30 Best Self-Improvement Books for Those Battling Depression
| Staff Writers
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Books are a great escape from the stresses of the real world, a fact that may be especially true for those battling depression. In fact, finding comfort in books has even become a recognized source of comfort called bibliotherapy. For those currently struggling with depression, we’ve come up with a list of the 30 best self-improvement books. Because there are hundreds of books on the topic, plus a hundred more fiction titles revolving around depression, we consulted Amazon and Barnes and Noble to find out their bestselling books about depression, read reviews, and blogs, and even looked over lists of award winning titles. Though our list is almost certainly not exhaustive, we’re confident that we’ve found the very best 30 self-improvement books for those battling depression.
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In his book Against Depression, author Peter Kramer makes the surprisingly unusual statement that depression is a physical disease — and it’s high time we start treating it as such. Though this book was perhaps written for those treating depression, it also serves as a helpful support for those who are struggling themselves. Kramer summarizes the ways in which depression is viewed today by various parts of the population, then makes a number of interesting suggestions about how we as a society can help conquer it. But not everything in Kramer’s book is about depression on a larger scale. Throughout, he also includes helpful advice for anyone in need of better understanding that they’re not defined by their mental illness.
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
Even those who don’t like self-help books will find value in Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote. Burkeman is well aware that not every person on earth, and especially not every person battling depression, responds to positivity, which is why he wrote his book from a more existential perspective. According to Burkeman, negative feelings aren’t feelings to be pushed away or ignored. Rather, they are vital parts of life that, when properly understood, can ultimately be a (gasp!) positive.
The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians
The CBT Toolbox takes on a slightly more technical tone than many of the other workbooks we’ve listed, partly because it’s just as appropriate for those battling depression as it is for those who help those battling depression. The workbook provides readers with dozens of helpful exercises based upon the clinically proven Cognitive Behavioral Therapy method. By completing each exercise, readers should begin internalizing the tools that could help them overcome depression.
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
Daniel G. Amen
This bestselling book by Daniel G. Amen is subtitled “The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems.” As such, Amen provides a series of what he calls “brain prescriptions” to help his readers learn to fight their depression and anxiety, while also silencing panic, anger, impulsiveness, and worry. Throughout, Amen also includes various scientific studies and cases to show that changing the way your brain thinks can actually change your life.
The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program
William J. Knaus
William J. Knaus’s bestselling book revolves around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a commonly used treatment for depression. Readers can use this workbook to both evaluate their own depression and find the right tools with which to battle and overcome it. Knaus has provided his readers with myriad helpful worksheets, exercises, and prompts for reflection, many of which are very often used by therapists in a doctor-patient setting.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: 7 Ways to Freedom from Anxiety, Depression, and Intrusive Thoughts
According to author Lawrence Wallace, “happiness is a trainable, attainable skill!” Throughout his bestselling book, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Wallace lays out various useful tools with which readers can learn to be compassionate to themselves and ultimately find happiness. Each skill is based on mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, combining two of the most popular methods for overcoming depression. Wallace, who has battled both anxiety and depression, also includes inspiring personal anecdotes throughout.
Control Your Depression
Peter Lewinsohn’s bestselling book Control Your Depression aims to help readers suffering with depression to find their missing zest for life. To achieve this weighty task, Lewinsohn first asks some of the tough questions surrounding depression: What is really happening inside a depressed brain? What do depressed people think about? Why? He then offers tools with which readers can target specific reasons for their depression and conquer it.
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs
Stephen S. Ilardi
For many people, and for many reasons, taking medication in the face of depression is not a welcomed option. That’s why Stephen S. Ilardi wrote his bestselling book The Depression Cure. The book discusses six important life elements that have been proven both scientifically and throughout history as ways in which we can slow down the oftentimes overwhelming pace of life in order to get back to the basics. It’s when we can get back to the basics, says Ilardi, that we can overcome depression.
Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger From Your Life
Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D.
While most books about battling depression are written by psychologists, Depression-Free, Naturally is written by a nutritionist. Joan Mathews Larson believes that depression and anxiety are both the result of various imbalances and deficiencies in the human body. Throughout her book, Larson offers tips for different foods, minerals, vitamins, and supplements for naturally boosting one’s health and mind, thereby defeating depression for good.
