5 Books That Helped Me Fight Depression
There are TONS of books out there in the self-help, mental health, self-discovery realm. But, when dealing with such a deeply personal topic as learning to understand how the inner YOU works, the book needs to be really on-point for me to feel engaged and get as much value from it as I can.
Here are five books that have struck a chord me recently.
This book came to me at just the right time, and was a catalyst to some of the most profound recovery I've made thus far. I heard about it on The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman (highly recommended, btw!). I was into it immediately, partly because Dan Harris' voice kind of reminds me of Will Forte's Randy Wharmpess character in How I Met Your Mother and partly because I heard a lot of myself in what he was saying on that interview.
The book follows Dan Harris' journey starting as at-times mindless young journalist, climbing the ranks at work, using drugs, through mental health struggles, to the now more composed, mindful, stable, 10% happier person he's become thanks largely to the help of his meditation practice. He shares insightful conversations and reflects on episodes from his personal life. He covers his panic attack on live national TV, years of soul-searching and learning and a 10-day meditation retreat. I enjoyed the book so much while listening that I ordered the next two books on this list, based on his 'recommendation'.
When Harris talks about Tolle in his book, his instinctive journalistic cynicism is made very clear. Though, Harris did a good job at selling Tolle to me just enough for me to want to read one of his books. Plus, apparently Oprah is super into this guy, so I went for it.
I immediately understood Harris' warnings about some of the more mystical, new age kooky sounding elements of the book. But, I also found great meaning and countless "ah-ha!" moments in the book. Simply reading the book was a continually inspiring, exciting, and hopeful experience. Tolle writes that the book is a transformation device, which sounds super weird, but fact is, the insights within the book do somewhat transform a person if they've never internalized that type of reflection before. For me, it helped to understand and normalize a lot of the emotions and feelings that I'd previously interpreted as me-specific phenomena.
I was especially interested in this one while reading 10% Happier. Mark seemed to me like Harris' Yoda. I thought it was endearing how Harris would keep a 'questions for Mark' file in his phone, about his experiences in meditation and daily mindfulness. The book didn't disappoint.
This book provided me with a more thorough and specific understanding regarding the 'Self'. This is when I really began to internalize the idea that "I'm not my thoughts", that impermanence is beautifully inevitable... He explained buddhist principles in a way that made them immediately understandable and relatable. This book made me resent the comparative religion class I took 10 years prior for not getting me into buddhism philosophy... Then the book showed me that feeling was just like, my opinion man, and it'll pass.
I saw Russel Brand's charmingly awkward interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and IMMEDIATELY ordered his book. It's like he was years ahead of my exact train of thought, clearly articulating ideas about the self and simply being a conscious, vulnerable human that I had been just now discovering.
I was immediately into it. His simple re-phrasing of the 12-step program is brilliant. The book basically walks through each step in a hilariously relatable and enlightening way. There's even a sort of workbook at the end for the reader to work through! "Recovery" can be from any number of things, not simply substance abuse. What this book does is condense and make readily available the logic of the 12-step program AND expand it's language to a appeal to a wider audience, providing readers the chance to better internalize the certain positive truths they know they should believe, but might not be able to really convince themselves of. The really deep "whys" and "hows".
This was an easy & light hearted read. It helped to reinforce a lot of the core buddhist philosophies that I was learning about in other reading by illustrating these ideas through familiar characters and stories. As a Star Wars nerd getting into some Buddhist ideologies, I couldn't not read this one.
So there's that. 5 Books that 'worked' for me on my own journey to mental wellness. Thanks for reading. If you do end up purchasing any of these, please do use the links I've provided above. That'll give me a little kickback from Amazon through their affiliate marketing program :)