what has taught me all the things that make me happy...choosing to act and not react, service and sacrifice, loving, appreciating, etc. (Now I just need to keep practicing them through the rest of my life...and that is okay, as I get bette ...more
Apr 07, 2015 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a nice book. It was mainly told through Dan Baker's experience with clients and what those experiences taught him about happiness. The book had some poetic moments. And the advice in the book was pretty good. It's a quick read with nice advice.
Jul 23, 2011 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
c2003. A lot of this book is common sense - but it seems that when read in black and white - it becomes common sense. An Irish statement if there ever was one. This was a really good read and I am sure that if one could put the ideas into constant practice, your life would change. The difficulty though is that when one is swept up in the descending spiral - you need somebody to tell you "where you are at!" and reaching for a book may not be at the top of your list of things to do. Bits of the tr ...more
Stan DeGroote
May 18, 2016 Stan DeGroote rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

There is a lot of good info. The distillation that sticks with me 6 years after reading it is that to be happy we need:

- Health
- Relationships
- Purpose
Jun 15, 2012 Vicki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for anyone looking to be inspired, especially those tired of the same old happiness book. Other books tell us the same wisdom (i.e. "you can't buy happiness", "exercise to release endorphins", "appreciate what you have"). All true statements, yes, but until Baker's book I had yet to see the 'laws' of happiness so intricately explained. He shows the reader proof via vignettes and research studies how truly happy people function. His straight forward, logical approach to teaching happi ...more
Jun 24, 2016 Ari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Interesting read"

The author suggests that most of our unhappiness is stemmed from fear that are almost the second part of our being. Scientific insights into what could really bring happiness to our life - the essence of life that we should all think about.
Jun 19, 2016 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very useful information here. There is something for everyone. Very well written and contains extremely valid statistics.
Ginny Miller
I describe myself as being a happy person, but lately I've needed a bit of an attitude adjustment. Dan Baker points the way, showing how we are often ruled by fear, and by understanding how appreciation of what we have and freedom of choice are invaluable tools for living fully. I particularly enjoyed his explanation of how we have two lives - our healthy story and our horror story. They are both accurate,but the version we tend to turn to in our mind is the version we tend to live with. Major a ...more
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