25 Top Therapist-Recommended Books

This is a list of the top 25 therapist-recommended books for self-improvement and personal growth.


For recommended books for mental health professionals, see Must-Read Books for Therapists.


25 Top Therapist-Recommended Books for Self-Improvement

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success (2017)

By Amy Morin

Amazon Description: “Everyone knows that regular exercise and weight training lead to physical strength. But how do we strengthen ourselves mentally for the truly tough times? And what should we do when we face these challenges? Or as psychotherapist Amy Morin asks, what should we avoid when we encounter adversity? Through her years counseling others and her own experiences navigating personal loss, Morin realized it is often the habits we cannot break that are holding us back from true success and happiness. Indulging in self-pity, agonizing over things beyond our control, obsessing over past events, resenting the achievements of others, or expecting immediate positive results holds us back. This list of things mentally strong people don’t do resonated so much with readers that when it was picked up by Forbes.com it received ten million views.

Now, for the first time, Morin expands upon the thirteen things from her viral post and shares her tried-and-true practices for increasing mental strength. Morin writes with searing honesty, incorporating anecdotes from her work as a college psychology instructor and psychotherapist as well as personal stories about how she bolstered her own mental strength when tragedy threatened to consume her.

Increasing your mental strength can change your entire attitude. It takes practice and hard work, but with Morin’s specific tips, exercises, and troubleshooting advice, it is possible to not only fortify your mental muscle but also drastically improve the quality of your life.”

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (2018)

By James Clear

Amazon Description: “No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving-every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

Learn how to:

  • make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy);
  • overcome a lack of motivation and willpower;
  • design your environment to make success easier;
  • get back on track when you fall off course;

…and much more.

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits-whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.”

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love (2012)

By Amir Levine & Rachel Heller

Amazon Description: “We already rely on science to tell us what to eat, when to exercise, and how long to sleep. Why not use science to help us improve our relationships? In this revolutionary book, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller scientifically explain why why some people seem to navigate relationships effortlessly, while others struggle.

Discover how an understanding of adult attachment—the most advanced relationship science in existence today—can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment posits that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:

  • Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back
  • Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
  • Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.

Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow, offering a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love.”

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (2015)

By Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

Amazon Description: “Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.”

The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (2020)

By Mark Nepo

Amazon Description: “Philosopher-poet and cancer survivor Mark Nepo opens a new season of freedom and joy―an escape from deadening, asleep-at-the wheel sameness―that is both profound and clarifying.

His spiritual daybook is a summons to reclaim aliveness, liberate the self, take each day one at a time, and savor the beauty offered by life’s unfolding. Reading his poetic prose is like being given second sight, exposing the reader to life’s multiple dimensions, each one drawn with awe and affection.

The Book of Awakening is the result of Nepo’s journey of the soul and will inspire others to embark on their own. He speaks of spirit and friendship, urging readers to stay vital and in love with this life, no matter the hardships. Encompassing many traditions and voices, Nepo’s words offer insight on pain, wonder, and love. Each entry is accompanied by an exercise that will surprise and delight the reader in its mind-waking ability.”

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (2016)

By Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, & Douglas Abrams

Amazon Description: “Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.

In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.

This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecendented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye.

We get to listen as they explore the Nature of True Joy and confront each of the Obstacles of Joy—from fear, stress, and anger to grief, illness, and death. They then offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which provide the foundation for lasting happiness. Throughout, they include stories, wisdom, and science. Finally, they share their daily Joy Practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives.

The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.”

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There (2020)

By Tara Schuster

Amazon Description: “By the time she was in her late twenties, Tara Schuster was a rising TV executive who had worked for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and helped launch Key & Peele to viral superstardom. By all appearances, she had mastered being a grown-up. But beneath that veneer of success, she was a chronically anxious, self-medicating mess. No one knew that her road to adulthood had been paved with depression, anxiety, and shame, owing in large part to her minimally parented upbringing. She realized she’d hit rock bottom when she drunk-dialed her therapist pleading for help.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies is the story of Tara’s path to re-parenting herself and becoming a ‘ninja of self-love.’ Through simple, daily rituals, Tara transformed her mind, body, and relationships, and shows how to

  • fake gratitude until you actually feel gratitude
  • excavate your emotional wounds and heal them with kindness
  • identify your self-limiting beliefs, kick them to the curb, and start living a life you choose
  • silence your inner frenemy and shield yourself from self-criticism
  • carve out time each morning to start your day empowered, inspired, and ready to rule
  • create a life you truly, totally f*cking LOVE

This is the book Tara wished someone had given her and it is the book many of us desperately need: a candid, hysterical, addictively readable, practical guide to growing up (no matter where you are in life) and learning to love yourself in a non-throw-up-in-your-mouth-it’s-so-cheesy way.”

Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind (How to Stop the Cycle of the Anxiety, Fear, and Worry) (2017)

By Jennifer Shannon

Amazon Description: “The very things we do to control anxiety can make anxiety worse. This unique guide offers a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based approach to help you recognize the constant chatter of your anxious ‘monkey mind,’ stop feeding anxious thoughts, and find the personal peace you crave.

Ancient sages compared the human mind to a monkey: constantly chattering, hopping from branch to branch—endlessly moving from fear to safety. If you are one of the millions of people whose life is affected by anxiety, you are familiar with this process. Unfortunately, you can’t switch off the ‘monkey mind,’ but you can stop feeding the monkey—or stop rewarding it by avoiding the things you fear.

Written by psychotherapist Jennifer Shannon, this book shows you how to stop anxious thoughts from taking over using proven-effective cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and mindfulness techniques, as well as fun illustrations. By following the exercises in this book, you’ll learn to identify your own anxious thoughts, question those thoughts, and uncover the core fears at play.

Once you stop feeding the monkey, there are no limits to how expansive your life can feel. This book will show you how anxiety can only continue as long as you try to avoid it. And, paradoxically, only by seeking out and confronting the things that make you anxious can you reverse the cycle that keeps your fears alive.”

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (1997)

By Don Miguel Ruiz

Amazon Description: “In The Four Agreements, bestselling author Don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.”

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (2017)

By Jenny Lawson

Amazon Description: “In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:

‘I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.’

Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family―and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy―and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (2010)

By Brené Brown

Amazon Description: “Brené Brown’s game-changing New York Times bestseller, The Gifts of Imperfection, has sold more than 2 million copies in more than 30 different languages and is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in print. Forbes magazine named Gifts one of the ‘Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook On Life.’ Through this self-help classic we find courage to overcome paralyzing fear and self-consciousness, strengthening our connection to the world and helping us to believe we are worthy of self-discovery, personal growth, and boundless love.

A motivational and inspiring guide to wholehearted living, rather than just the average self-help book, with this groundbreaking work Brené Brown, Ph.D., bolsters the self-esteem and personal development process through her characteristic heartfelt, honest storytelling. With original research and plenty of encouragement, she explores the psychology of releasing our definitions of an ‘imperfect’ life and embracing living authentically. Brown’s “ten guideposts”  are benchmarks for authenticity that can help anyone establish a practice for a life of honest beauty—a perfectly imperfect life.

