Books are a great escape from the stresses of the real world, a fact that may be especially true for those battling depression. In fact, finding comfort in books has even become a recognized source of comfort called bibliotherapy. For those currently struggling with depression, we’ve come up with a list of the 30 best self-improvement books. Because there are hundreds of books on the topic, plus a hundred more fiction titles revolving around depression, we consulted Amazon and Barnes and Noble to find out their bestselling books about depression, read reviews, and blogs, and even looked over lists of award winning titles. Though our list is almost certainly not exhaustive, we’re confident that we’ve found the very best 30 self-improvement books for those battling depression.
- Against Depression
- The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
- The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians
- Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
- The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: 7 Ways to Freedom from Anxiety, Depression, and Intrusive Thoughts
- Control Your Depression
- The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs
- Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger From Your Life
- The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
- Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
- Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
- Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression
- How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook
- How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from One Who Knows
- I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression
- Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
- A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives
- Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
- The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
- The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress
- The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
- Straight Talk on Depression: Overcoming Emotional Battles with the Power of God’s Word!
- Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Healing for the Modern Plagues of Anxiety and Depression
- Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You
- The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time
- You Are Not Alone: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey Through Depression
- You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way? New Help for Depression, Anxiety, and Addiction
- Best Self-Help Books for Depression and Anxiety to Read Right Now
- 13 Books That Shine a Light on Anxiety
- Declutter Your Mind
- Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety
- The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
- The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution
- My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind
- The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You
- From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life
- Hope and Help for Your Nerves
- At Last a Life
- When Panic Attacks
- Panic Attacks Workbook: A Guided Program for Beating the Panic Trick
- The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution
- Best Self-Help Books for Mental Health and Anxiety
- What to Consider Before Buying
- Best Books on Overcoming Anxiety to Read
- Rising Strong by Brené Brown
- Presence by Amy Cuddy
- Year of Yes by Shonda Rhymes
- The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron
- The Generalized Anxiety Disorder Workbook: A Comprehensive CBT Guide for Coping with Uncertainty, Worry, and Fear by Melisa Robichaud PhD
- Women in Clothes by Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, Sheila Heti
- One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth by Iyanla Vazant
- Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
- Hardcore Self-Help: F*ck Anxiety by Robert Duff
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Jamison
- Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
- Mind Over Mood: Change the Way You Feel By Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A Padesky
- We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
- 5 Best Books for Dealing with Anxiety and Depression
- The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
- First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns
- The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living by Russ Harris
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff
- Keep reading for six of the best social anxiety books (they come with high reviews on Amazon, no less).
- 1. If you’re not sure where to start: Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step By Step, by Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D.
- 2. If you’re looking for super-practical advice: Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness, by Dr. Gillian Butler
- 3. If you want to be a better leader: The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, by Olivia Fox Cabane
- 4. If self-love is your biggest goal in 2019: How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, by Dr. Ellen Hendriksen
- 5. If you want something more radical: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson
- 6. If you like things served with humor: We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide to Living With Social Anxiety, by Claire Eastham
- 7 best self-care books: From moving memoirs to practical pocket guides
- ‘Remember This When You’re Sad: Lessons Learned on the Road from Self-Harm to Self-Care’ by Maggy van Eijk, published by Lagom: £6.47, WHSmith
- ‘The Self-Care Project: How To Let Go Of Frazzle And Make Time For You’ by Jayne Hardy, published by Orion Spring: £9.35, Amazon
- ‘Take A Moment: Activities to Refocus, Recentre And Relax Wherever You Are’ in partnership with Mind and Michael O’Mara: £9.99, Waterstones
- ‘Self-Care For The Real World: Practical Self-care Advice For Everyday Life’ by Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips, published by Hutchinson: £16.99, Waterstones
- ‘The Little Book of Self-Care by’ Mel Noakes, published by Ebury Press: £5.75, Amazon
- ‘The Self-Care Revolution: Smart Habits and Simple Practices To Allow You To Flourish’ by Suzy Reading, published by Hachette: £9.35, WHSmith
- S’peak Your Truth, Heal Your Heart: The Broken Girl’s Guide to Radical Self-Care by Christy Abram’, published by BGW Publishing: £10.31, Amazon
- The verdict: Self-care books
In his book Against Depression, author Peter Kramer makes the surprisingly unusual statement that depression is a physical disease — and it’s high time we start treating it as such. Though this book was perhaps written for those treating depression, it also serves as a helpful support for those who are struggling themselves. Kramer summarizes the ways in which depression is viewed today by various parts of the population, then makes a number of interesting suggestions about how we as a society can help conquer it. But not everything in Kramer’s book is about depression on a larger scale. Throughout, he also includes helpful advice for anyone in need of better understanding that they’re not defined by their mental illness.
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
Even those who don’t like self-help books will find value in Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote. Burkeman is well aware that not every person on earth, and especially not every person battling depression, responds to positivity, which is why he wrote his book from a more existential perspective. According to Burkeman, negative feelings aren’t feelings to be pushed away or ignored. Rather, they are vital parts of life that, when properly understood, can ultimately be a (gasp!) positive.
The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians
The CBT Toolbox takes on a slightly more technical tone than many of the other workbooks we’ve listed, partly because it’s just as appropriate for those battling depression as it is for those who help those battling depression. The workbook provides readers with dozens of helpful exercises based upon the clinically proven Cognitive Behavioral Therapy method. By completing each exercise, readers should begin internalizing the tools that could help them overcome depression.
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
Daniel G. Amen
This bestselling book by Daniel G. Amen is subtitled “The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems.” As such, Amen provides a series of what he calls “brain prescriptions” to help his readers learn to fight their depression and anxiety, while also silencing panic, anger, impulsiveness, and worry. Throughout, Amen also includes various scientific studies and cases to show that changing the way your brain thinks can actually change your life.
The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program
William J. Knaus
William J. Knaus’s bestselling book revolves around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a commonly used treatment for depression. Readers can use this workbook to both evaluate their own depression and find the right tools with which to battle and overcome it. Knaus has provided his readers with myriad helpful worksheets, exercises, and prompts for reflection, many of which are very often used by therapists in a doctor-patient setting.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: 7 Ways to Freedom from Anxiety, Depression, and Intrusive Thoughts
According to author Lawrence Wallace, “happiness is a trainable, attainable skill!” Throughout his bestselling book, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Wallace lays out various useful tools with which readers can learn to be compassionate to themselves and ultimately find happiness. Each skill is based on mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, combining two of the most popular methods for overcoming depression. Wallace, who has battled both anxiety and depression, also includes inspiring personal anecdotes throughout.
Control Your Depression
Peter Lewinsohn’s bestselling book Control Your Depression aims to help readers suffering with depression to find their missing zest for life. To achieve this weighty task, Lewinsohn first asks some of the tough questions surrounding depression: What is really happening inside a depressed brain? What do depressed people think about? Why? He then offers tools with which readers can target specific reasons for their depression and conquer it.
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs
Stephen S. Ilardi
For many people, and for many reasons, taking medication in the face of depression is not a welcomed option. That’s why Stephen S. Ilardi wrote his bestselling book The Depression Cure. The book discusses six important life elements that have been proven both scientifically and throughout history as ways in which we can slow down the oftentimes overwhelming pace of life in order to get back to the basics. It’s when we can get back to the basics, says Ilardi, that we can overcome depression.
Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger From Your Life
Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D.
While most books about battling depression are written by psychologists, Depression-Free, Naturally is written by a nutritionist. Joan Mathews Larson believes that depression and anxiety are both the result of various imbalances and deficiencies in the human body. Throughout her book, Larson offers tips for different foods, minerals, vitamins, and supplements for naturally boosting one’s health and mind, thereby defeating depression for good.
The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression
Mary Ellen Copeland
One of a few workbook-type books to make our list, The Depression Workbook by Mary Ellen Copeland is aimed at those in need of the motivation it takes to take control of their health. Through personalized activities, readers of The Depression Workbook will not only begin to understand their depression, but will also learn the best ways to combat it by boosting their self-confidence and learning to mindfully relax in order to avoid mood swings and uncomfortable situations. There is also a helpful section through which readers can develop their own plan for managing their depression.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
David D. Burns, M.D.
The mind is a powerful thing when it comes to overcoming our moods and emotions; if you can change the way you think, then you can change the way you feel. That’s the big takeaway from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns, M.D. The Stanford-based psychiatrist explains through easy-to-understand writing the ways in which our minds tend to distort our thoughts and lead to depression, anxiety, and anger. He then offers a series of mental exercises and challenges his readers to consciously replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts in order to “learn to feel good.”
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
Between keeping up with our peers on Facebook, managing our households, and dealing with work, the world in which we live is extremely fast-paced. Though most of us realize that such an environment can be stressful, few realize the dominating effect it can have on our mood and overall health. In his bestselling book Full Catastrophe Living, author Jon Kabat-Zinn offers helpful habit-forming tips that can make living in a busy and competitive world less stressful. His approaches range from inspiring quotations, to exercises, to meditation and yoga, but they’re all carefully designed to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
In this hilarious memoir, comedian and bestselling author Jenny Lawson, recounts her lifelong battle with crippling depression and anxiety. She’s (sometimes brutally) honest about her struggles, but manages to find the humor in it. The result is an entertaining read that will probably make you laugh, and certainly make you realize that you’re not alone in your pain and struggles.
Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression
According to author Robert Duff, his book Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression is the “no psychobabble self-help book for people that don’t usually like self-help books.” Although Duff is a psychologist by trade and training, his books (including one about anxiety) are no nonsense, and easy to read and understand. Readers will learn why they feel as if they have no energy and why they have the feelings they do. They’ll also gain Duff’s knowledge about realistic steps that can be taken to solve many of the day-to-day issues faced by those battling depression.
How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook
For those who want (or need) a more light-hearted approach to battling depression, there is Lee Crutchley’s How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook. Crutchley describes his workbook as “a workbook, trusted friend, creative outlet, security blanket, and secret diary.” As such, this fun and unique book is designed to walk readers through a process that will help them to discover every day joys, life’s simple pleasures, and hopefully a new, more positive perspective on life.
How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from One Who Knows
Doubling as both memoir and self help book, How to Weep in Public by comedian Jacqueline Novak is a darkly hilarious look at what it’s like to live with depression. Novak’s aim is not to magically cure her reader. Rather, she aims to make them feel not so alone, bring a little bit of comfort and humor, and ultimately offer tips to manage emotions and “fight this some other day.”
I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression
Somehow, specifically male depression is still something that is glossed over in nearly every representation of depression. In I Don’t Want to Talk About It — the first book published that talks exclusively about male depression — author Terrence Real summarizes dozens of case studies to break down the ways in which depression affects men and their families. He also details the ways in which male depression is different from female depression, and offers some tips men can use to learn to control their moods and health in order to overcome their depression.
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
Like Feeling Good, Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life is all about taking control of your thoughts in order to escape depression. According to Seligman, an “optimistic attitude is a key factor in overcoming depression.” At the beginning of the book, Seligman invites readers to take an optimism quiz to figure out just how optimistic or pessimistic they truly are. He then provides an entire toolbox of strategies to help readers reset the way they think.
A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives
Kelly Brogan, MD and Kristin Loberg
One in four women start their day with medication. According to authors Kelly Brogan, MD and Kristin Loberg, this dependence upon drugs has become the panacea for panic and grief, to depression and irritability, and everything in between. But Brogan and Loberg insist that the key to a woman’s happiness cannot be found in a drugstore. Rather, they recommend a more holistic approach based on years of experience working in a clinical practice and publishing her own medical findings. A Mind of Your Own lays out this unique approach in a step-by-step 30-day action plan.
Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky
Mind Over Mood is a longtime bestseller about one of the most sought-after ways to overcome depression. Authors Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky, both Ph.D.s, provide the reader with clinically proven strategies that can help one learn to manage their mind, control their negative thoughts, and end for good the distress of depression.
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn
Four health experts teamed up to write this bestselling book about why we tend to become more depressed when we attempt to just “snap out of it.” Instead, these experts suggest a series of unique cognitive therapy exercises rooted in Eastern meditative traditions. Rather than simply thinking happy thoughts, these exercises promote the building of positive mental habits that lead to a renewed sense of well-being. The book also comes with a supplementary CD narrated by one of the authors.
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress
John Teasdale, J. Mark Williams, Zindel Segal, and John Kabat-Zinn
The Mindful Way Workbook can be read with or without also reading The Mindful Way Through Depression by the same authors. The exercises in this workbook are all based on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a strategy for overcoming depression that has been proven effective in a number of clinical trials worldwide. The carefully constructed workbook is meant to be completed in eight weeks, and promises to help overcome depression, anxiety, and stress.
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
While most self-improvement books on our list take on the challenge of providing helpful tools for overcoming depression, Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon is a little different. As its subtitle implies, this book studies depression from multiple perspectives: the intellectual, the historical, and the personal. Solomon, who suffers from depression and was awarded the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon, is at once encouraging and heartbreakingly honest as he dives into the roots of depression and the ways in which it is beaten.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
John J. Ratey, MD
You probably already know the positive benefits exercising has on your body, but did you know about the extensive benefits working out can have on your brain? John J. Ratey’s Spark goes into depth about all the ways in which activity and exercise can help one fight their depression and ease anxiety. Besides providing helpful tips, Ratey includes actual case studies in which aerobic exercise and mental conditions were biologically linked.
Straight Talk on Depression: Overcoming Emotional Battles with the Power of God’s Word!
If religion often presents answers that are comforting and helpful, then Straight Talk on Depression by Joyce Meyer may be just what you need. The bestselling Christian author offers helpful advice for overcoming depression, rejoicing in the things worth rejoicing over, and forgiving others in order to free ourselves from the things we often find troubling. Throughout the book, Meyer includes helpful scripture and anecdotes from her own battle with depression.
Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Healing for the Modern Plagues of Anxiety and Depression
In her book Tears to Triumph, bestselling author Marianne Williamson asserts that we as a culture have decided it is better to avoid facing pain. But instead of numbing, dismissing, or medicating our pain away, Williamson argues that we should fully face those things that make us upset or sad, and that by doing so, we can gain true healing and actually avoid serious mental illnesses such as depression.
Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You
Richard O’Connor, Ph.D.
Written by a practicing psychotherapist, Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor is straightforward, practical, and easy to follow and understand. As those with depression know well, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the things in life over which we have no control. But O’Connor suggests battling depression by focusing on the things over which we do have control: our habits. Throughout the book, O’Connor offers tips and techniques for readers to learn to change their habits to replace depression with positive mental health.
The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time
Alex Korb, Ph.D.
For many of those who seek out self-help books about depression, just learning about the neuroscience behind their thoughts and emotions can prove immensely helpful. Such information is exactly what a reader will find between the pages of The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb. He begins his book by acknowledging that while there isn’t one big solution to solving the issue of depression, there are a number of smaller steps that people can take to change their brain chemistry. Korb details a number of such steps, from relaxing specific muscles to spending more time in the sun.
You Are Not Alone: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey Through Depression
Feeling entirely alone in their battle is a common feeling among those suffering from depression. That common feeling is so powerful and prevalent, that including You Are Not Alone on our list of the best self-improvement books for those battling depression was an easy choice. The book is comprised entirely of conversations with people with depression. They share their stories, their triumphs, and their lowest moments. Over the course of the book, readers will realize that they are not alone in their depression, and that their feelings are completely valid.
You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way? New Help for Depression, Anxiety, and Addiction
Though it’s more than two decades old, Colette Dowling’s You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way is still one of the best books for people battling depression. Dowling challenges the common notion that depression is somehow linked to moral weakness or traumatic childhood experiences. Instead, she asserts, depression is the lack of serotonin in the brain. More informative than it is instructive, You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way? is a widely recommended read for those who have just been diagnosed with depression, or who are struggling to understand the medical reasons behind their depression.
By BCD Staff
Best Self-Help Books for Depression and Anxiety to Read Right Now
Depression and anxiety can be crippling. Anyone who suffers from either or both of these mental health disorders needs all the help they can get, whether it comes from friends, loved ones, professionals, or books. Of course, there is no replacement for in-person psychotherapy, but having a self-help book on your nightstand can help you in those moments when your therapist can’t be there. The best self-help books for depression and anxiety are additional tools you can use every day to help you manage mental illness.
Reason number one to read this book: there is a monkey on the cover. Other than that, this book by Daniel Smith recounts his personal experiences with anxiety in a humorous and relatable way. A bunch of scientific and medical terminologies and data won’t help a person feel better, but having a conversation can. That’s what it feels like reading Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety—talking to a friend.
Dr. David D. Burns has written extensively on the subject of mental illness. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy is a handbook for how to combat anxiety, depression, and other negative feelings and attitudes on a daily basis. Burns introduces his readers to tips for not only handling, but altering their mental state. He firmly believes in the power of changing one’s perspective and making the active choice to live a happier life. It’s also backed by research, so it is one of the more credible best self-help books for depression and anxiety.
The Anxiety Toolkit by Dr. Alice Boyes doesn’t just confront the symptoms of anxiety and depression, she tackles the causes. (Of course, clinical anxiety or panic disorder are the result of genetics, but the mindset and behavior that comes from that can be improved.) This book establishes perfectionism, fear of failure, self-criticism, and over-thinking as some of the core issues at the heart of anxiety. What follows is a guide on how to deal with those things and lessen your anxiety.
Again, if there’s a happy and mildly freaky red panda on the cover of a self-help book, how can you not want to read it? Since millions of people suffer from mental illness every day, there needs to be some room allowed for humor. People with anxiety and depression already have enough to worry and be serious about. Furiously Happy injects some laughter into the reader’s life, and you know what they say about laughter—it’s the best medicine. That’s what makes Jenny Lawson’s book one of the best self0help books for depression and anxiety.
Treating depression can’t be done with only one tool, but one of the most important tools there is for dealing with it is mindfulness. Books like this one, as well as various religions around the world, consider mindfulness to be critical to inner peace and happiness. This book also comes with a CD of guided meditations from author Jon Kabat-Zinn to help you calm your mind and turn the ideas presented in the book into practice.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from my therapist was to learn to “make friends” with my negative feelings. Often, people try their hardest to avoid confronting what makes them feel upset or angry. It’s not fun to deal with emotional pain. However, treating it like an enemy is only going to create more tension and struggle within yourself. Therefore, the best option is to make the effort to understand your negative feelings and welcome them; it’s OK to not be OK.
That’s precisely what Dan Ryckert offers in his book, Anxiety as an Ally. Someone who suffers from panic, he walks you through how he ended up making friends with his disorder and ultimately getting what he wanted out of life. This unique approach to helping his readers is what makes his memoir one of the best self-help books for depression and anxiety.
I told you Dr. David D. Burns was a prolific writer in this field of study. Aside from Feeling Good, he has also written a book on panic disorder called When Panic Attacks (get it?). In it, Burns outlines the types of thinking that are conducive to inducing panic attacks. Of course, this wouldn’t be a self-help book if he didn’t give you answers on how to uproot that kind of thinking and change your behavior.
Unlike some of the other best self-help books for depression and anxiety on this list, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is not a guide written by a medical expert. Rather, it is a reflection on life—both the author’s personal life and life in general—that keeps you company when you’re feeling down or like you’ve been thrown for a loop.
If you’re dealing with anxiety and depression, grab this title. This book is a meditation on tragedy and human suffering, and attempts to provide you with a friendly hand to hold when you’re going through hard times.
Like The Mindful Way Through Depression, The Illustrated Happiness Trap impresses upon the reader the importance of mindfulness in lessening anxiety and depression. What makes this self-help book stand out is its visual approach. So if you’re more of a visual learner, then this is a great pick for you. Visualization is also a key part of therapy, so it works on multiple levels.
The term “workbook” isn’t figurative here. This book is literally designed to help you work through your anxiety and depression step-by-step, almost like a math problem. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re someone who feels like they have zero direction, it can definitely be a great place to start. You can also use this book with someone else, like a friend, a partner, or a therapist.
Despite all of this collective knowledge and guidance, when a list of the best self-help books for depression and anxiety is said and done, there is still room for other types of help. Please be sure to research all of your treatment options thoroughly and consult a therapist or doctor if you feel like you have a serious mental illness.
13 Books That Shine a Light on Anxiety
Anxiety comes in many forms and can affect people in different ways. If you’re dealing with anxiety, you’re definitely not alone. It’s the most common mental health issue facing Americans. Anxiety affects 40 million adults, or 18 percent of the population.
Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, panic disorder, and specific phobias. Anyone who lives with anxiety knows it can have a direct effect on your quality of life. But the good news is that anxiety, in all its forms, is treatable. The most common treatments for anxiety are psychotherapy, learning stress management techniques, medication, and aerobic exercise. There’s no one-size-fits-all. You may find yourself combining several different techniques to manage symptoms.
Self-help books can be a good way for you to learn about new techniques or try things that’ve worked well for others. The books below offer a variety of constructive ways to tackle anxiety symptoms from different perspectives.
Author Barry McDonagh asks readers to “Dare” anxiety to do its worst. The book focuses on facing anxious thoughts and challenging them instead of feeding into them or trying to ignore them. McDonagh’s technique is based on scientific evidence and his 10 years of helping people with anxiety. The book also comes with a free app and audiobook to use for relaxation and anxiety relief.
