Self-help books have been a growing trend in America. In the last decade, self-improvement has grown into a 10 billion dollar industry in the United States alone. These days you will see them everywhere, all spouting claims about giving you the perfect life that you always wanted. As a therapist, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with self-help books. On one side, self-help books can provide tools and insight to a wide variety of issues and offer anecdotal stories that allow people to feel less alone. On the other hand, they can be full of psychobabble, false promises, and self-proclaimed gurus offering you lies that will "change your life."
However, if you find the right self-help book, it can help you learn valuable techniques and change your mindset. Here are eight books that might help you walk through a few common issues we regularly see in our office.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab
Boundaries are one of the most essential/ healthy actions we can do for both ourselves and our relationships. They allow us to maintain work/life balance, cope with toxic people, and enjoy rewarding relationships with partners, friends, and family. But they can be challenging to set, maintain and enforce without leading to feelings of guilt. Set Boundaries, Find Peace focuses on how we can successfully express our needs, say no, and be assertive without offending others.
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Ph.D.
This book is a bit different than other self-help books. Written by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning is a combination of a memoir and the theory of Logotherapy. Frankl's experiences of life in Nazi death camps powerfully shifted his perspective regarding life's purpose and meaning. Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how we respond to it by coping with it, finding meaning in it, and moving forward with renewed purpose. At the heart of his theory is the idea that the pleasure of life does not drive us but the pursuit of what we find meaningful. Man's Search for Meaning is known as one of the most influential and inspiring books of its time.
Self Compassion by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
Kristin Neff's, Self Compassion focuses on changing the narrative that you have about yourself. Neff uses empirical research, personal stories, and humor to illustrate how to limit self-criticism and offset its adverse effects to help you achieve a happier and healthier life.
When people are compassionate toward their failings and imperfections, they have a greater sense of well-being than those who repeatedly judge themselves. Neff emphasizes the importance of giving yourself the same caring support that you would offer to a friend in times of need.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
Trauma is a part of life. We have all experienced some trauma throughout our lives. In The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world's foremost experts on trauma, uses recent scientific advances to explore how trauma reshapes both our body and brain, which impacts an individual's capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. Luckily, we do not have to stay stuck there. The Body Keeps the Score explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain's natural neuroplasticity. Dr. van der Kolk explores the incredible power we have both to hurt and heal—and offers new hope for people to reclaim their lives.
Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Ph.D.
I am a big fan of Brené Brown's decades of research into shame and authentic living. I regularly have clients watch her famous Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. The Gifts of Imperfection is an excellent follow up providing evidence-based research and engaging storytelling to help individuals live a more authentic life. It focuses on steps for letting go of the idea of a "perfect life" and embrace the unique aspects of yourself while cultivating self-worth and acceptance. Brown encourages readers to let go of shame cycles and self-destructive thinking and focus on embracing the perfection of imperfection.
Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin- Manuel Miranda began posting small poems and antidotes about life on earth. Mostly, this book is an assortment of pep talks and affirmations that are kind, loving, and encouraging. Some of these are light, some serious, but all full of warmth, kindness, encouragement, and love. Gmorning, Gnight! is the quick pick me up that you need to set your intentions for the day and feel like you have someone in your corner.
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy is an excellent combination of personal stories of loss, grief, hardships, and resilience coupled with compelling research and concrete steps readers can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. This book illuminates how we can create a response of strength for ourselves and how we can help others in crisis, raise strong children, and create resilient families, workplaces, and communities. Sandberg challenges readers to cut themselves some slack during tough times and flip the golden rule: When a loved one is in distress, instead of treating them how you would want to be treated, consider how they want to be treated, which may be quite different.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D.
Dr. John and Julie Gottman have revolutionized and pioneered the study of marriage. Their research has focused on the habits of married couples in unprecedented detail over the course of decades. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (a culmination of their life's work) focuses on seven principles that will guide couples to a long-lasting and connected relationship. The Gottmans teach partners new strategies that focus on day-to-day matters, which provide a solid foundation for resolving conflict and techniques for living with those issues that cannot be resolved.
If you're struggling, seek help. Sharp Wellness offers individual, couples, family, and group therapy to help support you and help you live your best life. Contact us now.
Owner and Senior Therapist