Now more than ever, we all need to cultivate feelings of self-worth, as well as acceptance and love for ourselves. In a world where insults, criticisms, and fears are spread too generously alongside messages of unrealistic beauty, attainment, and expectation, we look for ways to ‘dig deep’ and find truth and gratitude in our lives. A new way forward means we can’t hold on too tightly to our own self-defeating thoughts or the displaced pain in our world. Instead, we can embrace the imperfection.”

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living (2008)

By Russ Harris

Amazon Description: “Build a more satisfying and meaningful life with this best-selling guide to freeing yourself from depression, anxiety, and insecurity through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Are you, like millions of Americans, caught in the happiness trap? Russ Harris explains that the way most of us go about trying to find happiness ends up making us miserable, driving the epidemics of stress, anxiety, and depression. This empowering book presents  the insights and techniques of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) a revolutionary new psychotherapy based on cutting-edge research in behavioral psychology. By clarifying your values and developing mindfulness (a technique for living fully in the present moment), ACT helps you escape the happiness trap and find true satisfaction in life.

The techniques presented in The Happiness Trap will help readers to:

• Reduce stress and worry
• Handle painful feelings and thoughts more effectively
• Break self-defeating habits
• Overcome insecurity and self-doubt
• Create a rich, full, and meaningful life”

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (2016)

By Rick Hanson

Amazon Description: “With New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Hanson’s four steps, you can counterbalance your brain’s negativity bias and learn to hardwire happiness in only a few minutes each day. 

Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated? Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences and slowly from good ones, but you can change this.
 
Life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated, and stressed, instead of confident, secure, and happy. But each day is filled with opportunities to build inner strengths and Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, shows what you can do to override the brain’s default pessimism.
 
Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace. You’ll learn to see through the lies your brain tells you. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build strengths into your brain to make contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In just minutes a day, you can transform your brain into a refuge and power center of calm and happiness.”

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (2010)

By Gabor Maté

Amazon Description: “From bestselling author Gabor Maté, the essential resource for understanding the roots and behaviors of addiction-now with an added introduction by the author.

Based on Gabor Maté’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically re-envisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach. Dr. Maté presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs throughout (and perhaps underpins) our society; not a medical ‘condition’ distinct from the lives it affects, rather the result of a complex interplay among personal history, emotional, and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction. Simplifying a wide array of brain and addiction research findings from around the globe, the book avoids glib self-help remedies, instead promoting a thorough and compassionate self-understanding as the first key to healing and wellness.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts argues persuasively against contemporary health, social, and criminal justice policies toward addiction and those impacted by it. The mix of personal stories—including the author’s candid discussion of his own ‘high-status’ addictive tendencies—and science with positive solutions makes the book equally useful for lay readers and professionals.”

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (2019)

 By Lori Gottlieb

Amazon Description: “From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world-where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose of­fice she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives – a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys – she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is rev­olutionary in its candor, offering a deeply per­sonal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly reveal­ing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.”

Negative Self-Talk and How to Change It (2019)

By Shad Helmstetter

Amazon Description: Negative Self-Talk and How to Change It is an immediately helpful, life-changing handbook of how to deal with negative self-talk – for yourself, or anyone in your life. Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D., the best-selling author of more than twenty books, is the leading authority in the field of self-talk today. In this 60-Minute’ Book™ written for today’s reader, Dr. Helmstetter gives you all of the important information you need to change negative self-talk forever, in a short, easy-to-read, and condensed format. Also included is a special ‘Guide to Changing Your Self-Talk’ from The Self-Talk Institute.”

No Self, No Problem: How Neuropsychology Is Catching Up to Buddhism (2019)

By Chris Niebauer

Amazon Description: “While in grad school in the early 1990s, Chris Niebauer began to notice striking parallels between the latest discoveries in psychology, neuroscience, and the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, and other schools of Eastern thought. When he presented his findings to a professor, his ideas were quickly dismissed as ‘pure coincidence, nothing more.’

Fast-forward 20 years later and Niebauer is a Ph.D. and a tenured professor, and the Buddhist-neuroscience connection he found as a student is practically its own genre in the bookstore. But according to Niebauer, we are just beginning to understand the link between Eastern philosophy and the latest findings in psychology and neuroscience and what these assimilated ideas mean for the human experience.

In this groundbreaking book, Niebauer writes that the latest research in neuropsychology is now confirming a fundamental tenet of Buddhism, what is called Anatta, or the doctrine of ‘no self.’ Niebauer writes that our sense of self, or what we commonly refer to as the ego, is an illusion created entirely by the left side of the brain. Niebauer is quick to point out that this doesn’t mean that the self doesn’t exist but rather that it does so in the same way that a mirage in the middle of the desert exists, as a thought rather than a thing. His conclusions have significant ramifications for much of modern psychological modalities, which he says are spending much of their time trying to fix something that isn’t there.

What makes this book unique is that Niebauer offers a series of exercises to allow the reader to experience this truth for him- or herself, as well as additional tools and practices to use after reading the book, all of which are designed to change the way we experience the world―a way that is based on being rather than thinking.”

The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) (2019)

By David Emerald Womeldorff

Amazon Description:The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) is a fable on self-leadership, because how you lead your own life has everything to do with how you lead in other areas. It is a tool for both individuals and organizations who want to create more effective communication and relationships. Learning how to transform everyday drama and opt for more growth-oriented solutions, is the priceless gift it teaches. As you walk with David, the main character, he shares how he is feeling victimized by life. Through serendipity he meets some wise guides, Ted and Sophia, who show David how he can move from feeling like a Victim to being a Creator of his own life. The Power of TED* offers a powerful alternative to the Karpman Drama Triangle with its roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. The Empowerment Dynamic (TED) provides the antidote roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach and a more positive approach to life’s challenges. The teaching story provides a guide for learning and growing through the challenges we all face in our lives. Its message resonates with everyone who, at some time in their lives, feel victimized by their situation. Having helped thousands of people and scores of organizations over the past decade, The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) is being published in this 10th Anniversary Edition to convey a very timely message of hope that all of life, whether at home or work, can be transformed to create satisfying and fulfilling relationships.”

The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain’s Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and at Home (2016)

By Peg Dawson & Richard Guare

Amazon Description: “Are you smart, scattered, and struggling? You’re not alone. Cutting-edge research shows that today’s 24/7 wired world and the growing demands of work and family life may simply max out the part of the brain that manages complex tasks. That’s especially true for those lacking strong executive skills-the core brain-based abilities needed to maintain focus, meet deadlines, and stay cool under pressure. In this essential guide, leading experts Peg Dawson and Richard Guare help you map your own executive skills profile and take effective steps to boost your organizational skills, time management, emotional control, and nine other essential capacities. The book is packed with science-based strategies and concrete examples, plus downloadable practical tools for creating your own personalized action plan. Whether on the job or at home, you can get more done with less stress.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (2016)

By Mark Manson

Amazon Description: “In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be ‘positive’ all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. ‘F**k positivity,’ Mark Manson says. ‘Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.’ In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—’not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.’ Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.”

Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way (2003)

By Richard David Carson

Amazon Description: “This is a completely updated edition of the 1983 classic that introduced a powerful method for gaining freedom from self-defeating behaviors and beliefs. Rick Carson, creator of the renowned Gremlin-Taming™ Method, has revised the book to include fresh interactive activities, real-life vignettes we can all identify with, and new loathsome gremlins ripe for taming. Carson blends his laid-back style, Taoist wisdom, the Zen Theory of Change, and sound psychology in an easy-to-understand, unique, and practical system for banishing the nemesis within. Among the things you will learn are:

  • Techniques for getting a sliver of light between the natural you and the monster of your mind.
  • The extraordinary power of simply noticing and playing with options.
  • Six keys to maintaining emotional balance amid upheaval.”

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (2015)

By Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen

Amazon Description: “Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen have spent the past fifteen years working with corporations, nonprofits, governments, and families to determine what helps us learn and what gets in our way. In Thanks for the Feedback, they explain why receiving feedback is so crucial yet so challenging, offering a simple framework and powerful tools to help us take on life’s blizzard of offhand comments, annual evaluations, and unsolicited input with curiosity and grace. They blend the latest insights from neuroscience and psychology with practical, hard-headed advice. Thanks for the Feedback is destined to become a classic in the fields of leadership, organizational behavior, and education.”

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself (2007)

By Michael Alan Singer

Amazon Description: “What would it be like to free yourself from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to discover inner peace and serenity? The Untethered Soul offers simple yet profound answers to these questions.

Whether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you. You’ll discover what you can do to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that limit your consciousness. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

Co-published with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.”

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (2004)

By Robert Sapolsky

Amazon Description: “Now in a third edition, Robert M. Sapolsky’s acclaimed and successful Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers features new chapters on how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress.

As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or malaria. Instead, the diseases we fear-and the ones that plague us now-are illnesses brought on by the slow accumulation of damage, such as heart disease and cancer. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal’s does, but we do not resolve conflict in the same way-through fighting or fleeing. Over time, this activation of a stress response makes us literally sick.

Combining cutting-edge research with a healthy dose of good humor and practical advice, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers explains how prolonged stress causes or intensifies a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, and more. It also provides essential guidance to controlling our stress responses. This new edition promises to be the most comprehensive and engaging one yet.”

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life (2013)

By Jen Sincero

Amazon Description: “In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you to: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, Create a life you totally love. And create it NOW, Make some damn money already. The kind you’ve never made before.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.”


How to Develop a Happiness Mindset

Guest Post by Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Happiness is all about mindset. Many believe that happiness depends on external factors, but this is not the case. Happiness depends on your mindset. Absolute happiness can exist even in the face of adversity when you have a positive mindset. 

Setbacks will always be a part of life. No one can avoid hardships or problems, not even monks or saints. When problems arise, you can tackle them head-on. And when there are joyous moments in life, you can savor them. And when you can remain relatively unaffected by whatever is happening around you, you can create a mindset of absolute happiness. 

“If you want to be happy, be.”

Leo Tolstoy (Russian Writer)
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Tips for Developing a Happiness Mindset

Here are nine mental health tips for cultivating happiness.

Have gratitude for everything you have.

Human beings have a disgusting trait. They tend to focus more on the negative aspects of life than the positive. Oftentimes, people are more concerned about the things they do not have instead of the ones they already possess. Hence, they become unhappy. 

When you dwell on the things you’re missing out on, it is easy to be unhappy. For example, you may feel resentful when you don’t receive a raise or promotion at work. However, when you look outside of yourself at the millions of unemployed people in the world, you may feel better. (At least you have a job!)

Have gratitude for everything you have. Gratitude helps to develop positive emotions, enjoy experiences, tackle adverse situations, and build healthy relationships. When you have gratitude for even the small things in your life, you feel happy. 

“Happiness will never come to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.”

Anonymous

Develop a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset.

There are two kinds of mindsets. The first is the fixed mindset, and the second, the growth mindset

In a fixed mindset, you are resistant to change. You are rigid in your way of thinking and are not concerned with self-improvement or personal growth. When you encounter challenges, you choose to not learn from them. You tend to defend your position blindly. Hence, you become an angry, irritated, fearful, and unhappy person. 

In a growth mindset, you crave learning and personal development. Whenever there is a challenge, you view it as an opportunity for improvement. With a growth mindset, you evaluate the situation, acknowledge the drawbacks, and focus on the skills you need to be successful. You do not have an inflexible, narrow mindset and are not driven by ego. Instead, you embrace any new challenge as a learning opportunity. Thus, you become happy and content. 

If you want to be happy, adopt a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset. Regard every challenge you face as a medium to grow and prosper. 

Make a list of the things that make you happy.

Make a list of the things and memories that make you happy. Every morning, jot down a few words or phrases (i.e., friends, a favorite vacation, a beloved pet, your favorite meal, a brand new car, etc.). Add to your list daily. Once you have a list of considerable length, devote 30 minutes to reviewing it. In those 30 minutes, reflect on the people, places, events, and things that bring you joy.

Do not overthink or judge yourself.

Human beings have 6200 thoughts per day. And not all of those 6200 thoughts are positive. You experience both positive and negative thoughts. Try to not dwell on your negative thoughts, and do not overanalyze them. When you overthink things, you may worry unnecessarily and feel unhappy. Also, do not be ashamed of your negative thoughts. It is okay to have negative thoughts; just don’t let them overpower you. Let the negative go, and instead, focus on the positive.

Think about the best moment of the day.

Before going to sleep at night, think about the best moment of your day. It will bring a smile to your face. Did you love the food your significant other cooked for dinner? Or, if the meal was mediocre at best, be happy that they took out time from their busy schedule to prepare something for you. (It’s the thought that counts, right?) Relish in the feelings of happiness and gratitude as you drift off to sleep.

Focus on your goals and the journey rather than the obstacles.

You will face obstacles in life. Sometimes, you will fail and fall flat on your face. But you can pick yourself back up. Focus on your goals and on the journey itself, not on stumbling blocks you encounter along the way. When you’re fixated on a problem, you become discouraged and are thereby less likely to look for the solution. Subsequently, you get stuck, and happiness may seem out of reach. 

To get unstuck, develop a plan, and then take action to achieve your goals. Get back on track with a renewed focus, and fight until you succeed. Your vision of success will help you move forward as you continue on your journey.

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

Ben Sweetland (Author and Psychologist)

Think positive thoughts about others. 

When you think negatively about the people in your life, you become incapable of maintaining healthy, genuine relationships. Misunderstanding and miscommunication can lead to conflict. Heated arguments or giving the cold shoulder generates hostility.

As much as possible, assume that others have positive intentions. Do not judge their words, actions, or motives. Judgments cloud your heart with unhappiness. 

Stop comparing yourself with others.

Each life is precious. Every journey is different. 

Now, envision that you’re scrolling through Facebook. You probably see smiling, attractive faces and happy, perfect families. In comparison, your life may seem dull or pathetic. Suppose you just went through a painful breakup, and when you view your home feed, all you see is your friends getting married or having babies. You may feel disheartened. If so, remind yourself that Facebook only reveals a tiny piece of the picture, not the full story. You are looking at edited highlights of your friends’ lives. You don’t know what happens behind the scenes. Stop comparing your life with others, and write your own story.