Declutter Your Mind
You’ve heard how helpful decluttering your living space can be. “Declutter Your Mind” applies this same philosophy to your mental space, with the idea being that negative and anxious thoughts take up valuable mental real estate. The book focuses on teaching mindfulness techniques to allow you to be present in the moment and take control of your thought process.
Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety
If you’re not into traditional self-help books and want to tell anxiety to eff off, “Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety” is the read for you. The book’s philosophy is that reading a self-help book shouldn’t feel like a chore. In the book, author Robert Duff speaks candidly and weaves swearing and humor throughout the information and actionable tips.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
Facing anxiety takes work. But without a guide, many of us don’t know where to start. “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” is exactly what the title suggests. It’s a workbook designed to help you learn tools and skills to manage anxiety symptoms effectively. Written by a cognitive behavioral therapist, the workbook is based off of current clinical research on anxiety and its treatment.
The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution
An unhealthy diet can have effects on more than cholesterol and blood pressure. As “The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution” suggests, foods also impact brain chemistry and emotions. The book offers tips on how to eat more nutrients and reduce cravings. There are also lifestyle tips for how to reduce anxiety symptoms.
My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind
Anxiety can be a deeply personal experience, with so many people experiencing it in different ways. Author Scott Stossel draws on his own personal history with anxiety to explore the condition’s history. He also offers the opinions of scientists, philosophers, and other writers. In addition to recalling the many treatments — including some strange ones — that were developed to relieve anxiety, “My Age of Anxiety” also provides personal stories of people who’ve found success in controlling their symptoms.
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You
If others have described you as “too sensitive” or “too shy,” according to psychotherapist Elaine Aron, PhD, you might be a highly sensitive person. Aron’s book “The Highly Sensitive Person” is designed to help you recognize these traits and understand them to improve your life and personal relationships. Her perspective comes from a place of understanding, since Aron herself identifies as a highly sensitive person.
From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life
Panic attacks can leave you feeling powerless and out of control. In her book “From Panic to Power,” author Lucinda Bassett shares how she personally used techniques to fight back against anxiety and reclaim power over her life. She offers skills and methods to help you respond to anxious thoughts and negative self-talk.
Hope and Help for Your Nerves
The physical symptoms caused by anxiety may seem minor to people who’ve never experienced them. But to people who live with anxiety daily, they can make a big difference in quality of life. The late Dr. Claire Weekes drew on her years of treating patients with anxiety to offer step-by-step guidance. “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” teaches you techniques for analyzing and understanding your own anxiety so you can focus on regaining control.
At Last a Life
When you’re going through constant panic and anxiety, it can feel like you’ve lost your life and won’t ever get it back. Author Paul David wrote “At Last a Life” to share his story of recovery and provide hope for others that it’s possible to regain your life. The book is based on a combination of his personal story as well as research he’s done about anxiety.
When Panic Attacks
Anxious thoughts can be pretty deceitful. They’re not actually grounded in reality, but they feel so legitimate when you’re having them. “When Panic Attacks” aims to help you recognize the anxious thoughts and confront their lies. Author Dr. David Burns is a believer in treating anxiety without medication. He also shares the latest research on anxiety and depression medications and why he feels they may sometimes do more harm than good.
Panic Attacks Workbook: A Guided Program for Beating the Panic Trick
Panic attacks can be downright terrifying if you don’t know what’s happening. Even after you’ve become familiar with them, they can still make you feel out of control and helpless. The “Panic Attacks Workbook” is designed to help you understand panic attacks and break the cycle of anxious responses leading to them. It uses charts and worksheets to help you literally work through recovery.
The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven as one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. Dr. Aaron T. Beck, clinician-researcher, and David A. Clark, PhD, cognitive behavior therapy expert, have put the CBT techniques used by therapists into a workbook for you. “The Anxiety and Worry Workbook” offers tools to better understand and manage anxiety thoughts and triggers.
Best Self-Help Books for Mental Health and Anxiety
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Let’s be honest: We all periodically wrestle with anxiety and self-doubt. No matter the level of success we attain, our insecurities can easily take hold. If you find yourself continually battling negative feelings, you might think about consulting a self-help book. Sure, they’re not an instant cure or a replacement for therapy or treatment. But books can help provide invaluable insight and suggest effective techniques for improving your mindset.
What to Consider Before Buying
- Writer’s Credentials When choosing a self-help book, it’s always good to consider the author’s background. The best books tend to be written by individuals with advanced degrees who continually conduct research in their respective fields. Books published through academic presses are another strong indicator that you’ve made a good choice.
- Trustworthiness Be wary of books that make grand claims and proclamations. In other words, don’t trust writers who assert that they can revolutionize your life or solve all of your problems — in 30 days, no less!
- Scope The most effective self-help books often have a narrower scope, focusing on a few specific issues or ailments to provide a more in-depth understanding of the topics at hand. This also allows the author to offer more targeted advice.
- Scientific Evidence There’s no doubt that someone’s personal experiences and philosophies can be enlightening and help you navigate your own path. Nonetheless, the strongest advice is often bolstered by scientific evidence. This solidifies the veracity of the information and claims made by the writer.
- Techniques Proffered Most self-help books offer techniques for how readers can tackle their issues; just be sure this info is easy to follow and implement. Are the directions clear-cut? Is there a good way to track your progress? There’s no point in buying a book if you’ll never be able to apply the concepts to your own life.
- Resonance Choosing a self-help book is a personal, somewhat subjective experience. While there are a number of good options on the market, some books are bound to speak more to you (and your needs) than others. Get the one that resonates most with you, even if it’s not as well known. You’re much more likely to get something out of it.
- Reviews Sure, you should always take reviews with a proverbial grain of salt. Nevertheless, they can help you zero in on some great selections. If hundreds of people are singing the praises of a specific book or author, there’s a decent chance it might also appeal to you.
Here are our top picks:
Best Books on Overcoming Anxiety to Read
Anxiety disorders can make even the simplest everyday activities seem like an impossibility. And, if you don’t start taking care of your mental health, things will only get progressively worse over time. However, don’t think you are alone and there is nothing you can do about it. Millions of Americans are in a similar position, and there are things you can do to overcome anxiety.
There are many books on overcoming anxiety that can work wonders for you during your next panic attack, as well as generally improve your outlook and wellbeing. Books can offer a ton of subtle little tricks to help with anxiety. While you should definitely check in with some more qualified professionals, a great book list is a great place to start, and I’d highly recommend picking up any of the best books on overcoming anxiety.
David Burns has written one of the most widely read books on mental health and anxiety disorders. The key lesson Dr. Burn’s teaches is about dealing with negative emotions. Negative emotions tend to weight us down and make us feel lonely, and Feeling Good can help combat that.
The book can help sufferers deal with guilt and how to deal with mood swings, all things that make it one of the best books on overcoming anxiety. It also dives into cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, and how to implement them into your daily grind.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook is a practical guide to dealing with various anxiety disorders, and it’s one of the more noted books on overcoming anxiety. This book gives you a clear plan of attack when dealing with anxiety, as well as giving you plenty of treatment options to tailor to your specific symptoms.
