When we enter therapy, we're often labouring under the delusion that we're not enough, that there's something wrong with us, that we're not measuring up to how we should be. We use words like 'anxiety' and 'depression' and 'stress', pointing to unproductive and unmotivated we are, and how flat we feel. But what if the problem isn't us? We think we know what we need to do to be happier, but what if everything we've been taught about success and contentment has left us constantly fighting the wrong battles?
If your strategies and goals for achieving happiness and success haven't been working, if it feels like you're constantly rolling that rock up the hill and never getting to the top, it's time for a radical rethink. Here's a list comprised of books I often recommend to my own psychotherapy clients. If they challenge some of your most closely held assumptions, well, that may be just what you need.
Raj Raghunathan£16.98 £15.79
If the brain of your typical smart and successful (S&S) person were a big bulls-eye target, this book aims straight for the middle and hits it. If you've been relentlessly pursuing contentment your whole life, you're doing it wrong, and there's science to show it. Using sound psychological research, Raj identifies seven deadly happiness sins you didn't know you were committing and shows alternative paths. Raj writes in an entertaining and accessible way, showing why he's such a popular writer for Psychology Today.
Johann Hari£10.99 £10.22
Krishnamurti says, 'It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society,' and Johann Hari outlines nine ways we've become profoundly disconnected from the things we need to feel whole and well. Justly an international bestseller, Hari's suggestions on how to reconnect are highly likely to be more effective than most anti-depressant prescriptions.
Russ Harris£10.99 £10.22
When clients come into my office, they often say some version of, 'I need to be better at controlling my feelings and thoughts.' They assume that I'll be helping them struggle more successfully against those internal experiences, and they're surprised when I suggest that control is actually the problem. Russ' classic book, based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, is still going strong for a very good reason. Read it with curiosity and an open mind, and you can radically revamp your relationship with your inner saboteurs.
Matthew Walker£10.99 £10.22
While the world struggles with Covid-19, we're also in the grip of another pandemic: insomnia. At least 80% of my clients tell me they have it, and about 80% of anxiety suffers report disturbed sleep. When people get sufficient sleep, what's been labelled as 'anxiety' and 'depression' may even disappear entirely. Walker, a neuroscientist specialising in sleep, shows why improving your sleep can also improve your life on almost every dimension, and tells you how to do it.
Act With Love: Stop Struggling, Reconcile Differences, and Strengthen Your Relationship With Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Russ Harris£15.99 £14.87
Relationship issues cause a huge amount of distress in our lives - distress that's often increased because we expend so much energy trying to fix the wrong things. Harris identifies the common myths we carry about relationships - 'the perfect partner', 'you complete me', 'love should be easy' and 'everlasting love' - and clears aside the psychological smog they cause to teach you how to really get what you want and need. A practical, hands-on book that works if you work it.
John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister£9.99 £9.29
You've probably heard of positive psychology, but maybe you're less familiar with the negativity bias, the universal tendency for negative events to affect us more strongly than positive ones. We try to overcome these things by the sheer 'power of positive thinking', but is that the wrong way forward? Instead, Tierney and Baumeister suggest understanding and leveraging our natural negativity bias - at home, at work, and even in politics. A wide ranging book that will even help you re-evaluate how you read the news.
Jodie Jackson£8.99 £8.36
'Doomscrolling' - not just a 2020 buzzword, but a powerful influence on my psychotherapy clients' moods and coping lately. Jodie understands the negativity bias well, and this book will help you rearrange your media environment without checking out from the world or chucking out your phone.