Hello dear friends!
I don’t know about you, but I am a voracious reader- anything from thick fiction novels to poetry to magazines and online political articles can really get me going. And while I still plow through the occasional piece of fiction (dystopian is my current fave), most of my interests have wandered into the nebulous realm of “self-help”. And it’s not the strange, cultish, and lonely place that it was twenty or thirty years ago- the genre has really taken off and gained a notoriety and following that only a few others can claim.
After my relapse 2 years ago, I dove into this wondrous place headfirst and swam around for many months before really coming up to the surface with a few golden treasures. Granted, these may not float everyone’s boat and I understand that. If you like to read or listen to audiotapes or podcasts, there is a wealth of healing and empowering information out there and I encourage you to explore and find the voices that speak the loudest to you.
When I was extremely sick and desperate for any amount of hope, I devoured all sorts of books- from the academic medical journals to the mystical religious texts and everything in between. I gobbled up stories about spontaneous remissions, energy healing, PTSD, viral origin theories, chakra balancing, and green juicing. I pored over research studies and physicians’ case notes. And after all of that, only a handful stands out in my mind, and I want to share them with you.
Perhaps you’ve read one or several of these already and if you have, I’d love to hear how you felt about them and if they’ve changed your life in any way. But without further ado…
Don’t be put off if you’re not a Buddhist- this is a book for everyone and hands down one of the wisest takes on living with a chronic illness that I’ve ever read. It’s a bit more on the spiritual/intellectual side but presents topics in ways that even a newbie can understand. After all, the essence of suffering is in our clinging to a certain idea that things should be other than what they are. This book is fantastic at getting to the root of our fear, anger, and despair behind our illnesses, learning to treat ourselves with compassion, and illuminating a pathway to peace.
While this book was written 20 years ago, it still carries with it a timeless wisdom and hope that is encouraging to anyone who is facing serious health problems. It blends beautiful stories and anecdotes from Dr. Weil’s time in the field with practical advice on how to tap into your body’s natural healing mechanisms. I remember when I read it for the first time, a profound sense of hope bubbled to the surface in me and I began to truly trust my own body’s wisdom and value my innate intuition. I personally love how Dr. Weil is able to marry his traditional Western medical degree with ancient techniques, promoting a pathway to health that is holistic and well informed.
I don’t remember where I first heard of this book, but I am really glad that I picked it up. I think perhaps the subtitle and the fact that the foreword was written by Kris Carr pulled me into the world of Lissa Rankin. It’s always interesting to me to hear the perspective of someone who worked in medicine and has struggled with chronic health issues, and she makes no bones about criticizing what’s wrong with the modern healthcare system in failing to address the whole person and really encourage their healing on all levels. There are opportunities in this book for journaling and self-reflection, which I found to be really helpful.
If you’ve ever heard your friend, coworker, or therapist talk about The Work, they were referring to the groundbreaking book and philosophy of Byron Katie. This book will stretch you like you never have been stretched before, so if you’re tentative, I’d recommend checking out her website first or simply downloading the “condensed version” for a good taste into this realm. The methods detailed in this book can change your life, and while I haven’t been super consistent myself, I plan to revisit this one very very soon. It blends the usefulness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with the freeing mindset of Buddhist philosophy, and is highly recommended for anyone struggling with racing thoughts or negative thought patterns.
This lovely gem popped up by way of an Amazon recommendation based on something else I was reading at the time and I was hooked as soon as I read the first few pages. A manual of “sanity-saving strategies” for women coping with illness? Sign me up! I love how light and accessible this book is- down to earth without lacking substance or style. Denea tells it like it is and doesn’t make you feel guilty for being sick or not having cured yourself yet. This is a fantastic and relatively easy read, but she offers a lot of journaling exercises to really let each “lesson” sink in and be relatable to you.
I know- this one is kind of a blooper on this list, right? But I couldn’t resist throwing at least one nutrition-focused book in here, and I picked this one. It was only about a year ago that I started exploring the “paleo” approach to healing and reading about inflammation, especially when it comes to cognitive issues and decline (hello brain fog!). This book is packed with research, personal stories, and helpful tips on avoiding the trigger foods that can amplify your symptoms. Even if you’re wolfing down a bowl of pasta (no judgment here), the neurobiology and nutritional psychology is sure to be fascinating.
Whew okay- this is not a book to pick up if you’re not really ready to do some serious internal work. It might be a great tool to bring to counseling sessions or go through with a therapist or perhaps a very good friend. This isn’t so much a book as it is a workbook- there are places to write all of your answers and reflections inside. It will challenge your feelings and deeply held beliefs on all sorts of things- relationships, family, money, work, health, and spirituality for a start. If you need some serious clarification in your world, this is a great place to go and Susan Piver has lots of wisdom to share on her blog as well!
So, now it’s your turn! What are some of your favorite self-help books? Please share, and as always…
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~