The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression
Mary Ellen Copeland
One of a few workbook-type books to make our list, The Depression Workbook by Mary Ellen Copeland is aimed at those in need of the motivation it takes to take control of their health. Through personalized activities, readers of The Depression Workbook will not only begin to understand their depression, but will also learn the best ways to combat it by boosting their self-confidence and learning to mindfully relax in order to avoid mood swings and uncomfortable situations. There is also a helpful section through which readers can develop their own plan for managing their depression.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
David D. Burns, M.D.
The mind is a powerful thing when it comes to overcoming our moods and emotions; if you can change the way you think, then you can change the way you feel. That’s the big takeaway from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns, M.D. The Stanford-based psychiatrist explains through easy-to-understand writing the ways in which our minds tend to distort our thoughts and lead to depression, anxiety, and anger. He then offers a series of mental exercises and challenges his readers to consciously replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts in order to “learn to feel good.”
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
Between keeping up with our peers on Facebook, managing our households, and dealing with work, the world in which we live is extremely fast-paced. Though most of us realize that such an environment can be stressful, few realize the dominating effect it can have on our mood and overall health. In his bestselling book Full Catastrophe Living, author Jon Kabat-Zinn offers helpful habit-forming tips that can make living in a busy and competitive world less stressful. His approaches range from inspiring quotations, to exercises, to meditation and yoga, but they’re all carefully designed to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
In this hilarious memoir, comedian and bestselling author Jenny Lawson, recounts her lifelong battle with crippling depression and anxiety. She’s (sometimes brutally) honest about her struggles, but manages to find the humor in it. The result is an entertaining read that will probably make you laugh, and certainly make you realize that you’re not alone in your pain and struggles.
Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression
According to author Robert Duff, his book Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression is the “no psychobabble self-help book for people that don’t usually like self-help books.” Although Duff is a psychologist by trade and training, his books (including one about anxiety) are no nonsense, and easy to read and understand. Readers will learn why they feel as if they have no energy and why they have the feelings they do. They’ll also gain Duff’s knowledge about realistic steps that can be taken to solve many of the day-to-day issues faced by those battling depression.
How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook
For those who want (or need) a more light-hearted approach to battling depression, there is Lee Crutchley’s How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook. Crutchley describes his workbook as “a workbook, trusted friend, creative outlet, security blanket, and secret diary.” As such, this fun and unique book is designed to walk readers through a process that will help them to discover every day joys, life’s simple pleasures, and hopefully a new, more positive perspective on life.
How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from One Who Knows
Doubling as both memoir and self help book, How to Weep in Public by comedian Jacqueline Novak is a darkly hilarious look at what it’s like to live with depression. Novak’s aim is not to magically cure her reader. Rather, she aims to make them feel not so alone, bring a little bit of comfort and humor, and ultimately offer tips to manage emotions and “fight this some other day.”
I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression
Somehow, specifically male depression is still something that is glossed over in nearly every representation of depression. In I Don’t Want to Talk About It — the first book published that talks exclusively about male depression — author Terrence Real summarizes dozens of case studies to break down the ways in which depression affects men and their families. He also details the ways in which male depression is different from female depression, and offers some tips men can use to learn to control their moods and health in order to overcome their depression.
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
Like Feeling Good, Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life is all about taking control of your thoughts in order to escape depression. According to Seligman, an “optimistic attitude is a key factor in overcoming depression.” At the beginning of the book, Seligman invites readers to take an optimism quiz to figure out just how optimistic or pessimistic they truly are. He then provides an entire toolbox of strategies to help readers reset the way they think.
A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives
Kelly Brogan, MD and Kristin Loberg
One in four women start their day with medication. According to authors Kelly Brogan, MD and Kristin Loberg, this dependence upon drugs has become the panacea for panic and grief, to depression and irritability, and everything in between. But Brogan and Loberg insist that the key to a woman’s happiness cannot be found in a drugstore. Rather, they recommend a more holistic approach based on years of experience working in a clinical practice and publishing her own medical findings. A Mind of Your Own lays out this unique approach in a step-by-step 30-day action plan.
Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky
Mind Over Mood is a longtime bestseller about one of the most sought-after ways to overcome depression. Authors Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky, both Ph.D.s, provide the reader with clinically proven strategies that can help one learn to manage their mind, control their negative thoughts, and end for good the distress of depression.
