The best self-aid books for 2020

Professional consultants to sort us out in life-changing times can cost a fortune and you cannot just go for one session. Although I have used life coaches and mentors in the past to guide me at crossroads at various moments of my life, I am also a great believer that we can help ourselves if we are strong-willed and confident that we can make a success of our life. I need to be the first person to believe in myself in order to succeed. I am at a crossroad now and I have used self-aid books to help me figure out what to do with my life. Here’s a selection of my favourite self-aid manuals, interesting reads that have made me approach things from a different perspective. I hope this post can help other people out there. 

For a motivational boost

I Am Your Friend – A Book of Hope By artist and designer Billie Bacall

I Am Your Friend is an inspiring read for those days when you feel down and you need a motivational boost when your friends are not around. It can be seen simply as a joyful collection of ideas to elevate and motivate. The perfect gift for the holidays or for anyone that could do with a boost or a stroke of inspiration.

Billie’s journey to create this book is so emotional: in a short period of time, she lost her husband, had major surgery and went through chemotherapy. To keep herself going, she started drawing and doodling, jotting down positive thoughts. 

This book can also be read with kids to inspire them to be positive no matter what. It makes so much sense to me right now while I am going through a difficult time in my life. I feel grateful to Billie for having created this incredible visual book of positive thoughts that has now a place at my bedside. I can open it up first thing in the morning randomly to help me through the day and read at nighttime to calm me down.

Creating this book helped Billie to get through and incredibly difficult time in her own life and she hopes that it can help others as well. It is a great book for those having a difficult holiday season or struggling in the gloomy winter months in the new year.

The author, artist and designer Billie Bacall, started sketching the illustrations when she herself was going through an incredibly difficult time – the sudden death of her husband and her battle with cancer. It helped her to get through and 20% od the profits of the sales will be donated to the breast cancer charity Future Dreams.

I Am Your Friend is available at all good bookshops and online outlets including Amazon in hardback (£15.99) and pocket-sized paperback (£6.99). 

 

To teach ourselves and our kids mindfulness 
 
Stand Tall Like a Mountain – Mindfulness & self-care for children & parents by Suzy Reading 
In her new book, author of The Self-Care Revolution, chartered psychologist and qualified yoga teacher, Suzy Reading introduces practices to encourage noticing emotions, feeling calm, expressing feelings, falling asleep more easily and lots more. 
 
This is a great easy-to-read toolkit manual specifically designed to empower children and their parents to learn tools for managing and effectively expressing everyday emotions as well as coping strategies, soothing practices for body and mind and activities to boost family harmony. 
 
Stand Tall Like a Mountain includes some really extractable practical exercises as well as crucial information around self-care and children. It is a practical and empowering book about mindfulness and self-care for parents to practise with their children. 

The concept behind is very clear and simple: We teach our children how to brush their teeth and cross the road safely; this book is about broadening their toolkit to include emotional first aid. Available from Amazon.

 

To learn how to find happiness by transforming your habits 

Last year at the Mumboss book launch party I met a lovely lady who impressed me with her emotional intelligence and kindness. That amazing woman turned out to be the successful certified life coach, author and podcast host Michelle Reeves. A couple of months later, she launched her own book The Happiness Habits Transformation in which she writes about how through personal development, therapy and the combination of eight Happiness Habits, she went from functioning to flourishing.

Michelle believes that everyone has their own special brand of magic and adores helping ambitious women to ditch self-doubt and super-charge their clarity, confidence, courage and consistency so they can fast-track their ideal life and business. Her book has inspired me to make important changes in my life and live a more fulfilling existence thanks to inner contentment and mindfulness. I have become more courageous in facing difficult times in my life while still remaining happy inside. 

I was honoured to provide quotes for her promotional campaign.

Michelle’s concept is very simple, yet we seem to struggle to find happiness. Knowing the things that we need to do to make us happier and actually doing them are two different things. After all, if we’re honest we all know that eating junk food and not exercising enough is bad for us, but for whatever reason we find it hard to live more healthily. It is the repetition of healthy habits in an easily achievable routine that really made a huge difference for me. Although I might hate routines our lives are still run by daily habits, even if we don’t realise it! But this book isn’t prescriptive, so I’d say read it with an open mind, take from it what works for you and leave the rest.  It’s also important to think about how each habit could sit comfortably in your daily life and feel your way into it rather than trying to shoehorn them in one by one – your inner rebel will hate that.

You can get the book from Amazon

 

To help you detox from digital devices 

The Phone addiction workbook by debut author Hilda Burke is an un-putdownable self-aid manual that is so effective in helping you to detox yourself from phone addiction that by the time you have finished reading it, you have lost interest in the smartphone altogether. Despite my best efforts to keep away from phone distractions, I recently realised that I am actually hooked on the instant gratification effect from receiving notifications of friends’ messages and likes on social media.

But on the other hand, I am also an old-timer and, as such, I can have fun without devices. That saves me in a certain way. Hilda Burke’s brilliant book is absolutely eye-opening and helpful to break those detrimental habits. She has the expertise as she taps into her work as an experienced psychotherapist and couples’ therapist.

The workbook format is great as it forces you to write notes on your self-analysis and work in progress while you learn how to detach yourself from this unproductive habit. This manual is a simple Step-by-step Guide to Stop Endless, Useless and Anxiety-Inducing Checking, Swiping, and Liking Smartphone technology that has fundamentally changed the ways humans live, work, and communicate. But being always connected has trained people to constantly check in and instantly respond to messages.

While we don’t need to give up our smartphone completely, if our day to day is filled with endless, anxiety-inducing checking, swiping and liking, then we need this helpful, step-by-step workbook to take back control of your life. Hilda’s workbook also includes weekly charts, practical tips and interactive activities to help us stop unhealthy behaviour and make lasting change. It also provides lots of great quotes on how to define and find happiness. 

