Tis the season for starting fresh and setting goals. What better time, than the beginning of a new decade, am I right?
With mental health being a hot button topic these days, self-help books are a dime a dozen. So how do you know where to start?
Two years ago I hit rock bottom. I knew I needed to make some changes and fast. Maybe this is true for you too, but when I used to have particularly bad days, I would often sit in bed at night and Google ways to help myself. I almost never followed through with any of it, but it meant when I finally decided to get my shit together, I already had a lot of resources at my disposal.
Therapy has never been my thing. I’ve tried a number of times over the years and was disappointed by every experience. It can take a long time to find a therapist you connect with, and even longer if you don’t have benefits and are relying on OHIP covered services.
The same can be said of SSRIs, it often takes months or years of trial and error to find the right balance for you. I quickly lost patience with both of these methods and decided this time, I was going to do the work myself, the only way I knew how: which was to read.
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
by: Eckhart Tolle
This is the first book I read when I decided to change my life. Many people start with Tolle’s first book, The Power of Now. I’ve read both, but I find this one is more accessible to those who might not fully be on the spiritual awareness bandwagon.
I have the audiobook saved to my phone and listen to it often, when I need to get grounded or find myself falling back into negative thought cycles.
According to Tolle, the root of humanity’s problem is our inability to dis-identify with the voice in our head— the ego. We assume the constant chatter and thoughts are us, when really we are separate from the voice and the being who is aware of it.
We are the awareness.
He proves this point by suggesting you cannot think and be aware of your breath at the same time. I use this technique often when I feel my thoughts running away from me.
Tolle uses real life examples and interpretations of traditional religion to explain this concept and how we can overcome it to become a higher, more ideal race of people. He professes the sickness of our current society is a direct reflection of the sickness of the ego-driven individual. By removing the elements of “I” and “Me” from the equation, events and circumstances become less personal, things are not good or bad, they simply are.
When we do not take the actions of others or life’s circumstances personally, anger, jealousy and unhappiness are eradicated. Preoccupation with the past or future is at the root of discontent. Tolle explains how to exist fully in the present and achieve a higher state of consciousness which in turn improves all areas of your life.
If you have any interest in meditation, eastern religion or new age theory, this book will appeal to you. But I think it is an important book for anyone who wants to become more present in their life and conquer their negative thoughts.
Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals
By: Rachel Hollis
If you haven’t already read this one, you’ve probably heard of it. Rachel Hollis has taken the women’s empowerment sphere by storm with her books, coaching, conferences and podcast. And there’s a good reason for it: her writing is conversational and her advice is straightforward.
Her approach in all things is, if I can do it so can you. And as she will remind you multiple times, she came from a go-nowhere hick town, her parents had no money and she didn’t go to college. There is an element of bragging in her work that I sometimes find irritating, but if you can get past this, she knows what she’s talking about. She DID build a multi-million dollar media company and write two best sellers after all.
Show up, do the work, and shut out the haters is essentially the message here. And she’ll tell you exactly what behaviours and skills you’ll need to move forward. But leave your excuses at the door, because if she can do it with four kids… well you know.
For her part, Rachel’s work really hits home with moms, especially moms who want to start a side hustle.
If you have a big dream or goal you’ve been sitting on for years and are looking for some tough love to get you off the couch, this could be the book for you.
And if you aren’t sure about buying, Rachel has most chapters of both her books available to listen to for free on her RISE podcast!
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
By: Jen Sincero
Jen Sincero is another familiar rags to riches story; in her 40s she was still living in a tiny apartment above a garage eating cheap noodles when she decided to finally get her shit together.
Jen’s MO is risk-taking. In her world, you have to play big to win big. Her bravado gives me anxiety at times, like watching someone bungee jump off a bridge. You wonder, could I do that too? Jen certainly thinks you should.
If you have trouble moving out of your comfort zone and have been playing it safe in life, much to your own misery, this book might be a good fit. Jen is the outgoing friend who drags you to a party and lines up four tequila shots in front of you before 9 p.m.
Analogies aside, this book is a really fun read and will get you thinking about what would happen if you threw caution to the wind and just went for it. She’ll help you identify the beliefs at the root of your self sabotage and provide tangible steps to go from ramen to riches.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
By: Mark Manson
If you’re sick of hearing about self-care on social media, but still want to change your life, Manson serves up a heady dose of anti-positivity Kool-Aid in this witty tomb. Manson rejects ‘feel-good’ sentiment right off the hop and states the obvious: everything is fucked and you’re going to have to deal with a lot of shit in your lifetime, whether it’s fair not not.
Like a slap in the face from a well-intentioned friend, Manson urges you to wake up, stop whining and show up for your own life, even if it scares the hell out of you.
Despite the book’s title, Manson isn’t encouraging you to stop giving a f*ck about everything, but decide what is most important to you, shift your focus to those areas, give them your all, and stop worrying what other people may think.
His blunt sense of humour will appeal to guys in a way a lot of other self-help books don’t. That isn’t to say girls won’t enjoy it too, I definitely did. But if you don’t like swearing or toilet humour, best to steer clear. I will also note, though his vibe says immature frat boy, Manson is highly intelligent and well read. He majored in Philosophy, and there is a strong current of well-researched information cutting through his books and blog. This is a really fun introduction to the self-help genre.
The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence
By: Deepak Chopra
If you’re someone who is interested in the New Age theory, but prefers a science-based explanation, this could be a good fit.
In this book, Chopra uses theories of quantum physics to explain the power of coincidence, and how you can use it to make drastic changes in your life.
Have you ever been thinking about how you should text a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, and they message you? Or go to the grocery store looking for a particular item, only to find it’s on sale? This strange phenomenon, as they say, is no coincidence at all. Chopra states we can actually harness this power and make it work in our favour.
The word ‘coincidence’ itself means ‘happening at the same time.’
The theory goes, there is another layer of existence we are able to tap into, where everything (past, present and future) exist simultaneously. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘universal intelligence‘- a place where every solution, every creative endeavour, every possibility lies waiting to be accessed.
By becoming more aware of the clues the universe is sending to us and focusing our attention on our specific desires, we can tap into this power, achieve our wildest dreams and attract good fortune into our lives.
Definitely a good pick if you’re a fan of The Secret or want to learn more about the Law of Attraction.
Man’s Search For Meaning
By: Vicktor E. Frankl
This may be the least approachable book on the list because it was written in the 1940s and deals with mental health in the context of Nazi death camps; a situation far-removed from our millennial plight. You won’t find catchy click bait phrases, swearing or jokes here. Despite this, its goal is not to diminish modern depression and the unattainability of happiness, but instead to demonstrate happiness is ultimately the choice of the individual and your attitude in any given situation, no matter how dire, is always under your control.
You can be stripped of your title, dignity, family and clothing, but you always reserve the right to choose how you feel and act as a result- no one can take that from you.
Farnkl suggests this principle made the difference in many cases between those who survived the concentration camp and those who did not; those who were broken by the experience when they returned to normal life after the war, and those who were able to move on. Another interpretation of the Buddhist sentiment that pain is unavoidable, but suffering is a choice.
If you enjoy memoirs, historical accounts or deeper exploration of the human psyche, this may be the book for you. Personally I think everyone should give this book a try at some point in their lifetime.