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.”

Mandy Hale (Author)

Seek medical help to regain your lost happiness.

Happiness leaves your life when you develop severe depression. Depression is like a thief. It steals optimism and joy. If left untreated, depression can lead to hopelessness and mental anguish and will rob you of the ability to feel any pleasure or enjoyment. It may impact your relationships with others, in addition to affecting sleep, appetite, and energy levels. 

Unfortunately, the stigma associated with depression and other mental disorders may prevent people from seeking the medical care they need. Many view mental illness as a choice, a weakness, or even a put-on. In reality, the brain, like all other internal organs, is susceptible to illness.

What would you do if you were having heart palpitations, dizziness, and chest pain? Would you ignore your symptoms… or would you ask someone to drive you to the nearest hospital? Certainly, you would seek immediate medical care. Urgent health issues require treatment; likewise, urgent mental health issues require treatment. 

When there are chemical imbalances in the brain, your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are affected. As a result, you experience depression, anxiety, etc.

If you are depressed, consult with a psychiatrist to learn about available treatment options. After assessing your symptoms, the psychiatrist will recommend one or more medical treatments. The first line of treatment for depression typically consists of medication and psychotherapy. However, if your symptoms persist despite continued treatment, your doctor may prescribe an alternative treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, or TMS therapy. 


What is TMS therapy? 

TMS therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves the delivery of recurring magnetic energy impulses to the parts of your brain that regulate mood. The magnetic pulses stimulate targeted brain cells to enhance communication between different parts of your brain, restoring balance. When TMS therapy is given at regular intervals, it is called repetitive TMS (or rTMS). TMS therapy reduces symptoms of depression and improves mood. TMS therapy is also effective for decreasing symptoms associated with OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, etc. This treatment is painless and has little to no side-effects. It does not involve sedation. Even after undergoing a session, you can drive back to your home without any hassle. That’s the best part of TMS therapy.


Conclusion 

In conclusion, to cultivate a happiness mindset, you must master your mind, not the other way around. True happiness comes from within and is not influenced by external factors. 

To develop the happiness mindset, practice gratitude, strive to improve yourself and learn, reflect on the things that make you happy (daily), be kind to yourself (and others), be solution-focused, compare self with self (not anyone else), and seek psychiatric care for depression.


Guest Author: Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He also provides mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community.

Resources for Finding Happiness

This is a list of websites, books, and free online courses for finding happiness.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

Lucille Ball

WEBSITES

Authentic Happiness | A University of Pennsylvania website developed by the Positive Psychology Center with resources including readings, videos, research, questionnaires, and more

Center for Healthy Minds | A University of Wisconsin-Madison website with a mission to “cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind”

Feeling Good | A David D. Burns website with free articles, assessments, podcasts, and more

The Greater Good Science Center | Free toolkits, articles, quizzes, courses, and more from the University of Berkely

Gretchin Rubin | Happiness resources from “one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature”

The Happiness Trap | Free resources from Russ Harris

International Positive Psychology Association | A professional membership organization dedicated to promoting the science of positive psychology

Positive Psychology | A science-based positive psychology platform with articles, trainings, and more

Pursuit of Happiness | A nonprofit site dedicated to providing articles, quizzes, quotes, courses, and more

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. | Resources for wellbeing

Thnx4 | An online gratitute journal

Zen Habits | A blog for implementing zen practices into daily life

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

BOOKS

Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It (David Niven)


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment


Feeling Great: The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety (David D. Burns)


Flourish (Martin Seligman)


The Happiness Advantage (Shawn Achor)


The Happiness Hypothesis (Jonathan Haidt)


The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT (Russ Harris)


Hardwiring Happiness (Rick Hanson)


The How of Happiness (Sonja Lyubomirsky)


How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything: Yes, Anything (Albert Ellis)


No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering (Thich Nhat Hanh)


Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes)


“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

Martha Washington

FREE PDF WORKBOOKS


For additional printable workbooks, see Free Printable PDF Workbooks & Manuals – Mind ReMake Project.


“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shulz

FREE ONLINE COURSES


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Developing Self-Confidence

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Strategies & Resources for Developing Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is “the belief that you can do things well and that other people respect you.” Someone who is self-confident feels worthwhile and is optimistic about their abilities.

Early Experiences Influence Self-Confidence

How do we develop self-confidence? Early childhood experiences with parents (or caretakers) shape how we view ourselves and our capabilities. A child whose parents are supportive and encouraging develops a sense of self-efficacy; they feel nurtured and secure. In contrast, children who are neglected or abused may be fearful or uncertain.

Peer relationships also impact the development of confidence; positive social interactions foster self-assurance and high self-esteem. Conversely, a child who is rejected or teased may experience a sense of unworthiness or feel unsure about their abilities.

Once a child develops low self-worth, it can be difficult to bounce back. Children who are ostracized or bullied by their playmates become hesitant to initiate or engage in play. The absence of peer socialization leads to further isolation. As a result, critical social skills are not learned, making the child an even less desirable playfellow, which only reinforces the belief that they’re undeserving.

Lack of Self-Confidence

The patterns formed in early childhood tend to repeat themselves. A child who never develops a sense of competence will not grow up to be a confident, self-reliant adult.

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”

John Connolly

Traits of low self-confidence include discounting yourself and doubting your capacity for effectiveness. A person who lacks self-assurance may believe they’re inferior to others. They may experience anxiety or depression and struggle with learned helplessness (the belief that one has no control over what happens to them in life).

A lack of confidence can also lead to fear of rejection or criticism. Constructive feedback can feel like a personal attack. This person may have trouble accepting compliments or expressing their opinion.

When someone is highly insecure, they avoid social events. They’re more likely to be bullied at work or involved with an abusive partner. As a result, their relationships and overall quality of life suffer.

Self-Confident Traits

In contrast, someone who is self-confident views themselves as competent; they feel good about themselves. They have a positive outlook on life and are generally optimistic. A self-confident person is often resilient and able to quickly recover after experiencing setbacks.

“The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.”

Blake Lively

10 Traits of Self-Confident People

1. Genuine

2. Optimistic and positive

3. Ask questions and are eager to learn

4. Open to feedback and constructive criticism

5. Take healthy risks

6. Able to laugh at self

7. Don’t internalize failure

8. Take ownership (of both successes and mistakes)

9. Take pride in accomplishments

10. Able to make decisions without too much difficulty


Strategies for Developing Self-Confidence

Correct cognitive distortions

A cognitive distortion is an error in thinking or a self-defeating belief that is not an accurate reflection of reality. Cognitive distortions impact how we view ourselves and our abilities. For example, black-and-white (or all-or-nothing) thinking is a distortion of “absolutes” (i.e. “If I fail at something, I’ll fail at everything”).

By replacing irrational views with ones that are reality-based, you’ll feel more confident. (See 50 Common Cognitive Distortions for a list of thinking errors from Psychology Today.)

Adjust your attitude

Your overall perspective greatly impacts confidence. If you’re generally negative and believe that failure is inevitable, it will become your reality. Instead, practice optimism and gratitude. A positive attitude enhances self-confidence.

Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.