Offering up plenty of coping techniques and easily implemented advice, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook will always be a great resource, and one of the classic texts on anxiety.
In this best-selling book, Jenny Lawson describes her lifelong battle with mental illness in hilarious detail that makes it easier for us all to talk about our own issues, easily one of the funniest books on overcoming anxiety. While it’s consistently hilarious, it still offers us some educational value, teaching us a great deal about mental health.
In addition, it’s a lot more readable than many books on this list, as it opts for everyday language and never gets too clinical.
This is one of the best books on overcoming anxiety because it helps you better understand your brain. It offers plenty of strategies on overcoming stress and keeping your anxiety at bay.
Wehrenberg helps you understand the causes, and it offers you techniques to try instead of needing to get hooked on anxiety medication. The best part about this book as the strategies can be tried immediately, so it can really help with a bad panic attack or negative thoughts.
Dare is one of the most motivational out of the best books on overcoming anxiety. If you are feeling really low and lost lately, this book can offer and quick boost and help you right the ship.
If you suffer from debilitating anxiety, this book by Barry McDonagh can be a real life saver. McDonagh draws from a lifelong of his own anxiety, which better helps him relate to the reader.
Most people get overwhelmed every so often, but the highly sensitive person (which correlates pretty closely with anxiety) feels overwhelmed all the time—even by the easiest of tasks. Anything from bright lights to large crowds can trigger attacks, and this great book by Elaine Aron can make it easier to cope.
It can help you lead a more balanced life once you better understand the overstimulation around you, and it’s one of the best books on overcoming anxiety out there.
If you’re interested in neuroscience and want to know exactly what is going on in the brain during a panic attack, this book can help you do that without a PhD. With science, you can stop these feelings of panic and worry before they start, and the process is known as rewiring the brain.
While there are plenty of books like this, most of them go way off into the weeds scientifically, instead of giving regular people something they can use like this one does. The habits learned inside its pages can help you reshape your life.
Hyperbole and a Half is one of the most surprisingly effective books on overcoming anxiety. It mixes in a lot of humor and illustrations while saying something meaningful about anxiety and depression.
It’s very insightful and relatable, and the way Allie Brosh captures complex emotions into simple drawings is pretty amazing. This book won’t say anything sufferers haven’t already heard from more authoritative sources, but it will say it a bit differently.
John Franz book takes a more holistic approach at overcoming anxiety, and he steers the reader sway from medication at all costs. He offers up some natural cures for dealing with anxiety, something that is worth looking into before trying drugs.
Combined with other remedies, this book can be quite useful when combating your anxiety. It talks about essential oils, herbal teas, butters, and bath salts. If you are seriously struggling, these are things that are clearly worth trying.
Finally, this is one of the best books on overcoming anxiety because it touches on all the important aspects of coping with the disorder. He brings in scientists and philosophers to help get a better understanding of the history of anxiety, and what you can do to find peace of mind.
It will help give you the tools for dealing with triggers and negative emotions that cause full blown anxiety attacks. It gets into both alternative forms of treatment and traditional medicines, and it covers all the basics of living with anxiety with a great deal of humanity.
Anxiety can be a debilitating and all-consuming mental illness, and self-help books can be a huge help in learning how to rewire your brain and alleviate your intrusive thoughts. This is a list of the best self-help books for anxiety, keeping in mind that the best thing to do when you’re struggling with your mental health is seeing a doctor. These books are for a pick-me up, rather than providing a set-in-stone cure.
With that being said, when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, reading about people who suffered with similar issues while I was getting to grips with psychiatric and therapeutic treatment was incredibly validating and helpful. Sometimes, anxiety got in the way of reading which was incredibly frustrating (if this is you, here are some tips on how to deal with that) but I always found that if I could see my feelings in the book I was reading, along with some guidelines on how to make myself feel better, I was able to focus more.
This list is a mixture of books I found helpful in my own journey of grappling with anxiety through pratical advice and books that would snap me out of disassociation by reminding me these feelings are common and can be negotiated.
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Brené Brown doens’t talk about anxiety specifically, but her writing about vulnerability and being afraid to fail really spoke to me. I realized a lot of my anxiety was due to the stories I tell myself, rather than the reality I am dealing with (intrusive thoughts, anyone?). Her other books, Daring Greatly and Braving the Wilderness are also eye-opening.
Presence by Amy Cuddy
This one is more about becoming more functional while your brain is all over the place. Cuddy talks about her own experiences and how she overcame anxiety through presence. It’s a practical, yet empathetic guide to improve yourself even through mental blocks.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhymes
I think it’s really important to read perspectives of people who have been there and have succeeded through it all. Rhymes talks about her anxiety disorder and discusses ways to cope in her memoir.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron
One of the impact anxiety had on my life was finding out I am a highly sensitive person–and that highly sensitive people are more prone to mental illness. This book really resonated with me and explained a lot of my behavior and reactions that sometimes seemed disproportionate. This book also contains some coping mechanisms, but never underestimate the power of being able to name why you feel a certain way.
The Generalized Anxiety Disorder Workbook: A Comprehensive CBT Guide for Coping with Uncertainty, Worry, and Fear by Melisa Robichaud PhD
I have found workbooks generally helpful to rewire my brain and train myself to reject or stop intrusive thoughts. Warning: it’s difficult and it’s different for each person, so don’t take this as your only form of therapy.
Women in Clothes by Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, Sheila Heti
Sometimes, my anxiety is linked to how I see my body and my self-esteem. This book is part memoir, part field-study and includes a myriad of women’s thoughts about bodies, self-esteem and mental illness. It’s not specifically for anxiety–but it could address some of the issues lying underneath your mental illness.
One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth by Iyanla Vazant
This is a good book for chaotic people (like me) because it includes daily practices to structure your healing time. I am a fan of this kind of thing because I can often forget to meditate and having a daily task to do is easier than deciding for myself what meditation is more appropriate for my mood.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Lawson writes about her lifelong battles with her mental illness (anxiety and depression) but still embracing happiness despite it.
Hardcore Self-Help: F*ck Anxiety by Robert Duff
This book is full of no-bullshit coping mechanisms. The tone is conversational and amicable, so it can be a comforting read, as well as a practically useful one.
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Jamison
A personal account of struggles against mental illness and the journey to available treatments.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
I don’t know about anyone else but Cheryl Strayed’s writing really soothes me. She has a way of breaking down problems into digestible pieces and making everything seem simple. It’s one of the best self-help books for anxiety, and will help you understand how much we all struggle–it will make you feel less alone.
Mind Over Mood: Change the Way You Feel By Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A Padesky
This is another workbook that challenges you to rewire your brain. Questionnaires will help you identify and track your mood changes, and instructions will lead you step-by-step on how to improve your mood and your life.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby is brutally honest and laugh-out-loud hilarious about her struggles with anxiety. Reading this book really helped me to start laughing at my anxiety–and surprisingly, laughing at how silly my intrusive thoughts are deprived them of power. Irby is one of my favorite writers and I can’t recommend this book enough.
What do you think are the best self-help books for anxiety?
