If you’re like me, you’re constantly seeking ways to improve yourself or your mental health outside of your therapy sessions. It’s no secret that there is an abundance of “self-help” information out there. At times, it can seem like too much and you don’t even know where to start. These are three books I’ve enjoyed throughout the years, each one with its own pros and cons. Begin by asking your counselor for recommendations or simply choosing which approach to well-being seems best for you!
An Everyday Approach
Anything by Brené Brown could be at the top of my list. My counselor first recommended her popular TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, during our talks about worthiness. I was instantly captivated. Dr. Brown has a light-hearted, conversational, easy-to-follow approach to her books and teachings. She interjects humor, anecdotes from others, and personal stories to keep the reader engaged. Rising Strong, in particular, walks us through the process of rising up after we’ve hit rock bottom.
What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better by Dr. Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth
A Scientific Approach
If you want to dive into the interworking of the brain AND walk away with actual tools, this is for you. Dr. Baker talks about the part of the brain that drives many of our responses and how to work with our animal instincts in a new day and age. After all, we aren’t being chased by saber-tooth tigers anymore. While many Positive Psychology books have been written since, What Happy People Know still stands out to me as a valuable book for providing practical tools for a happy life. Those of us with mental illnesses know that “choosing happy” is harder for us than others, even impossible some days. So allow this book to introduce you to five Happiness Traps and 12 Happiness Tools to pick up and put down as you see fit. For instance, I continuously ask myself how I can reframe the story I’m telling myself about my personality, work, relationships, or life. I’m still picking up this useful tool from Dr. Baker!
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön
An Alternative Approach
This book provides incredibly practical advice from Pema Chödrön, a best-selling author and Tibetan Buddhist nun. Chödrön was just like you and me before she became a spiritual leader; she was a schoolteacher, a mother, a wife. And then life took an unexpected turn when her husband told her that he was having an affair. Any teachings in this book that stem from Buddhism aren’t religious or secular; in fact, you may not even recognize them as anything but sound advice. Chödrön helps us see that “the only way out is through” and we must sit with our pain until we’re ready to walk out the other side grateful for the lessons we’ve learned.
Allow these books to inspire you, stimulate your mind, introduce tools and techniques, and begin conversations with your therapist. Psychology and self-help books aren’t a “one-size-fits all” product, just like therapy. So what would you add to this list?