Albert Bandura

Track your achievements

Is optimism challenging due to circumstances, barriers, or obstacles? Try creating a list of all the things you’re proud of – your biggest accomplishments in life. Did you graduate college? Quit smoking? Pay off a loan? Raise a child? Earn an award? To enhance self-confidence, take pride in your successes. Review the list often and update it with successive achievements.

Identify talents, skills, and knowledge

In addition to acknowledging accomplishments, recognize your unique talents, skills, and knowledge. What are you good at? What are your areas of expertise? Instead of lamenting a lack of athleticism, relish in your ability to make others laugh or your mastery of the Dothraki language.

mistakes happen

You’re only human after all, and as a human, you are going to make mistakes. You will never achieve perfection, so let go of unrealistic standards or expectations you have for yourself. Also, don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes; be kind to yourself… and be wise. When you mess up, own it, and then learn from the error. Every mistake is a growth opportunity; you only fail when you give up.

Don’t compare out

(Or if you do, compare yourself to others who lack what you have!) There will always be people who are better off and there will always be people who have it worse than you. To build confidence, use yourself as the measure for success, not someone else.

Fake it till you make it (“act as if”)

To feel confident, act confident! Be intentional in your speech, actions, and how you carry yourself. Act like you know what you’re doing, and people will believe it, which in turn will influence how you feel about yourself. Just like thoughts have the power to alter behaviors, behaviors can impact thoughts and beliefs.

“I taught myself confidence. When I’d walk into a room and feel scared to death, I’d tell myself, ‘I’m not afraid of anybody.’ And people believed me. You’ve got to teach yourself to take over the world.”

Priyanka Chopra

Seek support

Ask for help when you need it. Rely on trusted family and friends for support and encouragement. (It should also be noted that if you have a mental illness, you may require professional help. Feelings of worthlessness, panic, and extreme self-consciousness are examples of symptoms that interfere with someone’s ability to feel confident; they can be treated with psychotherapy and/or medication.)

Lastly, practice regular self-care

When you’re tired or rundown, it’s difficult to feel good about yourself. It’s also true that you won’t function as well when your basic needs aren’t met. If a vehicle is not well-maintained, its performance suffers; the same is true for people. Eat healthy foods, get adequate rest, drink plenty of water, exercise daily, and seek treatment when ill.

Resources for Self-Confidence

Articles & Links

Free Kindle eBooks

Free PDF Workbooks

Conclusion

Everyone is good at something. Recognize your unique abilities, and take pride in them. Allow yourself to feel confident; life is too short for inaction related to self-doubt.

At the same time, assess and remain aware of areas for growth. Strive for self-improvement; be assured that you can learn new skills and make positive changes in your life.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


References

25 Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery

Use the following 25 journal prompts to explore your beliefs and values. Reflect on the answers to better understand who you are and what drives you.


25 Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery

1. Who am I when no one is around?

2. What are my personal boundaries?

3. What values are most important to me?

4. How do my values impact my choices and actions?

5. What is my personal “code for life”? What rules or ethics do I abide by?

6. What expectations do I have for myself?

7. What advice would I give to my younger self?

8. Am I living up to my full potential in life? If not, what is holding me back?

9. If I die today, how will I be remembered? How do I want to be remembered?

10. What (or who) am I holding on to that I need to let go? What are the reasons I’ve held on to them? What could happen if I let go of them?

“Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.”

Mina Murray

11. What are my resentments? What role do I play in each resentment?

12. For what moment today (or recently) am I the most grateful? The least grateful?

13. When today (or recently) did I ask for what I needed? When today (or recently) did I not ask for what I needed? What was the outcome?

14. What was my biggest struggle today?

15. What helped me most with my negativity today (or recently)? What helped me least with my negativity today (or recently)?

16. What are some of my biases? Where did they come from?

17. What parts of myself do I tend to hide from others and why?

18. What is my definition of love?

19. What qualities do I look for in a friend? Am I someone I’d want to be friends with? Why or why not?

20. What are my relationship values?

“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.”

Jen Williamson

21. What is a reoccurring dream that I have?

22. What are my biggest regrets in life?

23. What are my motivations in life?

24. How have I changed in the past year?

25. What do I want to change the most about myself and why?

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

William Wordsworth

For additional questions for self-discovery, see 161 Questions to Explore Values, Ideas, & Beliefs.


Free Printable PDF Handout:

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

17 Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health Professionals

Prevent burnout and combat compassion fatigue with these 17 self-care ideas and strategies for therapists.

Self-care
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

A recent study found that many mental health professionals do not recognize their own burnout. For therapists and other mental health workers, self-care is essential for preventing burnout and compassion fatigue.

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.

Parker Palmer

This is a list of self-care ideas and strategies for mental health professionals. Please share with anyone who might benefit!


For additional self-care ideas, see 11 Self-Care Ideas You May Not Have Considered and Self-Care Strategies When Your Loved One Has an Addiction.


Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health Professionals

1) Take small breaks throughout the day. Spend a few moments sitting in silence, browse funny memes, joke with a coworker, or take your lunch outside; by the end of your workday, you won’t feel as drained.

2) Meditate. Spend at least 5-10 minutes a day, in the morning or between sessions, meditating or listening to guided imagery recordings.

3) Schedule an appointment weeks in advance for a facial or massage. You’ll have something to look forward to!

4) Don’t neglect your basic needs. Drink water, choose healthy foods, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

Don’t take your health for granted. Don’t take your body for granted. Do something today that communicates to your body that you desire to care for it. Tomorrow is not promised.

Jada Pinkett Smith

5) Reach out to people in your support network. When experiencing burnout, we have a tendency to think we’re weak or less capable. We may struggle to admit what we’re going through. However, seeking support during these times is more important than ever.

6) Don’t bring your work home with you. It can be difficult to not think about the problems a client is experiencing or to check your email, but it’s crucial to have balance in your life. If you let your work consume you, you’ll soon find yourself depleted and with nothing to give.

7) Take the time to sincerely thank or praise your colleagues. Sometimes, it seems as though we’re in a thankless field. Spread positivity by expressing gratitude and giving compliments. (I also like to pass along the praise I hear for someone else!)

8) Be kind to yourself. Be realistic. Practice positive self-talk and forgive yourself for the mistakes you make. Acknowledge that you’re not always going to know the right thing to say, nor will you be able to help every client you see.

Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.

Brené Brown

9) Treat yourself to your favorite beverage at least once a week. Enjoy a Starbucks coffee or a kombucha tea during the workday. Consider surprising a coworker with one too!

10) If you work in a shared office space or residential setting, get up and communicate in-person instead of sending an email. (You can always follow-up with an email to recap the convo if needed.) Human interaction throughout the day is far more rewarding than staring at a screen.

11) Take a short “nature bath”! Multiple studies have found that being outdoors improves mood and reduces stress. If you work in an urban setting, nurture a potted plant or listen to nature sounds in your office to promote relaxation.

12. Bring your furry friend to work. Pets make us happy; one study found that having a dog in the office made a positive difference by reducing stress and making the job more satisfying for other employees.

13) Update the lighting in your office. Natural light exposure in the office is linked to a better quality of life. If possible, take advantage of sunlight during the day by keeping the blinds open.

