Our May Reads for Mental Health Month

Posted by Monica Feakes on

You might be thinking, doesn’t every book have a connection to mental health? Why yes, it does. Because we all have complex brains and life is hard.  Books are great tools for learning about mental health, and reading is scientifically proven to increase our level of empathy towards one another. It gives us a window into the lives of others. At Hygge, we're taking time to acknowledge May as mental health awareness month. If you haven’t yet connected the dots between hygge and mental health, stop reading this and go back to catch up on our previous journal entries

It seems only fitting to share some of our favorite reads that address these topics and--big sigh of relief--some that don’t address them at all!  Here’s to hoping one of these picks brings you a better perspective on yourself and others, and encourages you to extend an extra hand this month to even those who seem like they have it the most together.  


We Are Displaced by Malala Yousefzai

This is an unconventional pick, but when we’re deep in the depths of our own darkness, sometimes we need to read something that puts our lives right back into perspective. This is that book. You may have heard about Malala’s first book, I Am Malala, her story about getting shot by the Taliban in her home country of Pakistan. This book features all true stories of young refugees around the world.  These girls tell their own stories so you understand the struggles that they go through on a daily basis, simply to survive. I finished it in one day, and have been recommending it ever since. Talk about the attitude of gratitude! These short stories remind us how good our lives truly are.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

There’s a reason this book is rated third on the top books on mental health on Good Reads.  This was lent to me by a dear friend whose sister is schizophrenic.  Similarly, the two main characters in this book are sisters, and one of them is schizophrenic.  This book delves into the heart-wrenching beauty of a family navigating a sibling with extreme mental illness.  The perspective changes from Lucia, to her sister, Miranda, who is trying to connect with Lucia amidst the voices she hears and other ways her illness impacts her everyday. The title couldn’t be more perfect for this read.  I don’t cry often, but this one brought me to tears in the best way and I will certainly never be the same again.

    The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson
      You know when you have a few friends tell you to read something and then you start seeing that cover everywhere? That’s what happened to me with this one. The Rosie Project is the first in its series by Graeme Simpson, who became an author much later in life (goals), and wrote the main character, Don Tillman, a successful professor and geneticist, who is also on the spectrum. This is Don’s journey to finding love in life for someone who thinks analytically. It’s a splendid combination of humor, embarrassment and defying societal norms. Pick this one up for some easy reading and to follow Don’s logical journey to finding something so far from logical: love. 
        The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Left by Edith Eger, Ph.D.
          Dr. Eger is a clinical psychologist and Holocaust survivor whose parents were killed at Auschwitz concentration camp. Her first book, The Choice, shares her entire experience and dips into how she’s come back from it and used her trauma to help treat war veterans and patients with PTSD.  This book was written with her daughter and her legacy in mind (at the age of 94, no less!) as she goes through the major lessons she’s learned along the way. Needless to say, we could all take something away from her beyond-comprehensible life experience.  P.S. I might be biased because I met her in San Diego.  She immediately took my hand (pre-COVID), looked in my eyes and asked me about my family.  She dove right in and made me feel seen.
              The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, MD
                Goodness, gracious do I have a girl-crush on Dr. Nadine Burke Harris! This is another non-fiction and it covers some pretty heavy topics, but it is 100% worth the read.  Dr. Harris grew up in Oakland, California, surrounded by families and youth that faced extreme adversity.  She explores how adverse life events and the quantity of them can become a determinant of diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, etc.  And she’s got data to prove it.  Even better, she’s come up with solutions on how we can incorporate prevention tactics in our school and health systems.  Anyone who has had any one of the adverse life events or mental illness, especially through their adolescent years, will be yelling out AMEN multiple times while reading this one, guaranteed. 
                    Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
                      Between the title and the cover, you hardly need a review to pick this one up based on intrigue alone. The author herself suffers from anxiety and depression, so you know the humor is deep rooted and therefore, even more hilarious.  Re-framing and acceptance of our current situation or state are just some of the takeaways from this one.  If you need a good laugh or a way to rethink what you’re going through, check it out.  It’s all about making light of even the most awkward, uncomfortable moments in life and regardless of your mood, you might even find yourself laughing out loud.
                          The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
                            Sometimes we just need to know more information, which is probably why Wikipedia has survived as long as it has.  If you’ve ever googled your symptoms, this might be a good one for you.  When your search history includes, “why am I so tired all the time?”.  Answer: stress.  The thing is, we’re never asking Google why it is that we do so well at work, and at accomplishing our goals, or even making the bed in the morning.  Spoiler alert: stress.  This science-based, research-driven book dives into all the good stress does for us, and the value in simply thinking about it as something we can harness for good. Super powers, yay!
                                The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
                                  If you’re anywhere on "bookstagram", no doubt you have seen this cover come across your feed in the last year.  This is another unsuspecting selection, but let me explain.  Without giving too much away, the main character, Addie, gets a curse put on her that involves everyone she ever meets forgetting her within minutes.  If you’ve ever had the thought, “wouldn’t it be easier if I could just exist unnoticed”?  This story explores that.  It’s an interesting play on reality, and worth the read to get you to think.  Plus, it's fiction, so you can escape this crazy world we're living in for a brief moment. 

                                    Honorable Mentions

                                      Meditation For Your Life by Robert Butera, PhD

                                        I took input from my boyfriend on this one, and I’m in full agreement with what he sees in it.  Not only did it get him through some extremely difficult times in life, but he then introduced overly-stressed, anxious me to meditation years ago, and I’m better for it.  Along with other healing practices, mediation brings so much more to my life and allows me to "be here now", and not get too far ahead of myself.  This book breaks down the concept of meditation and how to get started wonderfully for beginners and novice practitioners alike.  Try it out--at the very least, you’ll take a few more deep breaths every day than you otherwise would. 

                                            The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön

                                              You might underestimate this short, small, seemingly frail book when you pick it up at the library.  But it is not that.  It’s jam-packed with wisdom from American Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chödrön.  If you haven’t quite found something spiritually that resonates with you, rest assured you can take a nugget or two from this beautiful piece of work.  If you're not sure yet, search Pema's name and Oprah on YouTube and you can get a small preview.

                                                  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

                                                    Hail to my introvert friends, this one’s for you!  Cain gets right to the heart of the matter: our society and culture caters to the extroverts.  In classrooms, in careers, and even in social circles.  But introverts aren’t meant to be left behind, and in fact, some of the greatest thinkers and inventors are introverts (think, Steve Jobs).  The moral of the story is that we all need each other and this book will get you thinking differently about your friends and loved ones, whichever stop they exit on the intro-/extro-train.  P.S. Most of us are some combination of the two.  A great reminder that you don’t need to fit yourself into a box.

                                                    Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

                                                    Honestly, I've only made my way thirty pages into this one and hesitated putting it on the list.  But after reading the first chapter all about energy, and the fuel we derive from vibrant color, I decided to include it...and as you'll notice, change the colors of all the titles on this post.  Ingrid Fetell Lee shares insightful and real examples of how color, among other things (to be learned as I read on), bring life into communities that were otherwise dirty and crime-ridden.  If you feel like the colors in this post are a little "extra", think about how you felt as you were reading.  Did you feel lighter? Was it visually appealing? Did you want to continue to read on?  We should be wary of our trend towards minimalism and as Lee calls it, chromophobia, and be intentional about re-incorporating color into our daily lives.  Read this one along with me this month and let's chat about it.

                                                    Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Instagram  @hyggesavannah.

                                                      Books Hygge Mental Health Awareness Month Self care

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