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There’s no denying it, books are some of the most wonderful things. Reading a book has the potential to take you away from the stress of your life into a whole new story filled with interesting characters, information, and timeless life lessons. We learn and grow from books. We relate to characters and develop who we are from stories.
Reading has always been a passion of mine. Books have provided me with entertainment, comfort, and instruction on how to improve the quality of my life. While I love good fiction, my background as a mental health professional has created a special fondness for self-help books. During some of the most difficult times in my life I have turned to self-help books to give me practical solutions and advice on how to cope. Some of these books have been so influential that I continue to read and reread them, learning new lessons with each reading. In this post I would like to share those books with you with the hope that you might find the same comfort and inspiration that I have found in them.
My Top 10 Self-Help Books
- Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach: This book was one of the first self-help books I read when I was in my early 20s. As I have written on the home page, it is the inspiration for the basis of this blog and continues to be a guide for me in my life. The premise of the book is that true happiness isn’t something that comes to us from external objects or situations, it is something we create through understanding our authentic nature and allowing this to guide our choices. It is written in a journal format with posts for each day of the year that are meant to be read once a day. Six guiding principles are woven together, beginning with gratitude and moving through simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy. Ms. Ban Breathnach shares her own personal experiences with working with these principles and provides exercises that you can do to incorporate them into your life. I return to this book time and time again, often when I need encouragement or a sense of peace. It is truly a timeless classic.
- The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life by Jennifer Louden: This author is another wonderful writer that was introduced to me when I was in my early 20s. She has written many books on self-care, including the Women’s Comfort Book, and, for a time, was dubbed “the comfort queen.” Ms. Louden writes from her own personal experiences of burnout, self-care, and the importance of engaging in activities that are truly nourishing to your mind, body, and spirit. She also tackles a topic we often overlook, the topic of shadow comforts. These are behaviors or activities that appear to provide comfort but often leave you feeling more drained and unhappy. I love Ms. Louden’s conversational writing style. It’s like having your best friend who totally gets you sharing her wisdom when you most need it.
- The Life Organizer by Jennifer Louden: This is another gem by Ms. Louden. In this book she introduces the concept of the power of questions. While most of us are busy trying to figure out the answers to life, Ms. Louden shares that creating an authentic life rests more on regularly asking yourself the right questions. This process puts you back into your life and helps you to step out of the habit of taking care of everyone and everything else first. It allows you to be a creator of your life, making active and mindful choices.
- Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford: If you have ever felt like your electronics, to-do list, and commitments were running your life instead of your brain, this book is for you. Ms. Stafford bravely shares her own process of moving out of the pressure to be everything to everyone and into a life that is based on what she values the most, loving others. She openly acknowledges how, at one point, her life was run by impossible to-do lists and the constant buzz of electronic communication. She was short tempered, overwhelmed, tired, and longed for a slower pace where she could savor small moments with her children instead of rushing from one activity to another, but didn’t see how she could get there. Her process of change began one day when she stopped rushing for her cell phone and sat down with her daughter in a mindful and present way. Since that time she has continued to strive for living life “Hands Free,” free of the distraction that pulls her away from noticing and nurturing her family and others. This book provides details on how she has worked toward this goal and how you can also strive to live a more “Hands Free” life.
- The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky: Have you ever caught yourself thinking that you will be happy when you buy the house/find the perfect mate/get the perfect job/have so much money on the bank, etc.? If so, be prepared for a surprise. Ms. Lyubomirsky has been researching the nature of what makes people happy, and external situations such as those listed above only provide about 10% of our happiness in life. So where does true happiness come from? Well, 50% is in our nature. Some people are simply happier than others. However, the remaining 40% comes from specific happiness-creating behaviors. This book provides a complete list of these behaviors and the research that backs up why they are effective. It also provides worksheets to help you add more happiness-building habits into your life. Who could ask for more?!
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: I have to admit, this little book took me by surprise. In Simple Abundance, one of the principles for living the good life is order. Now, I have read many books on organizations and have to be honest that, while they are somewhat helpful, they often require you to develop complicated systems of organization that don’t last and don’t work well for a busy family. Ms. Kondo’s approach is different. Even though the focus is on tidying up your stuff, the premise of this book is to organize from an emotional frame of reference. Ms. Kondo talks about letting go of excess items because they do not “spark joy.” At first that sounded a bit weird to me, but then I thought about times when I had cleaned out areas of my home. During those times I used a similar system where I only kept items that were useful, loved, or suitable to my lifestyle. That’s not too far off from her notion of “sparking joy.” In addition to this concept, Ms. Kondo outlines specific ways to store items to maximize your space, minimize reverting to mess, and minimize the time taken to find your things. It is definitely worth the read, and the organizational tips really work.
- Yoga for Depression by Amy Weintraub: Don’t be fooled by the title of this book. I am a firm believer in the power of yoga to improve the quality of your life. Although Ms. Weintraub was inspired to take up yoga and ultimately write this book because of her struggle with depression, this book provides a complete guide to mood-changing yoga techniques that can be used by anyone. It is easy to read, easy to follow, and can be used as a go-to guide for finding specific yoga techniques to help you shift your mood. It also includes both poses and breathing techniques so you can take your pick of activities. My copy is so worn out I may need to buy a new one soon.
- It’s Just My Nature by Carol Tuttle: From childhood we often receive well-meaning messages from others that we would be so much better if only we would change ___________ (fill in the blank). We grow up believing that there are faults in our personality because we have been told that we are too sensitive/too serious/too disorganized, etc. This book tackles that issue head on. Ms. Tuttle wrote this book based upon her years of experience as an energy therapist. Now, before you go thinking that this is all too woo-woo for you, the premise of the book is that there are four energy types that we all possess and that are expressed in different levels in different people. We each express a dominant energy. This is often the source of our strength, but is usually the subject of the well-meaning but misguided comments. In my case, my dominant energy type is emotional, flowy, soft, and sensitive. Because of this I have been able to work successfully with people as a therapist and can empathize deeply with others. However, I grew up being told that I was “too sensitive.” When I read this book and determined my dominant energy type I finally felt free to allow my emotional nature to take the lead and let go of any shame about my sensitivity. What I really love is that Ms. Tuttle acknowledges that there is no one right or perfect way to be. We are all different, and we all serve a purpose. Our differences are our greatest strengths.
- Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Joan Borysenko: Best book on the mind-body connection and the benefits of meditation and yoga. Ever. It is clear, concise, written in a readable style with a healthy amount of humor added, and can be read cover-to-cover or used as a go-to manual for both yoga and meditation exercises. It is suitable for beginners but also serves as a great reminder for even more experienced practitioners of yoga and meditation. I simply love, love, love this book!
- E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality by Pam Grout: Fans of the law of attraction, rejoice! This book provides practical experiments that help to demonstrate how the law of attraction works on your world. It is fun to read and fun to practice the experiments. It may also help to provide you with insight about how you truly shape your own reality through your beliefs and thoughts. The process is quite simple- you have a thought or a belief, that leads to focusing your attention in a particular direction, this leads you to opportunities or experiences related to your thought or belief, and this leads you to actions that relate to and support the thought or belief. As the old saying goes, whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
I would love to hear what your experiences are with these books. If you have read them or have been inspired to read them from this post please send me a comment. Also, if you have any special books that you would like to share I would love to hear from you. Once again, drop me a note in the comments section below. Happy reading, and have a PrettyJoyful day!