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What We’re Reading: Self-Help Round-Up

2017 May 25

What We're ReadingI don’t know if it’s just the state of the world, or because I’m going through a breakup, or because all of that is happening all at once in my mid-twenties and it’s culminating in a quarter-life crisis, but I’m all about the get-your-shit-together self-help books these days. So if you, too, are just now realizing nobody ever taught you how to cope with anxiety, depression, heartbreak, political turmoil, environmental catastrophe, and the inevitability of losing everyone and everything in your life—while also somehow being a responsible adult with a good income-to-debt ratio—then I can’t recommend these books enough:

Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie KondoThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (Ten Speed Press, 2014)

I read this book while preparing for a move, and I can’t express how much Kondo’s insights helped me purge my possessions and minimize my lifestyle. If you are surrounded by so many things that you don’t even know what you own or where to find it, this book is for you. Change your life. Get rid of excess. Then get rid of more. Then surround yourself with people and things that bring you joy. It’s worth it.

Best advice: Don’t decide what to throw away, decide what to keep. Only keep things that spark joy, and get rid of everything else. Yes, everything.

Mindfulness on the GoMindfulness on the Go: Inner Peace in Your Pocket by Padraig O’Morain (Harlequin, 2014)

Great for keeping at your desk or in your bag, this little book can help you find opportunities for cultivating mindfulness at work, at home, on your commute, while waiting, while traveling, and before sleeping. Brief chapters explain why mindfulness helps with managing stress and anxiety while making room for creativity and thoughtfulness. The “on the go” exercises and quick tips are easy to incorporate anywhere, anytime. Spending even one minute focusing on your breathing can go a long way to improving your mind and mood.

Mind Over MoodMind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky (The Guilford Press, 1995)

Speaking of your mind and mood—if you are the kind of person who really likes doing their homework, then this workbook is for you. It was created by clinicians over twenty years ago but is still being recommended by therapists today—and for good reason. If you’re willing to take the time to read the lessons and do the exercises, you can create your very own DIY cognitive behavioral therapy practice, which I especially recommend if you are not going to therapy (and I’m the kind of person who will recommend therapy to everyone).

When Things Fall ApartWhen Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön (Shambhala Publications, 1996)

Let me take a moment to recommend every single book by Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. I just think you should start with this one. Written in the wake of her divorce and subsequent spiritual journey, it basically answers the question I’ve been asking myself for months: How do I go on? With advice on acceptance, openness, and compassion—starting with compassion for yourself—this book forces you to look inward and evaluate your habitual patterns, attachments, and addictions so you can let go of your ego and your fixed ideas and learn how to simply be.

Best quote: “Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.”

The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh (HarperOne, 2013)

Once you’ve learned how to be with yourself and reflect on your feelings, read this to learn how to communicate those feelings more openly and honestly in your relationships, at work, and with yourself. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s succinct, conversational tone makes his writing approachable and easy to digest. So even if Buddhism isn’t really your thing, the advice can guide you toward thinking, listening, speaking, and acting with understanding, kindness, and love.