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5 Best Books for Dealing with Anxiety and Depression
Depression blows. Anxiety isn’t any fun either. And perhaps the only thing worse than the well-intentioned friends and family who implore you to just “get over it” or advise you to “keep your head up” is the fact that there are approximately 3,102 crappy books out there promising to wave a little wand and sprinkle fairy dust in your ass, and everything will instantly be better.
In my experience, the best books on dealing with anxiety and depression are the best because they are honest about the situation. There is this thing that sucks, and you’re not going to magically make it go away. You have to deal with it, engage it, wrestle with it a bit and become stronger in the face of it.
I get hundreds of emails every month from people who struggle primarily with anxiety and depression. Many of them are looking for a solution or a piece of wisdom or advice. Unfortunately, the only thing I’m qualified to send them is this new care bear emoji I got on my phone. And that’s probably not a long-term solution for them.
So instead, I will send them here, to these books.
I’ve read a lot of books about anxiety and depression over the years and these are some of the best ones I’ve come across. They’re way more qualified than I am to help you through whatever suckage you’re experiencing. And this way, when nothing works and the world is still a steaming pile of dogshit, you can blame them and not me.
Books about mental health come in three flavors:
- Greater Understanding/Research – These are books that explain what the latest research suggests that’s happening in your life/brain and what the most effective treatments may be. Building your understanding and knowledge about your problem can often be enough so that you can take care of it from there.
- Feeling Less Alone – These books are written primarily to inspire hope. Usually, the author has suffered from the same problem as you, except that their situation was orders of magnitude worse than yours. This has the double-whammy effect of a) reassuring you that you’re not the only one to go through shit like this, and b) that there is hope — if this guy/girl made it, so can you. “Feeling Less Alone” books tend to be the most emotionally powerful (and best-written) of the three flavors.
- Exercises/Actions – I’m personally not a huge fan of books that want you to take out a sheet of paper every other page and write a bunch of crap down. But I know some people are. And I know that some of these exercises can be highly effective. And if the exercises are well-done (usually constructed by a therapist/psychiatrist with tons of experience) you can get good results from these books.
All three flavors can be more/less useful given the situation/personality/tastes of the reader. That’s why I’ve specified the type for each book below.
One last statement before we get to the books. Why anxiety and depression together? Well, because they often occur together. In fact, they occur so often together that people will mistake one for the other. A close friend of mine recently spent the better part of a year constantly complaining of anxiety and stress, and upon a couple months of therapy, discovered that she had actually been deeply depressed. Similarly, I felt depressed for a brief period at the beginning of this year and looking back, it turns out I was incredibly anxious about something in my life and the feelings of lethargy/meaninglessness were merely my ways of escaping that anxiety.
So anxiety and depression are like two peas in a pod. Sonny and Cher. Bonnie and Clyde. Piss and vinegar. They’re a package deal. Much of what you’ll get from these books is an understanding between the two and recognizing when one or the other takes over.
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
Focuses on: Depression
Type(s): Feeling Less Alone and Greater Understanding/Research
Solomon calls his book “An Atlas of Depression” and once you’ve covered about half of the 688 pages, you start to realize why: this is everything you would ever want to know about depression—the personal experience of it, the medical experience of it, the pharmacological treatments, the history of it, the cultural interpretations of it, and of course, Solomon’s own struggles with it. The book is a lot to take in. What carries the book, though, is the combination of how well-written it is, along with the shocking severity of Solomon’s own story.
I’m going to be honest. I’ve been reading about depression and mental health for many years. I’ve even suffered from some mild depressive episodes myself. I had no idea the depths this thing can reach. This is the only book I’ve ever read that makes me understand why a person might choose to end their own life.
Reading Noonday Demon changed a number of my attitudes and assumptions that I’ve had about not just depression, but antidepressants, therapy, and mental health. Had I read it while depressed myself, it would have surely given me more hope for my own situation, as well as helped me navigate getting myself out of it.
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson
Focuses on: Anxiety
Type(s): Feeling Less Alone and Greater Understanding/Research
I loved this book but I don’t think everyone will. This is mostly due to Wilson’s writing style and, I suppose, the way her brain works. Like a chronically anxious person, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful is frenetic and at times, overly-energetic, leaping from story to story, back ten years to ahead five years to childhood to imagined old age, from personal disaster to scientific research to that thing my meditation teacher told me that, by the way, totally didn’t work, but hey, it’s funny now, looking back.
I enjoyed it because my brain (and writing) sometimes operates in the same way. But I’ve seen reviews online from anxious people who have commented that the book actually made them more anxious, just by reading it. Obviously, that’s not the goal.
But all of that aside, I think this book is the best demonstration of what it is to actually live with severe anxiety and still find a way to function and thrive in one’s life. Wilson has suffered from bipolar disorder, eating disorders, manic episodes, and intermittent depression. But the anxiety has always been there. Intensely there. And she’s somehow leveraged it to get her places. I’ve always argued that the key to anxiety is not getting rid of it but merely directing it in more productive ways. The heart of First, We Make the Beast Beautiful is the same argument, demonstrated through a vibrant (and slightly crazy) life that is unlike anything else I’ve quite come across before.
(Note: This book is not out yet in some countries.)
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns
Focuses on: Both
Godwin’s Law famously states that the longer any internet discussion continues, the probability of someone being compared to Hitler approaches 100%. Well, in my experience, the longer an internet discussion about depression, anxiety, or any other mental health problem goes on, the probability that Feeling Good gets recommended to them also approaches 100%. I see this book mentioned everywhere.
That’s because if you were going to write a comprehensive, “This is what three months with a CBT therapist would be like,” book, full of enough exercises to fill a small notebook, you’d have Feeling Good. Burns has done a fantastic job of essentially writing the closest replacement to a real therapist, and as a result, pretty much any time I come across someone who needs a therapist but can’t get one for some reason, this book is the insta-recommendation.
The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living by Russ Harris
Focuses on: Both
Type(s): Greater Understanding/Research and Exercises/Action
I love this book. It was quite influential on me when I read it years and years ago and I was upset recently to find out that I had inadvertently ripped off one of the exercises in it in my Self-Knowledge PDF (it has since been fixed and credited appropriately).
Harris is probably the most visible proponent of something called ACT or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT is a relatively new form of therapy that argues that the key to dealing with depression, anxiety, or addiction is to not necessarily to remove bad feelings, but rather to develop mental tools and habits to simply weather them more effectively. Whereas CBT is focused on channeling pain and suffering into more productive interpretations and actions, ACT just says fuck it, bad feelings are bad feelings and they don’t necessarily have to mean anything at all if we don’t let them. To me, ACT is one of a number of more recent developments in psychology that incorporates some of the benefits of mindfulness, with a zest of eastern philosophy thrown in.
The Happiness Trap is also one of the most approachable and enjoyable psych reads out there. The writing is clear and fun, and the exercises are engaging. In my opinion, the best pop psychology books bring some humor and humanity to the subject, and this is one of the few books that pulls that off really well.
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff
Focuses on: Both
Type(s): Greater Understanding/Research and Exercises/Action
In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (yes, I had to find a way to plug my own shit here), I made the point that true self-esteem can’t be a measure of how someone feels about their successes, it must be a measure of how we feel about our failures.
This isn’t a terribly original idea. People have been shitting on self-esteem for a couple decades now. But Neff is the first psychologist to conceptualize an alternative metric for self-esteem: self-compassion.
