There’s nothing wrong with needing a little help, and as today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day, we’re sharing this list of five encouraging reads to give you a lift during uncertain or unprecedented times.
1. Welcome to the United States of Anxiety; Observations From a Reforming Neurotic by Jen Lancaster
Published on the first of this month, Lancaster’s relatable observations allow viewers to confront the perfection-demanding western society in which we live, and how to rise above the stress and anxiety of conforming to pressures to produce and identify with how we sell ourselves, while also managing to remain positive in the midst of what widely appears to be a crumbling world.
We’re judged by social media’s faceless masses, pressured into maintaining a Pinterest-perfect home, and expected to base our self-worth on retweets, faves, likes, and followers. Our collective FOMO, and the disparity between the ideal and reality, is leading us to spend more and feel worse… Jen Lancaster is here to take a hard look at our elevating anxieties, and with self-deprecating wit and levelheaded wisdom, she charts a path out of the quagmire that keeps us frightened of the future and ashamed of our imperfectly perfect human lives. Take a deep breath, and her advice, and you just might get through a holiday dinner without wanting to disown your uncle.
2. Our Pristine Mind by Orgyen Chowang
When it comes to anxiety, much of it exists in and is fueled by the struggle of parsing out reality from imagined scenarios. When facing difficult decisions, the pressure can feel paralyzing and the anticipation before an event can be more torturous than the actual event itself. In Our Pristine Mind, Chowang directs the reader through the mire of the unconscious thoughts, with the help of Buddhist philosophy, so that they can sift through the real and imagined, in fears, stresses, and self-image as well.
Using straightforward, accessible language, Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche leads us through the path of Pristine Mind meditation, a practice from the profound teachings known as Dzogchen. This book presents the entire journey of meditation, from the very beginning all the way to the complete happiness of enlightenment. It is a realistic, natural process that can be practiced and experienced by anyone.
3. When Things Fall Apart; heart advice for difficult times by Pema chodron
There’s a reason that this book of wisdom, published twenty years ago, is still continually printed as one of the most read self help books on the market. Pema Chodron, American Tibetan Buddhist, teacher and author, delivers compassionate life advice and techniques to foster acceptance, rather than rejection, of our emotions. Regardless of how negative or positive these feelings may be, she encourages readers to observe them and then let them pass. Chodron emphasizes that there are no “good” or “bad” feelings, and the illusion that we can get to a place where there is no conflict is a lie that we need not subject ourselves to.
How can we live our lives when everything seems to fall apart—when we are continually overcome by fear, anxiety, and pain? The answer, Pema Chödrön suggests, might be just the opposite of what you expect. Here, in her most beloved and acclaimed work, Pema shows that moving toward painful situations and becoming intimate with them can open up our hearts in ways we never before imagined. Drawing from traditional Buddhist wisdom, she offers life-changing tools for transforming suffering and negative patterns into habitual ease and boundless joy.
4. Peace is Every Step; the path of mindfulness in everyday life by Thich Nhat Hanh
Published in 1992, Peace is Every Step is one of Thich Nhat Hanh‘s most famous books to harness peace and enlightenment. As zen master, spiritual leader, peace activist, and poet, he shares his Buddhist teachings of “mindfulness,” the act of being fully “here and now” in the present moment, throughout his books and lectures around the world.
It begins where the reader already is—in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking a part—and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. Nhat Hanh also shows how to be aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its beauty and also its pollution and injustices. The deceptively simple practices of Peace Is Every Stepencourage the reader to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the “mindless” into the mindful.
5. The Power of Now; A Guide to spiritual enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Since it was published in 2004, The Power of Now has sold over two million copies around the world, resounding with its message that the only thing keeping us from enlightenment is ourselves; our our minds. Much like Nhat Hanh’s encouragement of mindfulness, Tolle argues that to live fully present in the moment will close the gap between our individualistic identities and our combined truth or spiritual connection with everything and everyone around us.
Eckhart Tolle’s message is simple: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. And while this message may not seem stunningly original or fresh, Tolle’s clear writing, supportive voice and enthusiasm make this an excellent manual for anyone who’s ever wondered what exactly “living in the now” means.
There’s never an “easy fix” or single definition of what constitutes mental health, but there are tools out there to assist with balancing it, and books are most definitely one of those meaningful tools.
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