My favourite one is by Ghandi in the chapter dedicated to Contentment:  

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.’

We can be fully happy when we are coherent with ourselves. With examples that stem from her daily work as a psychotherapist, Hilda shows that we tend to ‘distract ourselves from the useful insights we get via our emotions and from what’s going on in our bodies. We rely on the pacifier of the smartphone to defend against boredom or other unwanted emotions, putting off what’s important to us while equally never letting ourselves switch off.’

Stop scrolling and start living! This is the mantra that the boo teaches us. By building healthier relationships between ourselves, our smartphone and all our devices, we can reduce social media obsession, notification anxiety and other unhealthy habits. You can find more info on Hilda online at @hbtherapist or hildaburke.co.uk.

The book is available from Amazon

 

Silence by Joanna Nylund

Harnessing the restorative power of silence in a noisy world

Published by Gaia on 6th February 2020, priced £10.00

As someone, who is constantly surrounded by noise, I was interested to discover and implement practical ways of increasing silence in my daily live and see how that can improve the quality of life. In our increasingly hectic, modern lives silence has become a treasured commodity. In an era of constant technological stimulation, moments of silence and reflection are harder to achieve than ever before. This self-aid manual shoes what really silence is and what effect it has on our wellbeing. For years Joanna Nyland felt her capacity to concentrate dwindle with every hour spent scrolling social media feeds. She started, and quit, another job in an open-plan office after just not being able to take the noise anymore, and felt her blood pressure and stress levels rise due to the sheer amount of input, auditory and visual, that she was letting herself get bombarded with every day. Feeling mentally tired, overwhelmed and more than a little confused, she decided something had to give. With a yearning to recapture the inner stillness of her childhood, Joanna decided to go searching for something that, if not exactly lost, has fallen right to the bottom of her list of daily priorities: silence. In Silence, Joanna Nylund investigates the role silence has played in our cultural history and talks to people with different experiences of silence to find out what they have discovered. She also looks at the different kinds of silence and the high and low of ways of allowing all of us to increase the amount of silence in our lives – without moving to a hermit’s cave.

With practical tips and techniques, Joanna demonstrates that integrating moments of silence into our everyday routine can boost creativity, increase communication and improve mental health. Silence shows us that moments of quiet are not to be feared but are windows of introspection to embraced and harnessed for our own personal development.

Joanna Nylund is the bestselling author of Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage. She was born and raised in Finland, where she started her writing career doing music reviews for a local magazine at age 15. After studying English literature at university and living in the UK for a few years, she has been working as a translator, journalist, copywriter and photographer. She resides in Helsinki with her husband. Aside from writing for Finnish newspapers and magazines on topics of culture, literature and history, Joanna is a regular contributor to ThisIsFinland, the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s portal on all things Finnish, and SCAN Magazine.

 

To support the development of empathy in children 

As a big fan of teaching emotional intelligence and empathy to children, I have been looking for answers for a long time. I have finally found them all in one manual, Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett, a professor in the Yale Child Study Centre and founding director of the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence. Although I have always thought that you are born with emotional intelligence and empathy to children, I have now realised that actually you can gradually help children develop these as advance skills. Permission to Feel teaches you how to do that.

Marc’s RULER method has been adopted by over 2,000 schools worldwide, including those attended by Prince George and Blue Ivy, Beyoncé’s daughter. Its numerous fans also include Hugh Jackman and the Kennedy family.

This book is full of practical advice – below are a few examples from the chapter on regulating emotions:

  • Take a ‘Meta-Moment’ – ‘in simplest terms, it’s a pause’, enabling us to see the situation dispassionately, ‘go beyond our first impulse and find a better response’
  • Visualise your ‘best self’ – helps us to behave in a way we’d be proud of
  • Speak to yourself in the third person – distances us from our experiences and encourages self-care  
  • Forward-looking strategies – knowing what will trigger us and taking simple avoidance steps
  • Mindful breathing.

This book is set to be enormous in the US, where Marc’s profile is already high and rapidly growing. Here is a great video of him discussing the approach in more depth: 

Marc strongly believes that a healthy, happy child is one that can understand and talk about their feelings, something which he himself did not experience growing up. It was not until his uncle, the first person to really recognise his struggles with bullying and assault, allowed him to share his pain openly and give him permission to feel without judgement, that he realised how he had been suffering by keeping all of him emotions locked up.

In Permission to Feel, Marc explains that teaching children to understand and embrace their emotions from a young age will equip them with valuable skills for the rest of their lives, as well as creating a healthier, fairer and more compassionate society. In his 25 years as an emotion scientist, Marc has raised tens of millions of dollars to investigate the roots of emotional wellbeing and is the lead developer of the RULER method, which has been adopted by over 2,000 schools across the world, including the UK. This method has been proven to help children and their parents how to Recognise, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate their emotions, in a healthy and constructive way.

This book brings the RULER technique to parents in an accessible and insightful way, and is an absolutely essential read in a time of growing conversations around mental health in young people. 

Marc Brackett is a professor in Yale University’s Child Study Centre and founding director of the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence. In his 25 years as an emotion scientist, he has led large research teams and raised tens of millions of dollars to investigate the roots of emotional wellbeing – his prescription for healthy children (and their parents, teachers, and schools) is a system called RULER. Throughout his career, Marc has focused on the role of emotions and emotional intelligence in learning, decision making, creativity, relationships, health, and performance. He has published 125 scholarly articles and received numerous awards and accolades for his work in this area. He also consults regularly with corporations, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google on integrating the principles of emotional intelligence into employee training and product design. Most recently, Marc co-founded Oji Life Lab, a corporate learning firm that develops innovative digital learning systems on emotional intelligence.

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