I’ve been sober for a while now, but I’m a true addict. When I get into something, I get into something. Since working on my own mental health, I’ve been fascinated (some may call obsessed) with learning everything I can about mental health, psychology and just overall well-being. Like many people, I started reading a lot of articles and blog posts, and I also started watching YouTube videos, but there was a major problem.
Everyone was focusing on the problem.
One of the best things we can do for our mental health is to realize we’re not alone, so sharing our stories with one another is extremely beneficial. That’s one of the reasons 12-step programs work. The problem I found was that there was a severe lack of anyone discussing the solution. If we’re only consuming mental health content discussing how difficult living with mental health issues can be, we’re likely to remain hopeless.
The beautiful thing is that there are a lot of very intelligent psychologists and other mental health professionals who can help us rethink how we view our mental health. There are even some incredible people who are just like me and just have a pure passion for the subject. So, below are 5 of my favorite books that really helped me rethink mental health, and I think they can help you too.
This list is in no specific order, and each of the links are affiliate links. By using the links below, you help support the work I do, and I truly appreciate it.
Evolutionary biology isn’t really my thing, but I absolutely love evolutionary psychology. Randolf Nesse specializes in evolutionary psychology, so he looks at all aspects of our lives and tries to understand why our minds and bodies work the way they do based on evolution. In Good Reasons for Bad Feelings he discusses why we evolved to have depression, anxiety and even other disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Reading this book helped me see my own depression, anxiety and addiction in a new light. The author does a great job explaining how some mental health problems we struggle with aren’t really problems at all, and they’re more of a warning system that’s telling us to make a change.
A long time ago I learned that my mind tells me I’m “special” and nobody understands what I’m going through. Then, I started seeing other people who had been through worse than I’d been through, but they were thriving. How’d they pull that off?
Well, in the bestselling book Grit, Angela Duckworth explains how to develop the ability to not only build you get through difficult situations but to use these challenges in your life to your advantage. Due to her incredible research, she received the Genius Grant from the MacArther Foundation. This is not only a must-read to see how adversity is one of the best things to happen to you, and it even gives great tips for how to teach your children to thrive as well.
This book came at the perfect time for me when I was facing a lot of obstacles in my life, but it would have been great to read after Grit. Ryan Holiday is a modern-day philosopher who subscribes to the philosophy of the ancient stoics. He’s a bestselling author, and I became obsessed with his books this year. The Obstacle is the Way is by far my favorite one. Holiday is an avid reader, and aside from philosophy, he loves reading biographies, so this book is all about people throughout history who have turned obstacles into tools for their success. He discusses everyone from Abraham Lincoln, to incredible athletes and more.
I wish I could put into words how much I love this book. I almost don’t even want to write a summary because I don’t feel that I can do it justice. If you’re someone who is a gamer and wants to improve your mental health, just stop what you’re doing and buy this book already. Jane McGonigal has studied how a gaming mindset can be used to improve your mental health, and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.
Does the author’s name look familiar? It should. Kelly McGonigal is the twin sister of Jane McGonigal, and they both of PhDs in psychology. How awesome is that?!
Kelly has written quite a few books, but this is the first book of hers I picked up. I’m actually currently in the middle of this book as I write this list, but I haven’t been able to stop reading it, and I’ve actually based recent Medium posts on things I’m learning from this book.
Throughout her years of teaching psychology, Kelly taught people that stress was a bad thing, which is the normal conversation around stress. After coming across a study about how people with high amounts of stress actually lived longer, she dove into the subject. She helps us rethink everything we thought about stress, and it’s a book everyone could use in this day and age where everywhere you look, we’re being scared into trying to win a losing battle because we’re never going to have a life devoid of stress.
I’ve read more books on depression than I can count, and this is by far the best one. Johann Hari gained a lot of notoriety after his viral TedTalk on addiction. In his second book, Lost Connections, he researches why we’re depressed. The book starts out by changing the way we think about the causes of depression, and then it gets into solutions that everyone can use. He does a great job taking studies as well as stories that can easily be applied to each of our lives to help us overcome depression.
Susannah Cahalan is back with her next book, and I binged it. She’s the author of Brain on Fire, which is her personal story of psychosis, which was misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. After becoming hopeless because nobody could figure out what was wrong with her, a doctor finally figured out that she had an autoimmune disorder that caused symptoms of schizophrenia. Since her debut book, she’s become a public speaker at a variety of psychology conferences to educate mental health professionals about other causes of mental illness, and Cahalan also receives letters and emails from people who have hope that maybe they’ve been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia as well.
Because of her experience, Susannah wanted to see if it was common to be misdiagnosed, and she came across my favorite psychological study of all time, which was the Rosenhann Experiment. This experiment had 7 people fake schizophrenia, get admitted into an asylum, and try to get out. I won’t give any spoilers, but it will make you rethink everything about the diagnosis process, and the book has a lot of twists and turns. Above all else, the best part of this book is the ending where Cahalan gives a lot of potential solutions for us as a society to get the best care possible.
I hope you check out some of these books, and I’ll be making many more lists of books as well. I read over 70 books this year, and most of them were incredible.
If you’re looking for affordable therapy from the comfort of your own home, I personally use BetterHelp online therapy. I have a badass therapist, and I highly recommend this easy-to-use service. By clicking here to sign up, it helps support the work I do as well.