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn
Four health experts teamed up to write this bestselling book about why we tend to become more depressed when we attempt to just “snap out of it.” Instead, these experts suggest a series of unique cognitive therapy exercises rooted in Eastern meditative traditions. Rather than simply thinking happy thoughts, these exercises promote the building of positive mental habits that lead to a renewed sense of well-being. The book also comes with a supplementary CD narrated by one of the authors.
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress
John Teasdale, J. Mark Williams, Zindel Segal, and John Kabat-Zinn
The Mindful Way Workbook can be read with or without also reading The Mindful Way Through Depression by the same authors. The exercises in this workbook are all based on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a strategy for overcoming depression that has been proven effective in a number of clinical trials worldwide. The carefully constructed workbook is meant to be completed in eight weeks, and promises to help overcome depression, anxiety, and stress.
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
While most self-improvement books on our list take on the challenge of providing helpful tools for overcoming depression, Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon is a little different. As its subtitle implies, this book studies depression from multiple perspectives: the intellectual, the historical, and the personal. Solomon, who suffers from depression and was awarded the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon, is at once encouraging and heartbreakingly honest as he dives into the roots of depression and the ways in which it is beaten.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
John J. Ratey, MD
You probably already know the positive benefits exercising has on your body, but did you know about the extensive benefits working out can have on your brain? John J. Ratey’s Spark goes into depth about all the ways in which activity and exercise can help one fight their depression and ease anxiety. Besides providing helpful tips, Ratey includes actual case studies in which aerobic exercise and mental conditions were biologically linked.
Straight Talk on Depression: Overcoming Emotional Battles with the Power of God’s Word!
If religion often presents answers that are comforting and helpful, then Straight Talk on Depression by Joyce Meyer may be just what you need. The bestselling Christian author offers helpful advice for overcoming depression, rejoicing in the things worth rejoicing over, and forgiving others in order to free ourselves from the things we often find troubling. Throughout the book, Meyer includes helpful scripture and anecdotes from her own battle with depression.
Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Healing for the Modern Plagues of Anxiety and Depression
In her book Tears to Triumph, bestselling author Marianne Williamson asserts that we as a culture have decided it is better to avoid facing pain. But instead of numbing, dismissing, or medicating our pain away, Williamson argues that we should fully face those things that make us upset or sad, and that by doing so, we can gain true healing and actually avoid serious mental illnesses such as depression.
Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You
Richard O’Connor, Ph.D.
Written by a practicing psychotherapist, Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor is straightforward, practical, and easy to follow and understand. As those with depression know well, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the things in life over which we have no control. But O’Connor suggests battling depression by focusing on the things over which we do have control: our habits. Throughout the book, O’Connor offers tips and techniques for readers to learn to change their habits to replace depression with positive mental health.
The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time
Alex Korb, Ph.D.
For many of those who seek out self-help books about depression, just learning about the neuroscience behind their thoughts and emotions can prove immensely helpful. Such information is exactly what a reader will find between the pages of The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb. He begins his book by acknowledging that while there isn’t one big solution to solving the issue of depression, there are a number of smaller steps that people can take to change their brain chemistry. Korb details a number of such steps, from relaxing specific muscles to spending more time in the sun.
You Are Not Alone: Words of Experience and Hope for the Journey Through Depression
Feeling entirely alone in their battle is a common feeling among those suffering from depression. That common feeling is so powerful and prevalent, that including You Are Not Alone on our list of the best self-improvement books for those battling depression was an easy choice. The book is comprised entirely of conversations with people with depression. They share their stories, their triumphs, and their lowest moments. Over the course of the book, readers will realize that they are not alone in their depression, and that their feelings are completely valid.
You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way? New Help for Depression, Anxiety, and Addiction
Though it’s more than two decades old, Colette Dowling’s You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way is still one of the best books for people battling depression. Dowling challenges the common notion that depression is somehow linked to moral weakness or traumatic childhood experiences. Instead, she asserts, depression is the lack of serotonin in the brain. More informative than it is instructive, You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way? is a widely recommended read for those who have just been diagnosed with depression, or who are struggling to understand the medical reasons behind their depression.
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