6 Happiness Books Trusted by Mental Health Experts

6 Happiness Books Trusted by Mental Health Experts

6 Happiness Books Trusted by Mental Health Experts

Reading as an act of self-care

Just as there is no single definition of happiness, there is no one type of self-care that works for everyone. Landing on a self-care method that works for you takes some experimentation and often a lot of trial and error. (In case you missed it, here’s how to create a self-care plan, according to the experts.)

But one thing we do know for sure is that almost all of us could benefit from more self-care and less stress right now. About 19 percent of adults say their mental health is in worse shape than it was a year ago, according to an August 2020 national survey conducted by The Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association.

When things get out of control (er, during a global pandemic), finding ways to center and meditate can be invaluable, explains Crystal Burwell, PhD, director of outpatient services at Newport Academy, a rehabilitation center for teenagers in Atlanta.

The power of reading

“Reading promotes relaxation and inner peace. Research shows that a regular reading habit correlates with less depression, higher self-esteem, better sleep and lower stress levels compared to non-readers,” says Burwell. “Plus, books can provide a healthy distraction during stressful times. This is especially true now during the pandemic when we can’t plan those spa days or take vacations. A book can be an inexpensive way to take us somewhere quiet.”

(This is why reading is important for your brain.)

When you immerse yourself in a story and tune out other distractions around you, your attention is on the page in front of you (rather than the news or social media discussions). You inadvertently shut out other stressors in a healthy way, adds Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University in New York City. Reading can also combat feelings of loneliness and transport you to another place.

“Reading can help a person practice mindfulness without their realizing it,” says Hafeez.

What to look for in a happiness book

For maximum mood boost per page, think back to those tomes that stuck with you from years past. There are many genres and formats of books that can increase happiness, and what you’ve liked in the past might provide a clue as to what you’ll love in the future. Or a similarly designed book offers a pleasant dose of nostalgia.

Remember, “Books should not replace professional help. If you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue that’s interfering with your life, it’s important to talk to a therapist or other professional,” Burwell says.

Happiness Books Trusted by Therapists

According to the rain book

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After the Rain: Gentle Reminders for Healing, Courage, and Self-Love


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Part memoir, part guide, After the Rain: Gentle Reminders for Healing, Courage, and Self-Love by Instagram celebrity and self-care storyteller Alexandra Elle (@alex_elle) shares Elle’s journey from self-doubt to self-discovery to self-love. It contains 15 lessons on overcoming obstacles, boosting self-confidence, and living a more honest and fulfilling life.

Read, reflect and then put the motivating mantras into practice.

“Books can help you on the path to change, give you inspiration, offer a new perspective on life, expand your knowledge, and let you know that you are not alone with your thoughts, fears, and concerns,” says Hafeez. Aside from that: “They can’t do the work for you and aren’t potions. If you’re reading a self-help book to get more exercise or have a more positive perspective, you still have control over whether or not that happens. The book or its author cannot do the work for you.”

(Here are some self love quotes to remind you of your worth.)

Give and Take book

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Give and take: why the support of others drives our success


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While many self-help books that focus on success talk about being ruthless in order to be successful, Give and take: Why the support of others drives our success by organizational psychologist Adam Grant takes a fresh approach to the topic—which is why it gets top marks from Hafeez.

“Grant shows that people give [to others] can also win,” she says. “He explains how when we stop focusing only on our own interest, a larger world opens up where we can ‘win’ along with others who join us on the journey.”

While this was designed as a tool to boost your business acumen, it can be applied to other areas of work and personal life as Grant has explored everything from motivation to generosity to creativity.

(These are the life skills for health, wealth, and success.)

The Magic of Thinking Big Book

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The magic of big thinking


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It’s never too early to start a lucky book habit. From a young age, “my parents were very fond of books and reading,” says Burwell. “I quickly developed a strong relationship with books, which have had a significant impact on my life.”

Some of her personal (childhood and lifelong) favorites are The giving tree; A Guide to a Rational Life; Roll of Thunder, hear my cry; How the mind works; and this book—The magic of big thinking.

The magic of big thinking by David J. Schwartz “Challenged my thinking because I was able to connect to themes in the book. …it made me feel alive and sparked a sense of joy, excitement and curiosity,” says Burwell.

This happiness book suggests that it’s not about exceptional talent or a super high IQ, it’s about having the right attitude to find happiness and success.

(Have a positive attitude with these positive thinking quotes.)

The Book of Joy

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The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World


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Nobel Peace Prize winners the Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibet) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (a South African minister, theologian and human rights activist) spent five days together discussing how they found joy in their most difficult moments. This includes a total of 50 years of exile, oppression and violence. The results end up in this lucky book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, who narrates her week-long joyful journey. They end up landing on “Eight Pillars of Joy,” which the duo say can lay the foundation for lasting joy.

Burwell appreciates how inspirational books educate, guide, inform, and inspire readers to bring about positive change in their lives—especially books like this that deal directly with the issue of life satisfaction. “They can share tips on how to manage stress, manage anxiety, deal with difficult relationships, and much more that can lead to greater happiness and mental well-being,” she says.

(Want to improve your mood? Here are some Amazon products that will make you feel happier.)

Book The Power of Now

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The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment


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Instead of getting excited about the future or dwelling on the past, this self-help book offers The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle, suggests that you focus right here and now.

“I love this book because it emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment, literally living one day at a time,” says Hafeez. “During this pandemic, it’s been helpful because life can become overwhelming when you think too far ahead.” This can potentially encourage feelings of out of control or lead to excessive worry or stress.

(Stock your bookshelf with some of the best self-help books.)

The body is not an excuse book

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The Body Is No Excuse: The Power of Radical Self-Love


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Activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor believes that “radical self-love” is the antidote to modern societal trends that say there’s only one way to look beautiful and dignified. Feeling comfortable in your home (aka your body) is a key component to feeling happy, Hafeez believes.

“This book goes beyond the self-love and self-acceptance that so many women struggle with,” she says. “It breaks down the societal reasons why we struggle with or dislike our bodies, and then serves as a call to action on how we can improve.”

If you read and love this happiness book, The Body Is No Excuse: The Power of Radical Self-Loveyou can continue the journey through Taylor’s related online community.

Next, learn how walking can improve your mood.

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