Are you sick of self-help books which tell you what’s wrong with you but don’t actually help you to change anything? More than a little dubious about the whole Venus/Mars premise? Too embarrassed to whip that too-cheesy-for-words cover out of your bag on the bus? Here are the five best self help books dealing in practical, no-nonsense advice, for anyone who wants to help themselves, but can’t stand ‘self-help’ books…
1. The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness – Professor Steve Peters
Psychiatrist Steve Peters predicates his work with both big business and elite athletes on the assumption that each of us has our own ‘inner chimp’. The chimp represents the instinctual, reactive, emotionally-driven part of our brain. That little monkey isn’t simply a souvenir of our evolutionary past – we still need our instincts, after all – but, in theory, we no longer need to rely on it. Sir Chris Hoy has hailed Peters’ approach as “the mind programme that helped me win my Olympic golds, “but it’s applicable to all of us, and to virtually all areas of our lives. Be honest – how often do emotions or unhelpful negative thoughts cause you to react, rather than act?” If you don’t have a plan, the chimp makes one for you,” Peters warns. The exercises included in this book equip you with practical ways to develop the emotional skills and practical habits required to keep your own chimp in check.
2. Get Some Headspace: 10 minutes can make the difference – Andy Puddicombe
If you’re after a no-nonsense introduction to meditation and mindfulness, this is it. 43-year-old Bristolian – and former Buddhist monk – Andy Puddicombe is the founder of Headspace, the app which counts Emma Watson amongst its devotees. In this book, he explains the theory behind mindfulness meditation in typically down-to-earth style, breaking the key concepts down into simple, step-by-step exercises. Readers can download exclusive audio content, including free guided meditations, to complete the experience – and Andy’s lovely, soothing tones really do go a long way towards making you feel you’ve got your money’s worth. ‘The Headspace Guide to… Mindful Eating’ is also well worth checking out.
3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
At least one in three of us is thought to be an introvert. But should we consider it a problem? In contemporary Western society, Cain argues, we’re often made to feel that we should. In this book, she explores the cultural evolution of attitudes towards introversion, and the ways in which the brains of introverts and extroverts differ. It’s a fascinating, and important, read for anyone who is, or is close to, an introvert, with practical advice on dealing with introverted children, relating to people of the opposite ‘type’ and even acting in a more extrovert manner when you need to.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – Marie Kondo
Do you ever feel like that overflowing, disorganised sock drawer could be a manifestation of your overflowing, disorganised mind? Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method for ‘simplifying, organising and storing’ has seen her named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine, with clients gushing that her decluttering prowess has seen them finally managing to shed everything but that which ‘sparks joy’ from their lives – from excess bodyweight to husbands. “A dramatic reorganisation of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in your lifestyle and perspective,” says Kondo. This step-by-step guide to decluttering one’s abode has been met with equal fervour by acolytes.
5. The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have With People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do – Sarah Knight
Knight is, believe it or not, one of those Marie Kondo acolytes. Having completed ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, she says, she and her husband realised that, “Life is significantly better now that we can see all of our socks… but as she [Kondo] says in her book, ‘Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.'” So, having put her sock drawer in order, she decided to turn her attentions to her ‘f*ck drawer’, which, she says, is when “the real magic happened”. Knight presents a practical and entertaining, if expletive-littered, guide to “ridding yourself of unwanted obligations, shame and guilt,” enabling you to “give your f*cks instead to people and things that make you happy”. Creating a ‘f*ck budget’ might not be to everyone’s taste, but, if you’re not easily offended, it’s worth a go. Fans suggest reading Kondo’s guide alongside Knight’s ‘practical parody’.