People with self-compassion can weather failures, can forgive themselves for screwing up, can accept their insecurities and flaws and try despite them
Ignore the cheesiness of the title here. Self-compassion is the answer to every time you’ve ever heard someone say, “hey, don’t be so hard on yourself,” without any explanation of how to not be so hard on yourself. Neff has not only proposed this as a more effective measurement of psychological health than self-esteem but she’s also done research into how we get there. How do we cultivate self-compassion? How do we forgive ourselves for fucking up, for not living up to what we want from ourselves, for having failures and down moments and days where nothing seems to go right?
Like many pop psychology books, her examples and anecdotes are sometimes cliche-ridden, but the central idea is important enough that this book is still worth a read if you are the insanely self-critical type.
How to Know Who You Really Are
We all think we know ourselves well, but psychological studies show otherwise. In fact, most of us are somewhat deluded about ourselves. I put together a 22-page ebook explaining how we can come to know ourselves better, just fill out your email in the form.
If your stomach does backflips just thinking about walking into a room full of strangers (it me!), you may be one of the millions of Americans dealing with social anxiety disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social anxiety is “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others”—to the point where it starts to affect your everyday life. It can be easy to write off those nerves as typical shyness, but if you’re experiencing physical symptoms, or making life decisions based on whether you’ll have to interact with people, there’s probably something bigger at work.
Fifteen million American adults suffer from social anxiety disorder (that’s nearly seven percent of the U.S. population), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). And per the ADAA, over a third of people who have it say they dealt with the symptoms for 10 years or more before seeking help.
The good news: With treatment, social anxiety can be completely manageable. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be especially effective at breaking the negative thought patterns that cause you to doubt yourself around others, and if needed, medication can help alleviate some of your worst symptoms.
In the meantime, if you’re hoping to learn more about your (or a loved one’s) social anxiety—and pick up some additional techniques for addressing it—these top-rated social anxiety books are a great place to start. They’re not a replacement for therapy, but they can be a helpful additional tool for you to have in your arsenal.
1. If you’re not sure where to start: Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step By Step, by Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D.
Written by a leader in the field—who started the Social Anxiety Institute after suffering from it himself—this book is a great starting point for anyone feeling totally overwhelmed with their symptoms. As the title implies, Dr. Richards’s tome is more of a workbook—every page consists of a different assignment or strategy to get you thinking about your interactions with people in a more rational way. One enthusiastic Amazon reviewer wrote that they wish “someone told me to read this eons ago. It can set you free from a bunch of crap.” (Social anxiety or no, isn’t a crap-free existence what we’re all really after?)
2. If you’re looking for super-practical advice: Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness, by Dr. Gillian Butler
Dr. Butler, who works for the UK’s National Health Service, lays out an easy-to-follow, self-help program for facing your anxiety. Comb through the book’s glowing reviews and a pattern emerges: People describe it as “life-changing” and appreciate the action items Dr. Butler prescribes. “It’s not just ‘take risks and be social,’” one reviewer says, “but really practical tips.”
3. If you want to be a better leader: The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, by Olivia Fox Cabane
That friend who seems to light up a room whenever she enters it? The coworker who immediately puts everybody at ease during meetings? You too can learn to be like them, Cabane argues. Drawing on tons of research across a variety of disciplines, the Fortune 500 executive coach demonstrates that charisma isn’t innate—it’s a skill you can cultivate by making small changes to your behavior, but more importantly, by changing the negative thought patterns that keep you from feeling confident around others. “It’s so good that I have recommended it to several of my colleagues and it has already changed the way I manage my team and relate to my coworkers,” said one reviewer about the book.
4. If self-love is your biggest goal in 2019: How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, by Dr. Ellen Hendriksen
That voice telling you you’ll never be funny/interesting/smart enough can be deafening when you’re dealing with social anxiety. Dr. Hendriksen’s approach focuses on reprogramming—or at least learning to ignore—your inner naysayer and practice self-compassion instead. Throughout the book, the psychologist and podcast host is candid about her own struggles with social anxiety, which makes her writing feel “like getting good advice from a friend,” as one Amazon reviewer puts it.
5. If you want something more radical: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson
Manson’s book isn’t about social anxiety per se, but the main takeaway is that you should stop wasting time and energy on the stuff that doesn’t matter—for example, what the friend’s cousin’s friend you talked to for five minutes at that party thought of you—and instead, give a f*ck about the things that actually matter (what you think of you). Manson himself has struggled with social anxiety, which makes his advice feel especially relevant to those of us who care way too much about what other people think. As he put it in a 2016 interview, “I think people with social anxiety tend to create a fantasy in their head where everyone around them is this confident, badass person, and they’re not … everyone feels the same nerves and awkwardness around people they don’t know — it’s just that most people don’t judge themselves for it.”
6. If you like things served with humor: We’re All Mad Here: The No-Nonsense Guide to Living With Social Anxiety, by Claire Eastham
Eastham, a beloved British blogger and author, mixes humor and in-depth research with #realtalk about her own anxiety, making it a great (and approachable) pick for somebody just starting to come to grips with their mental health struggles. One reviewer wrote that after finishing, he immediately went back and started again: “It’s brutally honest, funny and educating. It gave me a better insight into the struggles I have myself and the struggles of others.”
You might not ever be 100 percent confident around other people, but with these titles on your shelf and a regular appointment with a therapist on the calendar, you’ll have the tools you need to show your inner critic (and that knot in your stomach) who’s boss.
For more intel on social anxiety, check out some of its most common triggers. And here’s how to network with confidence—social anxiety be damned.
7 best self-care books: From moving memoirs to practical pocket guides
Self-care has often been dismissed as a millennial fad – but these books promote the idea that looking after your wellbeing is sensible rather than selfish. And for those who suffer with mental health issues, it’s essential.
“Self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can be very useful in helping us manage the symptoms of many mental health problems,” says Rachel Boyd from mental health charity Mind.
“They can even help to prevent them developing in the first place. Taking regular exercise, for example, particularly outdoors, can be as effective as antidepressants in treating issues like mild depression or anxiety.”
Boyd adds that: “It’s important to see self-care as complementary to mental health services, like a course of talking therapy, rather than as a substitute for them.”
These self-care books range from moving memoirs with handy tips woven throughout to practical pocket guides filled with interactive exercises.
Each begin with their own definitions of “self-care”, but all agree that learning to listen to your own needs will ultimately help you become healthier and happier.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
‘Remember This When You’re Sad: Lessons Learned on the Road from Self-Harm to Self-Care’ by Maggy van Eijk, published by Lagom: £6.47, WHSmith
Funny, irreverent and unflinchingly honest, Remember This When You’re Sad is both a memoir and a vital self-care manual. Writer and social-media editor Van Eijk, in her own words, turns her brain “inside out” on the page. She shares her own story of lifetime suffering with mental-health issues – including depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder – and pairs it with pragmatic advice for those facing similar issues.
The book is divided into 15 digestible chapters with to-the-point heads, such as “remember this when you’re scared of your own brain” and “remember this when you can’t stand your own body”. What follows is razor-sharp prose that reads like advice and anecdotes from a trusted friend.
