New books by Stanford authors rethink healing and happiness

Into the Magic Shop
Into the Magic Shop by James Doty

Scholars at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education have written new books that encourage people to think differently about healing and happiness.

JAMES DOTY, for instance, argues that true healing is both biological and spiritual. Doty, the founder and director of the center, is also a neurosurgeon. In Into the Magic Shop, he takes a different twist than most medical-only approaches to healing.

“Extraordinary things happen when we harness the power of both the brain and the heart,” says Doty, who recounts in his book a childhood growing up in the high desert of California with an alcoholic father and a mother who suffered depression and the effects of a stroke.

His life seemed bleak at 12 when one day he walked into a magic shop and met Ruth, who taught him exercises to alleviate his own suffering and focus on his goals. Her final request was that he keep his heart open and pass these techniques on to others. And that is what Doty does today at Stanford. But as an adult he had to first relearn the “magic shop” lesson, which the book explains in greater detail.

EMMA SEPPALA, another researcher at the center, also has a new book out. It’s called The Happiness Track, and describes how to apply the “science of happiness” to realize goals and contentment in life. It draws on the latest research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience to offer advice on leading a fulfilled life. Simply, Seppala says, the traditional methods of defining and achieving success are not working.

“While we might succeed in the short term, it comes at a cost to our well-being, relationships and, paradoxically, our productivity,” she writes.