No one spends hundreds or thousands of dollars on a summer getaway not wanting to return happier than when they left. The whole point of a holiday is to rest, relax, and come back to your day-to-day life refreshed and ready to tackle your challenges.
Yet, despite everyone universally aiming for happiness-boosting vacations, many times we return from our travels feeling tanner and fatter, but not really any happier. Some of that is down to bad planning (here's how to plan an actually relaxing vacation), but another issue is human nature.
As the old saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. Getting away feels nice, but it doesn't change who you are or how you handle challenges. Or does it?
Maybe a vacation really can be transformative if you swap your usual summer thriller for a book that teaches science-backed principles that can help you thrive in relationships, overcome doubt, or handle difficult emotions.
That's the suggestion of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which just put out a list of books to read if you genuinely want to come back from your vacation happier this year. Here are a few of their picks:
1. Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by John and Julie Gottman
John and Julie Gottman have spent decades researching which behaviors doom relationships and which help them thrive. How do you avoid the former and embrace the latter? This pick is the Gottmans' answer to that very important question. "With easy-to-follow instructions, the book is a gold mine of ideas for couples wanting to increase intimacy and joy in their relationship," says Greater Good.
2. Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani
"If you're a woman who has compromised your dreams or talked yourself out of making a bold move, this book is for you," says Greater Good. Written by the co-founder of Girls Who Code, it "examines how socialization keeps girls stuck career-wise, in relationships, and creatively--and suggests ways to better understand and combat societal myths around female empowerment."
3. Emotional Advantage by Randy Taran
Repressing unpleasant emotions doesn't work, but what does? That's the topic of Project Happiness founder Randy Taran's book. According to Greater Good it's "a primer of sorts for 10 emotions: desire, tolerance, happiness, sadness, fear, anxiety, confidence, anger, guilt, and love. In each chapter, Taran gives a brief overview of the science behind a select emotion, along with some homework...to [help you] embrace your feelings or dig for the upside of negative emotions."
4. Say What You Mean by Oren Sofer
This summer you might be kicking back at the beach, but when you return to the office, difficult conversations always await. Prepare yourself for them with this book. "Drawing from the traditions of Buddhist mindfulness, nonviolent communication, and somatic experiencing, Oren Jay Sofer's book Say What You Mean will give you the tools to understand others and express your own needs in your relationships," says Greater Good.
5. Surviving to Thriving: The 10 Laws of Grateful Leadership by Steve Foran
Another explicitly business-oriented pick, this one focuses on the benefits of gratitude in the workplace. The author, the CEO of Gratitude at Work, "describes the research that supports shifting our mindset in a more positive direction--where we recognize how grateful we are for what we have, rather than focusing only on what's missing or imperfect," writes Greater Good. Doing so can help us "feel happier, build social connections, become more resilient to stressors, and improve our adaptability and innovation."