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

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,264 ratings  ·  126 reviews
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. We're literally "hard ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 19th 2004 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 4th 2003)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  1,264 ratings  ·  126 reviews

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Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Kimberly White
Sep 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Happy people know not to read books by shameless self-promoters.
Zoe's Human
Sep 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
The thing is that I am a happy person. I like me. I like my life. There are moments, but mostly life is good. So why the fuck am I reading this book to begin with since I know what happy people know? Someone listed is as a source for a statistic I called into question. The statistic turned out not be in here at all. And even if it had ... well, let's address that a bit further down the road, shall we?

On the one hand, there is some solid life advice in here for unhappy people. It is, indeed, choc
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an awesome book that I would recommend to everyone. Not psychobabble at all. Very practical, meaningful, and interesting throughout.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of self-help books, but this one took the longest for me to finish. Probably because I had the most to learn from it. And I needed it most. Baker, through his years as a “cynical” turned positive psychologist, offers a new perspective in the field which relies on transcending past our base instincts and reactions and moving toward love; of not rehashing our pain but numerating our joys. This book contains the secrets to life. They’re not secret, they’re just choices. And I am so gla ...more
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Cherie Palmer
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great little book, and a good reminder of healthy thinking. The take away was that every time you are unhappy, you are practicing one of the VERBs ( victimization, entitlement, rescue. and blame). The antidote is appreciation. Appreciation is using the higher evolved frontal cortex instead of the ancient fear, or lizard part of the brain.
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. :) ...more
Rhonda Sue
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic and quick read. I enjoyed the stories in this book as they make the concepts easy to understand. I've read so many books on happiness and positive psychology that when I learn about new concepts or theories, it's rewarding to me. Let's begin.

The main premise is that the biological circuitry of fear is the greatest enemy of happiness. We're wired with a survival instinct and that takes over. There are 12 qualities of happiness: love, optimism, courage, sense of freedom or choice, pro
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I must admit, I think I’ve started and stopped reading this book at least 5 times. The problem, is not even a problem at all; it was TOO GOOD!

I found myself constantly fascinated by the ideas and concepts that were presented which led to many deep dives into particular pieces whenever inspiration and curiosity struck me. It’s not often I struggle to make it through reading a book because it’s so good.

Dan Baker wrote this book when Positive Psychology was in its infancy. If you’re a Positive Psyc
Jul 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
Common sense about happiness, packaged two ways ... the genre-usual style of presenting compelling case stories that are too perfect to be real and clearly either fictional or composites, plus claims about supporting scientific studies that lack citations. His credibility evaporated when he recommended homeopathic medicine. Not to mention the incessant prattling on about Canyon Ranch. This is essentially an infomercial for the ranch. All that said, the common sense itself is easily digestible, s ...more
May 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Dan Baker is what all psychologist should be. Forget the whole Freudian couch, and minute inspection of your parents' mistakes. Forget the navel gazing New Age jargon about damaged self-esteem. Baker has found effective therapy for the downtrodden. His words and stories are wise. I would give the book five stars, but I think it would have benefitted from a better editor. It is sometimes repetitious and wordy where a good editor would have made it taut. If you can get past that, the advice is spo ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book more than any other on happiness. I loved his practical approach to the concept of happiness and his frank discussion about how it's easy to get trapped even when we think we're doing it right. I also liked his repeated emphasis on the idea that nothing changes until you do.

I also appreciated the glimpse into positive psychology.
Feb 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book. I want to share it with everyone in my life, because it has changed mine for the better. Even though I don't think of myself as an unhappy person, this book provides useful tools to get through tough days, and makes you think about what actually matters in life. Must read! ...more
Scott Dinsmore
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Julia Yang
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Amazing! Very insightful. I love the style of writing by Dan and the action plan at the end of the book provided a nice summary and method of application of the content in the book. A great read for ENFP especially.
This is a bedside book that got buried under other books for a long time. I finally dug into it and found it a very enjoyable read with some valuable information on how to positively reframe the crap in one's life so that general happiness is possible with a nix of the fear response to everything. ...more
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful read

Read this book with a heart open to a new way of looking at yourself and your world. I enjoyed the process.
Rosemary Dinsdale
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was phenomenal. I hope I can use the tools Dr. Baker shares in this book to help myself to live a happier life. It puts a whole new perspective on how we look at achieving happy lives.
frank alagia
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

One of the best books I've ever read. It makes you think laugh and cry. I recommend it to everyone.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is my new bible. I have read over and over and learn something new each time.
Sep 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Wouldn’t have bought it, but picked it up and was interesting reading.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, owned
I picked this book up at a book sale years ago and I am not sure why, but I figured I would pull it off the shelf and give it a read. In the last two years I have read quite a few self-help books, and this is one that I really enjoyed. The book is fairly short and straight-forward. The author doesn't try to offer a one-size fits all solution, but rather shares a few tips for a happier life as well as several pitfalls that people fall into that get in the way of happiness. Like any self-help book ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
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 a pe
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*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
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Lesley Keller
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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