Mental Health Reading List

There is no doubt that reading can be a relaxing pass time.  It’s also a great way to expand your knowledge.  Walk into any bookstore now and you’ll see the self-help section is on fire.

But, with so many so-called self-help books to choose from it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  I’m a big believe in quality over quantity so here are a few of my favourites.

It’s also important not to get stuck on a never-ending journey of trying to fix oneself.  But the problem with having too many skills is it becomes more difficult to pick the right tool to use in a situation.

Like Batman, who fits all his tools on a single utility belt – a few useful tools is all we need.

The Happiness Trap

Dr Russ Harris

The Happiness Trap is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, but presents it in a general non-clinical manner to the reader.

The main premise of the book is about teaching acceptance – that is the opposite of struggle.  Life is full of painful experiences and emotions that are often out of our control.

Relationships, sickness, grief, loss of job and many more experiences that no doubt create so-called negative feelings.

The problem with negative feelings is there’s a stigma around them.  They’re negative, after all.  We don’t like them and we don’t want them so we try and push them away.

Drugs, alcohol, binge eating, unhealthy television addictions and other coping mechanisms that don’t really help us in the long term.

Also, while we are living part-taking in these measures we’re usually neglecting our core values at the same time.  If we value being healthy, it’s difficult to do while binge eating, drinking bourbon and watching television.

ACT provides a framework of tools for accepting and going with these emotions using mindfulness to help take the sting out of them.

The Confidence Gap

Dr Russ Harris

Just like The Happiness Trap, The Confidence Gap provides many of the same tools but the theme is based on a different lesson here.  Confidence.

I believe both books are worthy of reading because where The Happiness Trap teaches us to accept painful feelings, The Confidence Gap focuses more on confidence related feelings that make us anxious.

Feelings like imposter syndrome and other thinking styles that most people are guilty of in one way or another.

The main theme of this book is the actions of confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later.

While there are more rules, this rule alone is a great one to remember whenever you want to do something but feel unconfident or scared.  Simply remind yourself action first, feelings later.

Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks

Barry McDonagh

DARE is a book focused specifically on anxiety.  Mostly panic disorder, but also general anxiety disorder and other themes have some overlap here too.

This book is also focused on mindfulness and acceptance packing the tools up to a single acronym to remember and use in the crux of an anxiety attack.

While it’s a good book to read, listening to the audible version a few times is a great way to really absorb the information.  The voice of Barry reading his own words alone is worth the cost.

DARE also has many accompanying products such as mobile apps, online programs and a Facebook group with hundreds of thousands of anxiety sufferers which if for nothing else, shows you how normal and non-unique anxiety truly is.

Hope and Help for Your Nerves

Claire Weekes

I really like this short book by Australian GP, Dr Hazel Claire Weeks that dates back to the 1960’s.  What makes this book unique is that many of her methods for dealing with anxiety are what we see today in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

She was pioneering mindfulness methods before it was a mainstream word, and dealing with anxiety disorders that weren’t even labelled yet.

The main premise Claire taught was to float through anxiety.  This is basically the same as the techniques taught in DARE and the Russ Harris books.  Go with, rather than against the feelings.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

Dr David Burns

While the majority of the proceeding books are based on ACT, this book is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

CBT can be quite involved but I believe the most value in this book can be had by learning the unhelpful thinking styles that Dr Burns identifies.

By learning these thinking styles, you gain a greater sense of awareness and recognition in your own use of these styles.

While CBT itself can be quite involved with written tasks and challenging these thoughts, simply being aware of them can also be of great benefit when combined with ACT and mindfulness.

Labelling is a big skill in ACT and mindfulness, and when you have awareness of the unhelpful thinking styles you can simply combine the two and label the thought process.  Ah-ha catastrophising, thanks mind.

Conclusion

This is a small list of my favourite books, and while there are many more I don’t want to overwhelm the reader.

I would recommend simply reading the books and seeing what resonates with you.  Sometimes it may take a few reads to really pick things up.

But then most importantly, the tools need to be utilised.  It’s also important to remember that miracles won’t occur overnight but small subtle changes over weeks to months will occur.

These are all life-long tools, not just to get over a specific life crisis – but to take with you and use in all aspects of life every day.

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