Ever perused the self-help section at the bookstore or Amazon and found it to be a tad…overwhelming? You’re not alone. Even if you don’t have an official mental health diagnosis, there’s likely something you know you could stand to work on, and there are so many good books out there that can help you get a handle on certain aspects of mental wellness.
The Covid-19 pandemic only heightened some of these feelings for a lot of people, leading many to pursue mental health care for the first time now that they had the ability to do so remotely. Whether or not you’ve found that helpful resource yet, we’ve curated a list of some of the best mental health books that may prove to be additionally helpful on your journey. These books include everything from scientific analyses, stories of people’s real-life experiences and memoirs, covering topics like anxiety, depression and even racial injustice.
While many of these books can help with aspects of life like reducing stress and not overthinking your emotions, it’s important to note that if you think you might be experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental health condition, it’s important to seek help from a licensed professional, as these books are not meant to provide a diagnosis or provide individual medical advice and treatment. These books may, however, help you nail down signs to watch for, what to look for in a professional, and relate to individuals who have gone through something similar. Here are our picks for the top 20 mental health books of 2021.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Trauma comes in all forms, from near-death experiences to unexpected loss. In this book, author Dr. Bessel van der Kolk examines recent scientific findings and uses human stories to demonstrate how trauma impacts both the mind and the body.
Hope and Help for Your Nerves: End Anxiety Now
If you feel trapped inside your mind amongst intrusive thoughts and other symptoms of anxiety, this book can provide the guidance you need to mitigate them and break the cycle of fear and panic.
Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions
Actor and comedian Russell Brand isn’t a mental health professional, but if you’ve dealt with addiction, it can be helpful to relate to experiences from other individuals. In this book, Brand opens up about what he’s learned in overcoming drug, sex and alcohol addictions, among others, with humor and compassion.
Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts
In this book, author Guy Winch, PhD, provides strategies for healing the emotional pains that everyone experiences in life, from rejection, loneliness and loss to trauma, guilt and low self-esteem.
It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
Author Mark Wolynn is known as an expert within the mental health world when it comes to the subject of inherited family trauma. In this book, he examines how trauma experienced by relatives can be passed down to younger family members, leading to patterns of depression, anxiety and other conditions.
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love
No one has it all figured out when it comes to navigating relationships. In this book, Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel Heller examine how attachment theory (i.e. early relationships with parents and caregivers) can work in your favor to help you find love.
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You
If you’re someone who’s always found themselves to be overwhelmed by things like crowded spaces and are often drained after socializing for long periods of time, chances are that easing back into some sense of normalcy during the Covid-19 pandemic brought back those feelings. This book can help you work to overcome this social discomfort and tap into your sensitivity while examining how it affects your personal, work and love life.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Whether you’re experiencing burnout or struggle with being disorganized, or you simply want to live your life with more intention, this book will help you work toward sustainable balance in life, set realistic end goals and negotiate in a way that will allow you to work effectively with others.
This Is Depression: A Comprehensive, Compassionate Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Understand Depression
In this book, psychiatrist Dr. Diane McIntosh examines common causes of depression, the diagnosis and treatment process, and several real-life examples of depression to help readers understand what they or a loved one may be facing.
We’ve Been Too Patient: Voices from Radical Mental Health
This is another book that examines real-life experiences with mental health conditions and treatment, this time in the form of 25 stories and essays. These diverse stories cover everything from traumatic events, experiences of overmedication and involuntary hospitalization, as well as the systemic issues plaguing our mental health system.
The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health
If you’re Black, Indigenous or a person of color, the last couple of years have felt especially heavy. While things like microaggressions and systemic racism certainly aren’t anything new, the social justice reckoning the U.S. is continuing to go through has only made mental health more important of a priority for many BIPOC.
This book not only offers relevant tips, but also examines current issues within the mental health system and how to successfully navigate the health healthcare system as a Black person.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies For Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, And Worry
In this book, Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D. examines the concept of mindfulness by providing a guide of 10 strategies for improving mental health. These tools include things like identifying negative thoughts and symptoms of anxiety of depression through manageable steps to effectively deal with them.
Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now
In this book, author Jill Weber, Ph.D., splits anxiety into three sections: feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. Each one examines top symptoms and provides explanations, techniques to control it, and advice for finding inner calm in an easy-to-read and easy-to-apply manner.
How to Change Your Mind
In this book, author Michael Pollan delves into how microdosing with psychedelics can help people cope with mental health struggles and crises related to anxiety, depression and even addiction.
Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity
In this book, actor and social activist Justin Baldoni takes a look at how toxic masculinity has impacted our society, damaging the mental health of men and boys who have sought to repress so-called feminine qualities. Baldoni also opens up about his own personal experiences related to topics like body image, sexuality and racial justice.
Stop Overthinking: 23 Techniques to Relieve Stress, Stop Negative Spirals, Declutter Your Mind, and Focus on the Present (Mental and Emotional Abundance)
Just about everyone falls victim to overthinking individual interactions and feelings these days. This book covers how overthinking is tied to burnout, stress and increased anxiety and how you can stop it in its tracks and work to focus on the present via visualization techniques and various coping strategies.
Heavy: An American Memoir
This memoir by Kiese Laymon takes you through his life in racism-driven Mississippi during the 1980s and 1990s via a letter to his mother, showcasing depression through the eyes of a Black man in America.
If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?
If the pandemic showed us one thing, it’s that American culture largely values career success above all else. This book aims to help readers see that they can pursue advancement and more money while still living a fulfilled personal life.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World
In this inspirational self-help book, Admiral William H. McRaven aims to help readers focus on the little things through life lessons from people he encountered during his time in the military service.
Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple, Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress, and Toxic Thinking
In this book, communication pathologist and neuroscientist Caroline Leaf aims to help readers beat toxic thoughts by breaking down complex scientific theories and swapping them out for easy-to-follow tactics to boost positive thoughts and general mental wellness.
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