When a person’s mood, self-esteem, motivation, and energy are low and depression is high, for many, books on depression can make a positive difference. It turns out that reading books can have a substantial impact on mood, energy, and self-esteem, and reading can benefit people who are already using forms of professional treatment.
Called bibliotherapy, the practice of reading books to treat physical or mental health disorders, like depression, is a concept attached to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Experts find that reading books and information on dealing with depression can be a valuable resource that, with some guidance from a professional, may effectively treat depression.1
Here are some titles that could help boost a person’s mood and well-being.
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When people talk about books providing effective and evidence-based help for depression, the conversation should always begin with the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. Several studies have reviewed the text to find that reading the book and taking part in the activities as described can yield significantly positive results on depression.1
Even though the author is a trained psychiatrist, a type of mental health professional licensed to treat symptoms with medication, he offers ways to manage symptoms associated with depression, like guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and high stress, without medication.
This book helps readers:
- Recognize the causes and triggers of mood changes
- Stop the unwanted feelings before they build
- Manage feelings of guilt
- Process the criticism from others
- Strike back against the need to be loved and approved
- Stopping the “spiral of depression”
- Create self-esteem
- Feel good
With a depth of information and material, this book is not one to complete in a weekend. Rather, it can be completed slowly and methodically to help ensure change that continues for the long-term.
Where Feeling Good is clearly grounded in the foundation of CBT, Happiness Is an Inside Job zooms out to view the world, the people in it, and their thinking patterns from a wider and more spiritual perspective. The author, Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D., promotes the notion that true happiness is achieved when people feel strong connections to friends, family, and the world as a whole.
Using fundamental elements of Buddhism, like mindfulness, concentration, and effort, Happiness Is an Inside Job can lead people away from the stresses, anxieties, sadness, and frustrations of life. In their place will be a calm and content life full of joy and hope.
While the previous selections offer a tranquil warmth and polite professionalism in their quest to defeat depression, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck utilizes a bolder, take-no-prisoners approach. Drawing from a successful blog, author Mark Manson presents a way to feel better without a focus on “staying positive” and “looking on the bright side” all of the time.
This book is based on the concept that life is a struggle that is tough to endure, and people should focus on becoming stronger and more resilient, rather than hoping for their situations to improve. If the reader can learn to handle defeat, face their fears, and accept their limitations, they can achieve the happiness they truly seek.
As the title suggests, this counterintuitive approach to living a good life is profane, rude, and vulgar, in the best ways possible. Manson trades flowery speech found in other texts for clear directives and humor at unforeseen turns.
Helpful books on dealing with depression can take all shapes and sizes, and people who have had more than their fill of self-help in all of its forms might take a shine to Untamed by Glennon Doyle. The most recent work by the best-selling author, speaker, feminist, and activist inspects what “being a woman” means today, and how to stop living for others and seek out happiness.
This memoir may not look at depression from the perspective of a psychiatrist or psychologist, but it explores what it means to be fulfilled and to live a worthwhile life. Women, especially, will find inspiration and motivation in this tale of self-discovery that emphasizes bravery over boredom, but even men can find a lot to learn from Untamed.
Of course, adults are not the only ones who could benefit from books that help people deal with depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 2 million children aged 3 – 17 have been diagnosed with depression, with many more showing signs and symptoms of the condition.2
Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean is a great way to teach younger children important skills to combat depression and other symptoms that frequently plague kids.
Moody Cow hopes to:
- Help kids identify and manage their negative emotions
- Encourage children to use mindfulness and meditation as ways to improve their symptoms
- Engage kids and parents through illustrations and a simple story
- Offer projects and exercises to extend the book’s content, like making a meditation jar at home
Kids will like the fun story and valuable message, but parents may also find helpful tricks and tips to manage their own symptoms. With this book, kids and adults can settle their minds so bad and moody days don’t turn into bad weeks, months, or years.
Getting to Good: A Guided Journal by Elena Welsh, Ph.D. promises to “bring happiness and positivity into your day,” and is a great option for people who want to take an active role in their battle against depression but have grown tired of strict CBT workbooks. This option strikes a comfortable balance by encouraging the person journaling to gain some power and control over their symptoms by writing about their experiences and hopes for the future.
Journaling is a great way to explore symptoms and confront the feelings of depression, but sometimes people find the experience too daunting or monotonous.
To encourage movement towards feeling and functioning better, Welsh, a licensed clinical psychologist uses:
- Writing prompts, exercises, and reflections directed towards optimism and happiness
- Techniques and interventions derived from an eclectic mix of proven therapies like mindfulness, motivational interviewing, positive psychology, and CBT
- Strategies that promote thoughts and behaviors that focus on finding gratitude, finding the kindness and good in self and others, and appreciating the beauty in the world
Each page offers the reader something new, which helps deter boredom and journaling fatigue. Even people who have resisted journaling in the past could find something positive here.
Depression stems from all types of issues, and The Body Keeps the Score targets the influence of past trauma on mood. Though people recognize the significance of trauma in the form of combat exposure, life threatening incidents, and serious assaults, the Bessel Van Der Kolk book explores other sources of trauma and the negative impact they have on individuals and society.
By recognizing alternative roots of trauma, like having an alcoholic parent or witnessing domestic violence, this work expands on what it means to have trauma and ways to heal the damage. For people with post-traumatic stress and depression, or people with depression that may have been triggered traumatic experiences, The Body Keeps the Score is a must-read to better understand and deal with symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a well-studied and well-understood treatment approach for a number of physical health and mental health issues, but asking a person with depression to understand a complicated psychological orientation is unfair and impractical. The book Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry hopes to break down the intricate therapy style while highlighting the most important concepts to conquer depression.
Author and licensed psychologist Seth Gillihan sets out to explain key CBT concepts using an accessible and streamlined approach.
The book covers CBT elements like:
- The importance of goal setting
- Self-talk and negative self-talk patterns
- Cognitive distortions
- Changing core beliefs
- Behavioral activation
- Self-esteem building
This book would be a great option for someone thinking about therapy or someone who wants to supplement their professional treatment with extra support.
In the book How to Be Happy (Or At Least Less Sad), author Lee Crutchley addresses the topic from an outsider’s perspective. Crutchley is not a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a person with any apparent experience as a mental health professional, but sometimes it takes a new type of voice to create the desired change.
How to be Happy is a stylized workbook that provides the reader a creative array of questions to answer and prompts to complete like:
- Designing shirts with the quality you project the most and which one you would like to project the most
- Practicing mindfulness by eating a piece of chocolate and savoring the experience
- Analyzing how you feel and identifying what you love
The reader could use the book during times of high depression to ward off symptoms, or on “less sad” days as a way to keep the depression in check. Either way, How to be Happy stands out as a book worth trying.
For many people, worksheets, textbooks, and formulaic guides are ideal ways to help manage their feels of sadness, low self-esteem, guilt, and regret brought on by depression. Other times, people can benefit from something more indirect and abstract, like Depression and Other Tricks, a book of poems, by Sabrina Benaim.
The author, who achieved tremendous notoriety from her video performance of the poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother,” communicates and explores themes common in depression, like love, family, and mental health in an engaging and enticing written and visual style. There is plenty of struggle in the pages, but the undercurrent of perseverance, success, and triumph can add a level of optimism, even on days when depression is high.
Just a few pages or a few minutes of this book can spin a bad day, or a series of negative thoughts, into something bright and hopeful. The lines in this book challenge the readers into seeing a new point-of-view and a way of thinking beyond depression.