Although I’m a great fan of investing in self improvement, I’m not the most compatible with talking therapies. There are countless self help and therapy books available, many of them utter rubbish that just make you feel as if you’re being taken advantage off (ripped off, scammed, whatever you wish to call it).
Thankfully, there are exceptions. I would like to use this blog post to list a number of books that seriously helped me out over the years.
The Tao of Pooh – by Benjamin Hoff
Really?! Yes, Really. This light bed time reading is the best book ever to slowly, simply change your outlook on life to a more positive one. Nothing flippant whatsoever, it seriously changed me for the better; so much so that whenever I can afford it I buy extra copies to give out as presents to friends and strangers.
Negaholics: How to Overcome Negativity and Turn Your Life Around – by Cherie Carter-Scott
Once upon a time I was convinced Murphy had it in for me, that everything that could go wrong, would always go wrong as far as my life was concerned. And I prided myself on being a level-headed realist when, in reality, I could only view life in terms of (potential) problems and so I often failed to see or reach solutions and too often found myself in unnecessary (often futile) conflicts. A regular customer at the bookstore I worked at when I was 19 suggested I read this; I did and it changed me for the better.
Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear – by Dr. Claire Weekes
My GP in 2003 suggested I read this, because at the time I didn’t really ‘believe’ anxiety and depression were anything more than figments of people’s imaginations, even though I was clearly suffering from both conditions. This book helped me acknowledge and appreciate what was going on with me (and other sufferers), and what I could do about it myself. There are a number of other (audio) books with similar titles accredited to the same Dr Claire Weekes, but personally I’d stick with this one and accept your doctor’s prescription for medication to help you out while you help yourself forward.
Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Be a Happy Non-smoker for the Rest of Your Life – by Allen Carr
I nearly forgot to add this book to this list, because I haven’t smoked since February 2009 and I don’t really think about it anymore. It was only when going through my past book purchases to compile the list of books for this blog post that I bumped into it again. It’s brilliant! It didn’t get me to quit smoking for good straight away: I read this book, then I quit smoking, then I started smoking again, then I hated myself for smoking, then I quit smoking again, then I read this book again, then the penny dropped: Carr wrote about the ‘liberation’ from one’s addiction to smoking, and indeed I felt liberated from it; but I also realised the same principle could be applied to every and any other addiction (including eating disorders, which in many ways are like addictions too).
Carr himself quit smoking too late to save himself: he died from lung cancer. But what a legacy he leaves with all the people who didn’t and/or won’t die thanks to his books.
Change Your Thinking with CBT: Overcome Stress, Combat Anxiety and Improve Your Life
– by Dr Sarah Edelman
The term CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is bandied about everywhere these days, just like NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) was a few years ago. It’s become something of a fad, meaning there are a lot of books and practitioners out there and I doubt each of them offers high quality; but I do believe the basic principle of CBT makes perfect sense.
Over 20 years ago I was seen by a married couple (he was a psychiatrist, she was a psychotherapist) for rather heavy, confrontational, intense/intensive therapy over the course of three or four months. The name CBT wasn’t being used back then (was it even known in the 1990s?) but in hindsight I believe the therapy I received from them probably was cognitive behavioural therapy. It equipped me with coping mechanisms and tools there and then at the time, and still works for me to this day. CBT doesn’t just change your mindset or attitude, I found it’s changed me so profoundly that even how my emotions operate today are down to the aforementioned therapy as well as books like this one by Dr Sarah Edelman.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Dummies – by Rhena Branch and Rob Willson
Anger Management for Everyone: Seven Proven Ways to Control Anger and Live a Happier Life – by Raymond Chip Tafrate and Howard Kassinove
Punching a pillow can only do so much when you’re a hothead like I used to be. Once upon a time I was the queen of tantrums and grudges, who could
get make myself really angry and upset (usually over things not even worth getting angry or upset about); nowadays I am by no means perfect, and I am definitely still learning, but the aggression I used to harbour is most definitely gone.
Anger Management for Dummies (UK Edition) – by Gillian Bloxham and W. Doyle Gentry
Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation – by Jon Kabat-Zinn
‘Mindfulness’ is another current fad, but this book predates the fad by years and years and helped me meditate. I should be picking up this book again, really, and re-read it, as I’ve let slip of the meditation in recent years… even though it really does a lot of good for both my mental and physical health.
Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness – by Erich Schiffmann
To this day I find yoga pretty boring, but it does me the world of good, particularly for my physical health. It steadies my balance (I have a minor balance disorder due to oxygen deficit in birth and meningitis when I was two years old) and improves my posture (reducing pain and discomfort from my endometriosis and other gynaecological issues). Better posture also means I sit/stand/walk more steadily and straight and people might interpret that as confidence on my part, which isn’t a bad thing either.
This book was my introduction to basic yoga exercises that you can do at home without risking injury (if you take things slowly and carefully) and I rely on it now that I cannot afford yoga classes.