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As we continue to emerge from the anxiety, isolation, and grief of the past few years, we must try to be proactive in taking care of our mental health. We can begin by exploring the many books that focus on the topic. Books on mental health can be a fantastic resource for understanding the mind, how it works, and how we can take care of it. Although reading up on mental health is not a substitute for professional medical help, it can certainly be an entryway towards seeking support.
Dealing with a mental illness can be isolating, even though the National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in five in the United States lives with a mental health condition. Poor mental health challenges every person differently, and recognizing when you need to get help or offer support can help change this statistic for the better.
Books that cover the subjects of depression, anxiety, relationships, and self-care can supplement our mental toolkits through the techniques, research, and narratives of people who have studied and experienced the same hurdles. To get you started, here are four books that can help you boost your mental health:
1. The Body Keeps the Score
Trauma impacts both the mind and the body, compromising one’s capacity for pleasure, self-control, connection, and trust. In his bestselling book The Body Keeps the Score, trauma research author van der Kolk explores treatment methods that help activate the brain’s natural neuroplasticity in patients dealing with trauma. Neuroplasticity refers to the human brain’s ability to adapt to changes in its external environment.
Van der Kolk’s thesis is especially relevant now. We mentioned in our “Alone Together” blog post how tough it is to process distressing situations while they are still ongoing. Ultimately, The Body Keeps the Score stresses that understanding the functional and chemical changes in the emotional part of the brain can be key in improving ways to address our traumatic experiences.
2. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
Through this bestselling classic, Dr. David Burns explored emerging approaches to psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy popularized CBT which Dr. Aaron T. Beck originally developed. Today, many psychiatrists utilize CBT in their treatment methodologies. This book also introduces scientifically proven techniques to help alleviate feelings that lead to depression or anxiety.
Apart from helping you lift your spirits, the techniques outlined in the book can enable you to overcome guilt, hostility, and criticism while building your self-esteem and encouraging positive feelings.
3. Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN
Practicing compassion can be tough when our first instinct is self-preservation. Developing this trait can be a long process when difficult emotions and judgmental beliefs get in the way. To deeply ingrain compassion into one’s personality, psychiatrist and meditation teacher Tara Brach presents a meditation practice called RAIN in her book Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN, which stands for “Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture.”
This method of meditation starts by recognizing your current situation and allowing life to be just as it is. It is followed by a gentle and curious investigation of your experience. The practice ends with a call to nurture by offering yourself tender words or a kind embrace. Although this method does not claim to cure anxiety, RAIN prevents it from taking over.
4. Emotional First Aid
Mental health care has gained traction over the past decade, and rightfully so. Psychologist Guy Winch argues that emotional injuries are just as crippling as physical ones. In other words, mental health should be given the same urgency and attention as physical health. In his book, Emotional First Aid, Winch highlights various emotional wounds that are ubiquitous today, such as loneliness, rejection, trauma, and guilt.
Winch presents ways to “treat” these wounds and build emotional resilience through practical and realistic instructions. Emotional First Aid is a handy guide to have when things get rough because, as the title suggests, it’s not just physical wounds that require emergency relief.
The benefits of picking up a book on mental health care are immense, whether you are working on your own self-care journey or taking care of your loved ones. Through these books, you can gain a deeper understanding of psychology and mental health care while undergoing therapy or professional help.
Article written by Renee Jules