Van Eijk tackles traumatic incidents from her own past, such as the time she badly burnt her forearm with cigarettes, with lightness and even humour. A self-professed lover of lists, she punctures the prose with bulleted sections designed to help the reader take better care of themselves. Themes include “things you could do instead of self harm” and “not-so-cringeworthy mantras that help me”. A raw and comforting read.
‘The Self-Care Project: How To Let Go Of Frazzle And Make Time For You’ by Jayne Hardy, published by Orion Spring: £9.35, Amazon
The Self-Care Project busts the myth that self-care is “selfish”, presenting it instead as imperative for our overall health, happiness and wellbeing. It’s written by someone who knows firsthand the impact of neglecting self-care. Jayne Hardy is the founder and CEO of mental-health charity The Blurt Foundation and depression, as she writes in an early chapter, “gobbled up most of her twenties”. It was being unable to undertake “the most basic acts of self-care” – she lost a molar as she “didn’t feel worthy enough” to brush her teeth – that led Hardy to set up her foundation and ultimately write this self-care handbook.
In its essence, Hardy writes, self-care is about taking responsibility for yourself. That means being “hyper-aware” of how you feel and making choices accordingly. In 10 practical chapters, Hardy offers straightforward advice on how to assess your own needs and build self-care into an already busy schedule – tips range from changing your relationship with your phone to creating the ultimate “comfort retreat”. Each chapter concludes with an interactive exercise that helps you unpack what self-care means to you, from writing down your fears to listing things that comfort you on “lemon-pelting days”. You should finish the book with a better understanding of your own wants, needs and boundaries.
‘Take A Moment: Activities to Refocus, Recentre And Relax Wherever You Are’ in partnership with Mind and Michael O’Mara: £9.99, Waterstones
Described as a “self-care companion”, this colourful guide was created in partnership with mental health charity Mind, and all the proceeds go to the organisation.
Affirming quotes are peppered throughout, including Aristotle’s “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. This sets the tone of the book, which is about developing your own methods for managing stress and anxiety – or discovering “simple everyday things you could do to care for yourself”.
The book begins with breathing practices, and encourages you to write down any niggling thoughts and feelings early on, so you can focus on the activities that follow. From here, exercises include physical ones, such as a “body scan” and stretching routines, plus creative tasks that encourage things like doodling. There are also pages dedicated to dealing with panic attacks and those that help break down a daunting task, be it applying for a new job or simply leaving the house. Designed for use on the go, it easily slips into a handbag or rucksack too. A practical and accessible guide to self-care.
‘Self-Care For The Real World: Practical Self-care Advice For Everyday Life’ by Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips, published by Hutchinson: £16.99, Waterstones
Written by sisters and seasoned wellness pioneers Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips, Self-Care For The Real World is a deep dive into doing your best for yourself whatever your circumstances. Despite their own personal brand, the sisters dismiss early on that self-care is something solely for “wellness influencers”. What it is, they say, is “learning to look after your own self as you would a child or a very dear friend – with love, kindness and patience”. They also unpick the idea that self-care is about “retreating from the world” – instead, they write, it’s about “being switched on, fully present and engaged in your life”.
The book, which is clean and minimalist in its design, is broken down into easily absorbed, instructive heads: expect sections such as “self-care for social media” and “what to do when you’re heartbroken”. The tone is didactic but unpatronising, friendly yet not overfamiliar, and as well as written-through advice there are recipes, bright photography, yoga flows and bulleted sections such as the “Stay-well travel guide”. It’s a thoughtful street map to self-care that will also look beautiful on your shelf.
‘The Little Book of Self-Care by’ Mel Noakes, published by Ebury Press: £5.75, Amazon
Pretty and pocket-sized, The Little Book of Self-Care crams an impressive amount of information into some 200 pages. Mel Noakes, an NLP practitioner who has gained recognition as the Self Care Coach, begins with her personal story: she suffered with an eating disorder, low self-esteem and a “fundamental lack of self-care”, before she finally learned how best to look after herself.
The book’s core is split into three parts – “mind”, “body” and “life” – and Noakes advises that the reader dips in and out of the book, testing various tips and figuring out which ones sit best with them. The Mind section is about retraining your thoughts, from managing your inner critic through a series of questions to using positive affirmations. The “body” chapter shares easy-to-follow guidance for mindful eating and for building physical activity into your everyday. The “life” section shares advice for nurturing friendships and seeking out nature.
A “self-care takeaway tips” box at the end of each section helps package the chapter up nicely and the self-care “toolkit” in the book’s final pages offers information on mental health organisations and more. It’s a clear, concise, convenient guide, ideal for those just getting to grips with the idea of self-care.
‘The Self-Care Revolution: Smart Habits and Simple Practices To Allow You To Flourish’ by Suzy Reading, published by Hachette: £9.35, WHSmith
Suzy Reading, psychologist, yoga teacher and author of this comprehensive self-care guide, wastes little time in her opener. The reader is plunged immediately into a visceral description of Reading’s experience as she struggled with postnatal depression, exhaustion and grief for her desperately ill father. This personal narrative provides firm grounding for the informative, research-backed guide to self-care that follows – the long list of references at the book’s end is testament to the author’s groundwork.
Reading first discovered the term “self-care” when working with a counsellor for postnatal depression. She describes it as “any life-giving activity that restores, sustains or improves your health” and even deems it “proactive healthcare”. The Self-Care Revolution is intended as a “tonic” for the reader, Reading says – and that it is.
Reading strikes an inclusive tone as she introduces the concept of the “vitality wheel”, which the book is focused around. The wheel comprises “eight avenues of nourishment” (including sleep, rest, relaxation and breathing; movement and nutrition and coping skills) and each chapter deals with a single spoke in this self-care wheel.
Colourful diagrams and bulleted sections make the sage and straightforward advice on managing time, creating a nourishing physical space and boosting your mood even easier to take in. A smart, well-presented self-care textbook.
S’peak Your Truth, Heal Your Heart: The Broken Girl’s Guide to Radical Self-Care by Christy Abram’, published by BGW Publishing: £10.31, Amazon
Christy Abram is the founder of Brown Girls Write, a “self-care initiative” that encourages women of colour to share their stories. Abram shares her own in Speak Your Truth, Heal Your Heart, a straight-talking and uncensored presentation of the abuse and neglect that led Abram to a deep depression.
In laying bare her own struggles, Abram reveals ways that other trauma survivors can begin to heal through a process of self-care. Concrete tips include creating a “worry jar”, learning to recognise your own triggers and finally making an actionable self-care plan. The latter involves identifying your “discomforts” and choosing activities that counter them (be it meeting up with a friend or listening to a particular song) – you can then draw on items from your “self-directed” plan in times of particular need.
Journal prompts throughout the book help the reader tailor Abram’s teachings to their own needs: you’ll be invited to write a letter to your inner critic, and recognise your passions and dreams. It’s not always a comfortable read, but it’s certainly a galvanising one.
The verdict: Self-care books
The seamless way Maggy Van Eijk balances her intense personal experience with clear and thoughtful self-care advice makes Remember This When You’re Sad a winner. If you’re after a more pared-back guide to self-care, the expertly curated exercises in Mind’s Take A Momentshould be your pick.
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