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

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

by Dan Baker

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


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. We're literally "hardwired for hard times."

In What Happy People Know, Dr. Baker uses evidence from the new science of happiness to show us how we can overcome this genetic predisposition toward negative reactions and lead a truly rich, happy, and healthy life.

Maybe you're wishing for more--more money, more friends, more status--thinking that "more" itself will insulate you from fear, making you feel safer and therefore happier. But Dr. Baker's clinics have been filled with VIPs who are just as unhappy as the next guy--some even more so.

In What Happy People Know, Dr. Baker shares the program that has revolutionized the lives of countless unhappy people, VIPs and regular Joes and Janes alike. First, you'll learn the only two issues that ever cause unhappiness and devise your plan to overcome both of them. Then, Dr. Baker teaches you how to spot the happiness traps, the five doomed ways we try to make ourselves happy, only to dig ourselves further into misery. Finally, he shares his happiness tools, the six simple skills that, when practiced consistently, will inevitably lead to greater optimism, courage, good humor, and fulfillment--in short, to happiness.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Baker's advice is sound and his presentation engaging.” —Publishers Weekly

“This wonderfully helpful book is sure to increase the number of happy people with its wisdom.” —Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

“Everyone wants to be happy. So much suffering and illness occur when we look for happiness in the wrong places. In What Happy People Know, Dan Baker distills the best of science and spirituality, sharing with deep and profound wisdom how we can learn to be happy and let go of suffering. Highly recommended.” —Dean Ornish, M.D., founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco; ad author of Love and Survival and Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease

“Dr. Dan Baker has created a book that we all have been waiting for. It is a significant, practical, insightful, easy-to-read book filled with nuggets that lead us to the road of happiness.” —Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., author of Love is Letting Go of Fear

Publishers Weekly
Baker, a psychologist and director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, offers a new way to look at unhappiness. He believes that people can teach themselves to be happy instead of remaining trapped in a vicious cycle of stress from work and family: "If you adopt management of your life as a primary goal, you'll be able to participate in your own destiny. But if you squander your energy struggling for complete control, you'll lose the reins of management and become just another leaf in the wind." It's essential for people to avoid such traps as trying to buy happiness or trying to find it through pleasure, Baker argues. Instead, people should use and take advantage of the six happiness tools-appreciation, choice, personal power, leading with strengths, language and stories, and multidimensional living. To demonstrate his strategy, the author offers various case studies. For example, one wealthy CEO comes for therapy, complaining about his children, wife and employees. Baker listens and offers just one piece of advice: he tells the man to visit a pediatric cancer ward; the visit allows the man to look beyond his self-centered complaints. Baker's advice is sound and his presentation engaging, but some readers, especially those coping with serious life crises, may find this approach too New Age or simplistic. He makes the transition from the traps to the tools of happiness sound easy, perhaps too much so. (Jan.) Forecast: With national promotion including a TV satellite tour and 100-city radio campaign, Baker's message will be visible. Whether the book will stand out from the very crowded self-help field remains to be seen.

Product Details

Rodale Press, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.34(w) x 9.44(h) x 1.13(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Dance of Love and Fear

This poor rich man—he looked so pale and drained. He was living a life that held no happiness, and he needed my help.

He had everything the world could offer—money, freedom, friends, and family—but I could see that he did not have the one thing he needed most: simple happiness.

This man was one of the wealthiest people in the American Southwest, rich in the resources that should bring happiness. At this moment, he could have been anywhere on earth, with anyone he wanted. The world of glamour, pleasure, and power was his. And yet here he was.

On the surface, he was a poster boy for the American dream, barely old enough to be a baby boomer, gliding through the good life. To most people, even the look in his eyes probably bespoke nothing darker than worldliness or weariness. However, I have spent all of my career and most of my life looking beneath the surface of human behavior, and what I saw in his eyes was haunting and familiar. I've seen that look too many times.

Fortunately, I have learned how to help people overcome what's behind that dark and empty expression. I have learned how to help them find happiness—to alchemize it out of fear, depression, boredom, and even grief. More commonly, I have helped people to locate the elusive quality of happiness in lives that should already have been good.

Your life probably looks pretty good to most people. These days, that's true for many of us. We've all worked so hard and attained so much. But do you often feel as if you've lost something?

That was certainly true of this man. Because he was enrolled in the 7-Day Life Enhancement Program that I direct at Canyon Ranch—one of the country's most prominent health facilities—I wouldn't have much time to spend with him. It doesn't take much time, though, to teach people how to be happy—to teach them the things that happy people already know.

And it won't take you long to learn what happy people know and to learn how to feel happy for the rest of the day. It will take longer, however, for you to work these lessons into the heart of your life, until happiness becomes a habit and unhappiness feels foreign.

This might be difficult for you, but what task could be more vital?

If you don't think happiness is critically important, perhaps it's because you have a narrow definition of it, as many people do, thinking that it just means being in a good mood most of the time, or experiencing the emotion of joy. But happiness is neither a mood nor an emotion. Mood is a biochemical condition, and emotions are just transitory feelings. Happiness is a way of life—an overriding outlook composed of qualities such as optimism, courage, love, and fulfillment. It's not just tiptoeing through the tulips of la-la land, and it's not something that changes every time your situation changes. It is nothing less than cherishing every day.

The wealthy man who had come to see me had lost his love for life. If you haven't met many wealthy people, you might think he was an aberration. You might think, "Give me that money, and I'll show you how to be happy!" The fact is that wealthy people—despite Madison Avenue's fairy tales about them—are unhappy just as commonly as people without much money. That's one important thing that happy people know: Money doesn't bring happiness.

You've heard that before, right? So you're probably thinking, "Yeah, that must be true" (and are secretly thinking, "But it doesn't apply to me!").

It does apply to you, though, as the new, emerging science of happiness proves. The myth that money brings happiness is one of the happiness traps that I will tell you about in this book, along with the happiness tools that will free you from these traps. Learning about these traps and tools will change your life.

If, on the other hand, you go on believing the conventional wisdom about happiness, you might never be any more fulfilled than you are at this moment, no matter how good your life gets. The traps can hold you down forever.

If you are stuck in one or more of the happiness traps, at least you're not alone. Happiness, as I'll show with research and with my own extensive clinical findings, is a relatively rare quality. Most people think that happiness is common among others—especially those with happy-face veneers—and that it is imminently available for themselves, just over the horizon, tomorrow's payoff for today's pain. In reality, happiness is not at all common in modern American society, and is even scarcer now than it was in earlier, less affluent times. In terms of happiness, America is going downhill, and has been for more than 20 years, even as our affluence has blossomed. Such a sad paradox: The more we've attained, the emptier we've become.

The man who had come to see me—let's call him Christopher Conner—was extraordinary in his affluence, exceptionally strong-willed, and charismatic in manner, but he had a lot in common with the average person.

What he mostly had in common—what we all have in common—is that we are brothers and sisters of the same imperfect evolution, the same flawed flesh. 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.

Meet the Author

Dan Baker, Ph.D., was one of the original developers of Canyon Ranch and has been director of the award-winning Life Enhancement Program for 15 years. He was founding director of the behavioral medicine department at Canyon Ranch.

Cameron Stauth is the author of 14 books, including several bestsellers, and has been published in nine languages.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
May 22, 2003

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