14. Find self-care ideas online. I recommend the Self-Care Starter Kit from University at Buffalo School of Social Work and Dr. Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion site.

I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.

Kristen Neff

15. Stretch! Yoga is known to reduce stress and improve mood. Take a class or simply practice stretching exercises throughout the workday.

16. Listen to music while typing your notes. I love paperwork… Said no therapist ever. Play your favorite tunes to motivate you and make the time pass quickly.

17. Immerse yourself in quiet with a silent commute. After listening to talk all day long, it’s soothing to listen to absolutely nothing on your way home. Recharge with silence.


Post your favorite self-care strategies in a comment!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


References

13 Websites for Free Self-Help

Free online self-help and personal development

Image by stokpic from Pixabay

Free Self-Help Resources & Online Support

Are you searching for free self-help? This is a list of links to various sites and services providing self-help.


For free therapy workbooks, handouts, and worksheets:


1. Counselling Resource

Take psychological self-tests and quizzes, read about symptoms and treatments, compare types of counselling and psychotherapy, learn about secure online therapy, and more

2. DBT Self-Help

A site for individuals seeking information on DBT. This site includes DBT skill lessons, flash cards, diary cards, mindfulness videos, and more.

3. Healthy Place

Mental health information, including online assessments and breaking news

4. HelpGuide.org

Collaborates with Harvard Health Publications to provide a wide range of unbiased, motivating resources and self-help tools for mental, social, and emotional. 100% nonprofit; dedicated to Morgan Leslie Segal, who died by suicide when she was 29.

5. Internet Mental Health

A free encyclopedia for mental health information on the most common mental disorders. Created by psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Long.

6. Mental Health Online

Create an account to access free mental health services for mental distress, including programs for anxiety, depression, OCD, and other disorders

7. Moodgym

Interactive self-help book for depression and anxiety. (This resource used to be free, but now there’s a small fee.)

8. National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse

A peer-run resource center

9. Psych Central

Information on mental health, quizzes, and online self-help support groups. The site is owned and operated by Dr. John Grohol, inspired by the loss of his childhood friend to suicide.

10. Psychology Help Center

A consumer resource featuring information related to psychological issues that affect emotional and physical well-being

11. Sources of Insight

Providing the principles, patterns, and practices needed for personal development and success; a source for skilled living and personal empowerment

12. Succeed Socially

An extensive, completely free collection of articles on social skills and getting past social awkwardness. It’s written by someone who’s struggled socially himself, and who has degrees in psychology and counseling.

13. Verywell Mind

An online resource for improving mental health. All content is written by healthcare professionals, including doctors, therapists, and social workers.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Unconventional Coping Strategies

A list of uncommon strategies for coping with stress, depression, and anxiety. Includes a free PDF version of the list to print and use as a handout.

Image by Daniel Sampaio Donate if you want (Paypal) from Pixabay

Effective coping skills make it possible to survive life’s stressors, obstacles, and hardships. Without coping strategies, life would be unmanageable. Dr. Constance Scharff described coping mechanisms as “skills we… have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world.” Healthy coping strategies promote resilience when experiencing minor stressors, such as getting a poor performance review at work, or major ones, such as the loss of a loved one.

Like any skill, coping is important to practice on a regular basis in order to be effective. Do this by maintaining daily self-care (at a minimum: adequate rest, healthy meals, exercise, staying hydrated, and avoiding drugs/alcohol.)

As an expert on you (and how you adapt to stressful situations), you may already know what helps the most when life seems out-of-control. (I like reading paranormal romance/fantasy-type books!) Maybe you meditate or run or rap along to loud rap music or have snuggle time with the cats or binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Having insight into/awareness of your coping strategies primes you for unforeseeable tragedies in life.

“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

Virginia Satir, Therapist (June 26, 2019-September 10, 1988)

Healthy coping varies greatly from person to person; what matters is that your personal strategies work for you. For example, one person may find prayer helpful, but for someone who isn’t religious, prayer might be ineffective. Instead, they may swim laps at the gym when going through a difficult time. Another person may cope by crying and talking it out with a close friend.

Image by Victor Vote from Pixabay

Note: there are various mental health treatment approaches (i.e. DBT, trauma-focused CBT, etc.) that incorporate specialized, evidence-based coping techniques that are proven to work (by reducing symptoms and improving wellbeing) for certain disorders. The focus of this post is basic coping, not treatment interventions.

On the topic of coping skills, the research literature is vast (and beyond the scope of this post). While many factors influence coping (i.e. personality/temperament, stressors experienced, mental and physical health, etc.), evidence backs the following methods: problem-solving techniques, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, relaxation techniques, reframing, acceptance, humor, seeking support, and religion/spirituality. (Note that venting is not on the list!) Emotional intelligence may also play a role in the efficiency of coping skills.


Current Research

In 2011, researchers found that positive reframes, acceptance, and humor were the most effective copings skills for students dealing with small setbacks. The effect of humor as a positive coping skill has been found in prior studies, several of which focused on coping skills in the workplace.

A sport psychology study indicated that professional golfers who used positive self-talk, blocked negative thoughts, maintained focus, and remained in a relaxed state effectively coped with stress, keeping a positive mindset. Effective copers also sought advice as needed throughout the game. A 2015 study suggested that helping others, even strangers, helps mitigate the impact of stress.


Examples of coping skills include prayer, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, talking to a trusted person, journaling, cleaning, and creating art. However, the purpose of this post is to provide coping alternatives. Maybe meditation isn’t your thing or journaling leaves you feeling like crap. Coping is not one-size-fits-all. The best approach to coping is to find and try lots of different things!

Image by Amanda Oliveira from Pixabay

The inspiration for this post came from Facebook. (Facebook is awesome for networking! I’m a member of several professional groups.) Lauren Mills sought ideas for unconventional strategies via Facebook… With permission, I’m sharing some of them here!    


Unconventional Coping Strategies

  1. Crack pistachio nuts
  2. Fold warm towels
  3. Smell your dog (Fun fact: dog paws smell like corn chips!) or watch them sleep
  4. Peel dried glue off your hands
  5. Break glass at the recycling center
  6. Pop bubble wrap
  7. Lie upside down
  8. Watch slime or pimple popping videos on YouTube
  9. Sort and build Lego’s
  10. Write in cursive
  11. Observe fish in an aquarium
  12. Twirl/spin around
  13. Solve math problems (by hand)
  14. Use a voice-changing app (Snapchat works too) to repeat back your worry/critical thoughts in the voice of a silly character OR sing your worries/thoughts aloud to the tune of “Happy Birthday”
  15. Listen to the radio in foreign languages
  16. Chop vegetables
  17. Go for a joy ride (Windows down!)
  18. Watch YouTube videos of cute animals and/or giggling babies
  19. Blow bubbles
  20. Walk barefoot outside
  21. Draw/paint on your skin
  22. Play with (dry) rice
  23. Do (secret) “random acts of kindness”
  24. Play with warm (not hot) candle wax
  25. Watch AMSR videos on YouTube
  26. Shuffle cards
  27. Recite family recipes
  28. Find the nicest smelling flowers at a grocery store
  29. Count things
  30. Use an app to try different hairstyles and/or makeup
  31. People-watch with a good friend and make up stories about everyone you see (Take it to the next level with voiceovers!)
  32. Wash your face mindfully
  33. Buy a karaoke machine and sing your heart out when you’re home alone
  34. On Instagram, watch videos of a hydraulic press smash things, cake decorating, pottery/ceramics throwing, hand lettering, and/or woodwork
  35. Shine tarnished silver
  36. Create a glitter jar and enjoy
  37. Tend to plants
  38. Color in a vulgar coloring book for adults

Image by A_Different_Perspective from Pixabay

Download a PDF version (free) of “Unconventional Coping Strategies” below. This handout can be printed, copied, and shared without the author’s permission, providing it’s not used for monetary gain. Please modify as needed.


  • Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
  • With Lauren Mills, MA, LPC-Intern (Contributor)
  • Lauren Mills, MA, LPC-Intern (Supervised by Mary Ann Satori, LPC-S) is a therapist in Texas and a current resident in counseling.     

I’d like to acknowledge all members of Therapist Toolbox – Resources & Support for Therapists who submitted ideas!


If you have an uncommon coping skill, post in a comment!

350 Ideas for Hobbies

Discover a new hobby with this diverse list of assorted leisure activities, which range from beekeeping to Kombucha brewing to knife throwing to ghost hunting.

A list of over 350 hobbies to try

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

I developed this list (with the help of Wikipedia, and Google, of course) as part of a project I was working on and thought it would be worth sharing. (Click below for a PDF version of this list.)


350 Ideas for Hobbies

Jump to a section:

Animals & Nature Hobbies

  1. Attend pet shows (or horse shows)
  2. Beekeeping
  3. Berry or apple picking
  4. Bird watching
  5. Butterfly garden (Visit one or create your own!)
  6. Butterfly watching
  7. Be a plant parent; nurture and care for indoor plants
  8. Composting
  9. Dog training
  10. Dog walking
  11. Fossil hunting
  12. Grow and tend to a fruit tree
  13. Grow an indoor herb garden
  14. Grow plants from seedlings (and plant outside when in-season)
  15. Hang humming bird feeders and then sit back and enjoy the company!
  16. Horseback riding
  17. Become an expert at identifying various plants
  18. Mushroom hunting
  19. Nature walks
  20. Adopt a pet
  21. Pet fostering
  22. Pet sitting
  23. Plant a flower bed
  24. Go on a swamp tour
  25. Tend to a vegetable garden
  26. Topiary
  27. Visit a farm
  28. Visit an aquarium
  29. Go to zoos and/or nature centers
  30. Watch wildlife on Animal Planet
  31. Go whale watching

🔝

Arts & Crafts

  1. Drawing
  2. Candle making
  3. Collages – Use whatever materials you desire!
  4. Coloring
  5. Crocheting
  6. Design your own greeting cards or stationary
  7. Flower arranging
  8. Glassblowing
  9. Jewelry making
  10. Knitting
  11. Lettering/calligraphy
  12. Mixed media art
  13. Mosaic making
  14. Origami
  15. Painting (watercolor, oils, acrylics, etc.)
  16. Paper crafts (including paper mache)
  17. Photography
  18. Pressed flower craft
  19. Pottery
  20. Quilting
  21. Scrapbooking
  22. Sculpting
  23. Sewing
  24. Sketching
  25. Soap making
  26. Weaving
  27. Wood carving

🔝

Collection Hobbies

  1. Action figures
  2. Antiques
  3. Autographs
  4. Barbies
  5. Books (classics, signed copies, etc.)
  6. Christmas tree ornaments
  7. Comics
  8. Fun socks
  9. Hot sauce from around the world
  10. Movie or music memorabilia
  11. Obsolete tech (i.e. outdated cell phones, tape players, etc.)
  12. Original artwork
  13. Plates
  14. Purses, shoes, and other accessories
  15. Recipes
  16. Records
  17. Retro video games
  18. Rocks and/or crystals
  19. Shells
  20. Souvenirs
  21. Sports memorabilia
  22. Stickers
  23. Ticket stubs
  24. Toys
  25. Vases
  26. Vintage items

🔝

Cooking & Baking

  1. Braising
  2. Bread making
  3. Cake decorating
  4. Canning
  5. Cheese making
  6. Coffee roasting
  7. Cookie decorating
  8. Grilling and BBQ
  9. Hosting dinner parties
  10. Kombucha brewing
  11. Learn ethnic and regional recipes
  12. Learn recipes from cooking shows
  13. Make “fun foods” for kids
  14. Make homemade ice cream
  15. Make jam or jelly
  16. Make your own beef (or vegan!) jerky
  17. Participate in competitive food festivals (or just go and enjoy the food!)
  18. Pasta making
  19. Pastry and confection making
  20. Pickling
  21. Pie making
  22. Raw diet meals
  23. Recreate menu items from your favorite restaurants
  24. Reduced fat cooking
  25. Sautéing
  26. Slow cooker meals
  27. Smoothie making
  28. Soup, sauce, and stock making
  29. Sushi making
  30. Take a cooking class
  31. Tea brewing
  32. Try new recipes on a regular basis
  33. Use an air fryer
  34. Use a dehydrator
  35. Use Pinterest for inspiration
  36. Vegan cooking
  37. Watch Food Network for inspiration

🔝

Entertainment

  1. Attend movies, operas, plays, and musicals
  2. Bingo
  3. Board games and/or party games
  4. Card games
  5. Chess
  6. Strategy games
  7. Dine out at new restaurants
  8. Escape rooms
  9. Gaming
  10. Go to museums
  11. Go to poetry slams or open mic nights
  12. Jigsaw puzzles
  13. Karaoke
  14. Murder mystery shows
  15. Read entertainment/celebrity magazines
  16. See your favorite bands/artists perform live
  17. Standup comedy
  18. Theme parks
  19. Watch your favorite Netflix series, but make sure you become overly invested (borderline obsessed) with the story line and characters in order for this to qualify as a legit hobby

🔝

Home Improvement & DIY

  1. Add a backsplash to your kitchen
  2. Bathroom remodel
  3. Build a shed
  4. Build furniture
  5. Design a meditation room, home office, “man cave,” or “she shed”
  6. DIY headboard
  7. Fireplace makeover
  8. Hanging shelves
  9. Home organization
  10. Install smart home technology
  11. Kitchen remodel
  12. Paint an accent wall or update your entire home
  13. Paint old cabinets
  14. Redecorate a room
  15. Stencil or wallpaper
  16. Update a closet
  17. Update furniture
  18. Update lighting
  19. Use chalk paint or metallic spray paint

🔝

Literature, Music, & Dance

  1. Acting
  2. Visit art galleries
  3. Attend literary fests
  4. Ballroom dancing
  5. Belly dancing
  6. Blogging/guest blogging
  7. Break dancing
  8. Editing
  9. Go to book signings
  10. Go to the library
  11. Join a book club (either in-person or online, i.e. Goodreads)
  12. Listen to music
  13. Play/learn an instrument
  14. Puppeteering
  15. Rapping
  16. Reading
  17. Sell your art on etsy.com
  18. Singing
  19. Song writing
  20. Submit articles/opinion pieces/essays to magazines and newspapers
  21. Swing dancing
  22. Take a dance class (swing, hip hop, ballroom, etc.)
  23. Take a drama or improv class
  24. Take voice lessons
  25. Wikipedia editing
  26. Write a book
  27. Write poetry
  28. Write short stories

