1 in 4 Americans experiences mental illness in a given year– if that’s not enough of an indication that mental health matters, I’m not really sure what is. For most of us, the sensitivity of these issues is out of sight, out of mind, and the unfortunate truth is that it often times takes a first-hand experience to genuinely understand the infrastructure or development of any particular mental disease. I can’t count the number of times I’ve personally heard, “You had an eating disorder? You’re so skinny!” or “What does she have to be depressed about? Her life is perfect.” The public’s misconception of effective empathy reads as indifference and only fuels the feelings of alienation, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 incredible books, all with a 4+ star rating on Amazon, for better understanding mental illness and reviewing powerful guidelines for mastering the acts of constructive communication and positive validation.
Side Note: These are also just 10 great books to read as food for thought. Even if nobody you know suffers (openly) from a mental illness, you’ll be amazed how powerful these cognitive-based tactics and affirmations can be. You may even end up liking yourself a little bit more after reading just 1 or 2.
This is your $8 alternative to $30,000+ in rehab and drug therapy. In Feeling Good, eminent psychiatrist, Dr. David D. Burns, outlines the remarkable, scientifically proven CBT techniques which will immediately help you develop a more positive outlook on life. In the newest edition, Dr. Burns also features a Consumer′s Guide to Anti-Depressant Drugs, as well as a brand new introduction to help answer your questions about the many options available for treating depression. Don’t believe a book can replace Zoloft? Feeling Good has a 4.3 rating on Amazon with over 1,000 reviews— and, in addition to its other success stories, I can personally attest to its unexpected efficacy.
“You Can Heal Your Life” | “Love Yourself, Heal Your Life” Workbook by Louise Hay
Louise Hay’s key message in all of her writing is, “If we are willing to do the mental work, almost anything can be healed.” Hay has a compelling amount of first-hand healing advice and experience from her personal battles with depression and eating disorders; she even writes about how she cured herself after being diagnosed with cancer. She explains how limiting beliefs and ideas are often the cause of illness, and she shows how you can change your thinking and improve the quality of your life.
The corresponding Love Yourself, Heal Your Life Workbook directly applies Louise’s techniques of self-love and positive thinking to a wide range of topics that affect us all on a daily basis, including health fears, phobias, sex, self-esteem, money, friendship, addictive behavior, and intimacy.
“The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field” by Nathaniel Branden
The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem is essential reading for anyone with a personal or professional interest in self-esteem. Nathaniel Branden compellingly demonstrates why self-esteem is basic to psychological health, achievement, personal happiness, and positive relationships.
In The Resilience Breakthrough, Christian Moore delivers a practical primer on how you can become more resilient in a world of instability and narrowing opportunity, whether you’re facing financial troubles, health setbacks, challenges on the job, or any other life-altering problem. Moore argues that we can all have our own resilience breakthrough and learn how to use adverse circumstances as potent fuel for overcoming life’s hardships with his 27 resilience-building tools that you can start using immediately.
Karol Truman provides a comprehensive and enlightening resource for getting in touch with unresolved feelings, which, she explains, can distort not only happiness, but also health and well-being. Leaving no emotion unnamed, Truman helps identify problem areas and offers a “script” to help process the feelings, replacing the negative feeling with a new and positive outlook.
“When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life” by David D. Burns, MD
The truth is you can defeat even your worst fears. In When Panic Attacks, Dr. Burns, who also wrote Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, shows you how to overcome every conceivable kind of anxiety. In fact, you will learn how to use more than 40 simple, effective techniques, and the moment you put the liar! to the distorted thoughts that plague you, your fears will immediately disappear. Dr. Burns also shares the latest research on the drugs commonly prescribed for anxiety and depression and explains why they may sometimes do more harm than good.
Coping with Anxiety lists 10 simple ways to relieve anxiety, fear, and worry. These immediate, user-friendly, and effective strategies are designed to help you overcome anxiety. They include step-by-step exercises that you can do in the moment without having to understand the subtleties of the most often used therapies for treating anxiety.
“The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of Wholehearted Living–a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. In her ten guideposts, Brown engages minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough,” and to go to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”
“I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think?’ to ‘I Am Enough'” by Brené Brown
Based on seven years of her ground-breaking research and hundreds of interviews, I Thought It Was Just Me shines a long-overdue light on an important truth: Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.
“You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero
Yes, I saved the most entertaining for last. In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, Jen Sincero shares hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word– helping you to identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, create a life you totally love (and create it now), and make some good money already. By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are the way that you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.
So did I leave any worthy additions off the list? I’m always looking for new and better books for understanding mental health– if not for me, for my loved ones.