🔝

Outdoor & Adventure

  1. Backpacking
  2. Boating
  3. Bungee jumping
  4. Camping
  5. Canoeing
  6. Caving
  7. Fishing
  8. Geocaching
  9. Go-Karting
  10. Hiking
  11. Hot air ballooning
  12. Kayaking
  13. Laser tag
  14. Mountain biking
  15. Mountain climbing
  16. Paintball
  17. Parasailing
  18. Rocking climbing
  19. Sailing
  20. Scuba diving
  21. Skiing
  22. Skydiving
  23. Snowboarding
  24. Snorkeling
  25. Waterskiing
  26. White water rafting
  27. Wilderness survival

🔝

Self-Improvement & Social Hobbies

  1. Advocate for a cause
  2. Attend support groups/meetings
  3. Attend workshops
  4. Bullet journaling
  5. Daily positive affirmations and/or self-reflection
  6. Join a club
  7. Join a gym
  8. Join a Meetup group
  9. Join a political campaign
  10. Journaling
  11. Keep a gratitude journal
  12. Listen to podcasts
  13. Make a vision board and update it regularly
  14. Meditation
  15. Read research
  16. Read self-improvement books
  17. Social media
  18. Stretching
  19. Take a class (i.e. self-defense, a foreign language, etc.)
  20. Use a habit tracker app
  21. Volunteer
  22. Watch documentaries
  23. Watch inspirational Ted Talks
  24. Wear a fitness tracker
  25. Yoga

🔝

Sports

  1. Archery
  2. Badminton 
  3. Baseball
  4. Basketball
  5. Biking
  6. Body building
  7. Bowling
  8. Boxing
  9. Cricket
  10. Darts
  11. Disc golf/frisbee
  12. Fencing
  13. Football/flag football
  14. Golf
  15. Gymnastics
  16. Hockey
  17. Ice skating
  18. Jogging/running
  19. Knife throwing
  20. Lacrosse
  21. Martial arts
  22. Poker
  23. Racquetball
  24. Racing
  25. Riding a unicycle
  26. Roller derby
  27. Rugby
  28. Skateboarding
  29. Soccer
  30. Surfing/body boarding
  31. Swimming
  32. Table football
  33. Table tennis
  34. Tennis
  35. Thai Chi
  36. Volleyball
  37. Weight training
  38. Wrestling

🔝

Travel

  1. Alaskan cruise
  2. All-inclusive resorts
  3. Beach vacations
  4. Caribbean cruise
  5. Cross-country train trip
  6. Explore your home town and other nearby place as though you’re a tourist
  7. Guided group tours
  8. Mediterranean cruise
  9. Road trip
  10. See the Northern Lights
  11. Travel to all the continents in the world
  12. Travel to all the states in America
  13. Trip to Las Vegas
  14. Visit the Grand Canyon
  15. Visit the New Seven Wonders of the World
  16. Visit the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World
  17. Go on city walking tours

🔝

Miscellaneous Hobbies

  1. Astrology/astronomy
  2. Billiards
  3. Couponing
  4. Creating DIY home products
  5. Fantasy sports
  6. Genealogy
  7. Ghost hunting
  8. Hair styling/braiding
  9. Hula hooping
  10. Juggling
  11. Keeping up with the latest fashions
  12. Kite flying
  13. Learning magic tricks
  14. Makeup application
  15. Metal detecting
  16. Model building
  17. People watching
  18. Storage unit auctions
  19. Sunbathing
  20. Yard sale shopping/thrifting

🔝


Note: The Wikipedia webpage, “List of Hobbies” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hobbies), was utilized as a reference for this list.


Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

How I Found Meaning in Life

“I gave up on having a future. And I was strangely okay with it.”

Image by suju from Pixabay

From Survival to Endurance to Fulfillment: How I Found Meaning in Life

Without delving too deep into my past, I can tell you that my late teens and early to mid 20’s were not the best of times. They were dark. Lonely. Depressing. I was living a life of chaos and hopelessness. At one point, I didn’t think I was going to survive; I gave up on having a future. And I was strangely okay with it.

My turning point was a spiritual awakening of sorts. A near-death experience led to a realization that I didn’t want to die; and it was either die or change my life. I picked change.

What helped me to live again (and ultimately find fulfillment and meaning in life)? You might guess family or a relationship or God. But at the time, I wasn’t close with my family, I didn’t have any significant relationships/friendships, and God wasn’t a part of my life.

It was the following that helped me become the person I am today:

A Therapist

Having not a single shred of self-esteem, I went to see a counselor. She created a safe space and then uplifted me, making me feel worthwhile. She normalized what I was going through; I felt less alone. She affirmed me for positive choices I made. She initiated the mending of my fragile self. I gradually gained confidence, not only in myself, but in the idea that I could live a better life.

My Dog

She loved me unconditionally… and she depended on me fully. If I died, she would think I purposely left her. I couldn’t bear the idea; I wouldn’t do that to her. She played a huge role in my recovery. I sometimes think she saved me.

My Potential

I’ve always known I have potential. I’m smart and creative. I’m motivated and driven. But that potential died somewhere along the way in young adulthood. In moments of clarity, I mourned my lost potential. I wanted to be better and to do better with my life. I was meant, maybe not for great things, but for better things than living out of my car, broke and friendless. When I decided to live, my potential reawakened; it became a driving force – a bright, glowing beacon that revitalized and inspired me.

“You have to forgive yourself.”

Self-Forgiveness

I couldn’t bear to tell my therapist about some of the things I’d done. I was ashamed; late at night, lying in bed, I would think about past events. I’d feel sick to my stomach – then, an unpleasant head rush heart racing not able to get enough air… (That’s the feeling of shame seeping from your mind into your being.) My therapist didn’t push me to share; instead, she said, “You have to forgive yourself.” It became my mantra, quietly uttered in the dark. I would repeat, “I forgive myself, I forgive myself, I forgive myself…” until I internalized it. (That being said, it didn’t happen overnight… it took weeks, months, years. But all was set in motion with that one simple statement.)

Education

I went back to school and was able to fully immerse myself in my studies. As a naturally curious person, learning is a sort of fuel for me. The more I learn, the thirstier I become. My classes provided me with not only knowledge, but with a spark that generated purpose.

Passion

While in school, I discovered a new passion; I fell in love with research. (#nerd) I thrived in my research/statistics class; my undergraduate study was even published in a national journal. It felt good to be passionate about something again; it stirred up (from the dust) long-forgotten loves, like reading and writing – passions I thought I’d left behind in childhood.

A Meaningful Career

After finishing college and starting graduate school, I became a counselor… and found meaning in helping others. My first job in the field was tough, heart-breaking at times, and deeply fulfilling. It solidified what my education had started to shape – I no longer needed to survive or endure life; I found my purpose and a meaning in life.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP