Jump to content

pandemic and positive psychology books


Recommended Posts

I hope all those I know (and those I don't) out there are managing and carrying on. in the midst of this nutso pandemic.

For me, here in Ohio, the things that are still the most anxiety-inducing and befuddling are local and personal:  struggling to get up on time, to focus consistently, fear of making mistakes and being an idiot in law practice, money, relationships, the past and the future.  The usual.  And now, pain.  I hurt strained a disk or two in my lower back in 2018, and its been getting worse in recent months.  I'm beginning to have a better understanding of what life is like for people who have long-term constant physical pain.  Its distracting and scary.  It gets worse throughout the day even when I stretch 2-3 times/day.  I'm trying to treat it.

On the plus side, I'm listening to a lot of positive psychology material, and finding it instrumental in my ongoing recovery.  I've been joyously surprised I guess at how good I can still sometimes feel, and how there is fodder for hopefulness and optimism at least in the here and now.  

I read The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, by Kelly McGonigal (probably my favorite audio author), while running and walking.  She researches how the neuroscience shows that virtually every aspect of life is made better by movement itself, so much so that the posits the human brain's primary evolutionary function is to help us move.  I'm not reading and working through some of the exercises in Flourish: a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being.  (It's about 10 years old, by Martin Seligman, the former head of the American Psychological Association, elected by the org's largest margin its history).  It's almost insufferably positive.  First 3 chapters are really practical.  Some of the rest, while still evocative and interesting, is a little academic.  I think next I'm going to read The Strength Switch: How the New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Helps Your Child and Teen to Flourish by Lea Waters.  These are all 'positive psychologists,' and are part of a deliberate effort on my part to spend more time and energy focusing on the light.

I'm always curious what books and sources have helped others out there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First I want to acknowledge and praise you for intentionally focusing yourself on positive, improving materials - even while the world is in upheaval and you're in pain. I'm very sorry to know that you're living with persistent back pain, that's awful. 

The books sound interesting, I'll research them. Are you a fan of audio books and would you tell us if you're listening to them while doing other activities? I'm envisioning how I might introduce audio books into my day. 

15 hours ago, gandolfication said:

I'm always curious what books and sources have helped others out there.

The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Tibetan Buddhism hand-in-hand with neuroscience. There is tons of joy in this book plus I found it to be a terrific introduction to meditation, humbly offered without pushing dogma, woo or exaggerating benefits. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Atra said:

First I want to acknowledge and praise you for intentionally focusing yourself on positive, improving materials - even while the world is in upheaval and you're in pain. I'm very sorry to know that you're living with persistent back pain, that's awful. 

The books sound interesting, I'll research them. Are you a fan of audio books and would you tell us if you're listening to them while doing other activities? I'm envisioning how I might introduce audio books into my day. 

The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Tibetan Buddhism hand-in-hand with neuroscience. There is tons of joy in this book plus I found it to be a terrific introduction to meditation, humbly offered without pushing dogma, woo or exaggerating benefits. 

Thank you @Atra,

The Joy of Living sounds good.  I listen to audio books when I run or walk, sometimes at bedtime (though usually podcasts more then), in the car, and used to when I had to mow the grass.  If one is really good and I don't want to keep pausing or adding notes/bookmarks electronically (which is easy,), sometimes I'll also buy the paperback used on Amazon to be able to use in print.  Audio books are the best.  Especially when they have good narrators/authors.  The two I have listened to by Kelly McGonigal, the Stanford neuroscience researcher and professor are especially good because she they are made from the beginning to be audio books.  She partners with SoundsTrue, does the narration herself, has a great voice for it, and works with a producer and director (!).  Her editor must be good too.  Every sentence, sometimes every word just comes alive off the page.  This is one reason I've listened to her last book, The Neuroscience of Change: A Compassion-Based Program for Personal Transformation, 3-4 times, (something I rarely am able to do).  The content helped me make meditation and mindfulness simple, and motivated me to understand and use it because the presents the scientific benefits and exercises and techniques in such clear, simple terms, including guided meditations throughout much of the book.  Anyway, I'm obviously a fanboy.

Anyway, I feel like I've listened to a ton of books in psychology, neuroscience, and psychology/self-help genre.  Many are really interesting, but not necessarily overly helpful in a practical or lasting way.  McGonigal's and Seligman's are exceptions that are both supremely interesting and very pragmatically helpful.  I guess that's what I'm looking for these days, out of necessity.  Sometimes I get a little burned out, but it's okay to take breaks and listen to other stuff just for entertainment, I tell myself.

Hope you're doing well in SF - my favorite city in the world.  I only got to visit once for a few days, after I passed the bar exam to practice law (in Oh), back in 2005.  I loved just walking around from one side of the City to the other, to Coit Tower, Lombard st., through China Town, the wharf, got to tour Alcatraz, see the bridge, then the redwood forest and some wineries.  I didn't drink then, but do now.  I know its expensive, but I loved getting to visit, and hope to see it again sometime.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's great to hear about your progress, @gandolfication. I have yet to read any of the types of things you mentioned. For some reason, the whole COVID mess hasn't thrown me into a tailspin. It may have to do with the fact that expectations have changed. Or that it's made me realize stuff can change dramatically overnight.

I still stress about work all of the time, but I've somehow been able to compartmentalize it. Maybe I shouldn't over-analyze it; don't look a gift horse in the mouth, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, JD4010 said:

It's great to hear about your progress, @gandolfication. I have yet to read any of the types of things you mentioned. For some reason, the whole COVID mess hasn't thrown me into a tailspin. It may have to do with the fact that expectations have changed. Or that it's made me realize stuff can change dramatically overnight.

I still stress about work all of the time, but I've somehow been able to compartmentalize it. Maybe I shouldn't over-analyze it; don't look a gift horse in the mouth, etc.

That's funny and interesting @JD4010.

Other than some clients losing jobs and not being able to pay legal bills, it hasn't too much directly impacted me that I know of.  Probably just the next convenience excuse for anxiety about the present and future and the unknown.  The last week has been really rough for me, though not because of COVID, just feeling a lot of fear and not a lot of hope in general.

I'm really glad to hear you're doing okay.  'Yah, don't question the good.'

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm glad you've found something that works for you! I've not heard of positive psychology so will have to look into that. Do you find it more useful than therapies that focus on negative events/thoughts?

I tend to forget a lot of the stuff from self-help books or get bored, so don't have much to recommend. My attention span is awful, so stuff that tends to work for me are short and non-academic.

Another Buddhist book recommendation, Opening the Door of Your Heart by Ajahn Brahm. A collection of stories/lessons about happiness. I listen to the audiobook once in a while.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I tend to really dislike and am suspicious of self-help books that get super popular, but this helped a lot in dealing with emotional attachment to stuff.

Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes. Another audiobook recommendation. Listened to a lot when I started having panic attacks/mental breakdown.

Currently reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. It gets redundant and doesn't answer a lot of questions, but it helped explain meditation in a way I could understand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 hours ago, Kogent5 said:

I tend to forget a lot of the stuff from self-help books or get bored, so don't have much to recommend. My attention span is awful

That's funny, I can relate to this.  I try to tell myself that an ounce of application is worth many pounds of knowledge anyway, so it's kind of an immediate thing with me too.  I've been keeping a "what went well" and gratitude journal.  Just keeping it simple.  Sometimes it gets tedious, but I find that it still helps just to direct myself to focus on the positive things that actually happen and things I have that I'm grateful for.  It defies depression's logical power.

I've heard of Marie Kondo's book.  I think she has a show on Netflix.  My wife needs her Tidying Up book, though somehow I sense that's not the gift to give your wife.

The Nerves book sounds interesting and useful.  I've been feeling panicky lately.  Pretty sure it is pressure at work (and at home).  I've been going off of Latuda, and these things can always have a tendancy to mess with my nerves and anxiety too.

Thanks for mentioning those books.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
1 hour ago, Prycejosh1987 said:

I think the bible is more positive book and has the most relation to real life. It can be obtained for free too. That is the only book that i read most of the time anyways. 

Hmm, bit of a Rorschach there.  There is also a tremendous amount of negativity and violence, and disorder and manipulation in the Bible.  The capstone doctrines of original sin and total depravity, taken right from the text are prime examples.  They teach, quite literally, that human beings are worthless, evil, and deserve eternal torture.  Take that in for a moment.  The doctrines of grace, mercy and redemption, somehow didn't solve or assuage this for me, especially as I got older.  I read and studied it the first 35 years of my life, and unfortunately the fundamentalist milieu I came out where we were taught strictly to believe every word of it literally, did really profound damage to me.  I still sometimes read certain compendiums (collections of versus), as I try to move from fundamentalism to a much more open and expansive faith.  There is a lot of actual stretched-out trauma to get through with it though.  In short, being taught the Bible in fundamentalist Christianity in my formative years (but really into my 30s) did severe and lasting damage to me, from which I'll most likely be trying to recover from for my entire life.  It may even be a central cause of my depression (I try to be careful because this is probably unknowable, but certainly it hurt much more than it helped, and is why I eventually had to leave the church).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 minutes ago, gandolfication said:

There is also a tremendous amount of negativity and violence, and disorder and manipulation in the Bible.  The capstone doctrines of original sin and total depravity, taken right from the text are prime examples.  They teach, quite literally, that human beings are worthless, evil, and deserve eternal torture.  Take that in for a moment.  

@gandolfication is right: positive my ****ing ****!

Saying the bible is positive book is like believing depression sufferers deserve it because our ancestor Eve ate a fruit

Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 minutes ago, iWantRope said:

@gandolfication is right: positive my ****ing ****!

Saying the bible is positive book is like believing depression sufferers deserve it because our ancestor Eve ate a fruit

That was more succinct than my typical rambling.

I have strong feelings about it too, but then again, I'm a tortured soul when it comes to this, and the Bible is a lot of things.  It contains some great and truly beautiful ideas, literature, poetry, etc.  I simply am trying to reprogram my mind to realize that (at least for me), it was never meant to be taken as some strictly literal, inerrant, infallible, take-all or leave-all thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I've been reading a lot (and watching videos) about self-help during quarantine. I just finished one that I would thoroughly recommend - Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Right now I would put myself in the severe depression category and am in an emotionally abusive household, but I've been able to implement some habits because of this book and it has helped stabilize my mood. Do I feel amazing? Absolutely not. I can't even say I'm hopeful for the future. But I make my bed in the morning, I've been checking things off of my to-do list that have been there for months, and have figured out some effective coping mechanisms (i.e. tiny habits) to reduce my anxiety. And I did it in a way that feels maintainable.

It's a book I'd recommend if a lot of advice out there seems too overwhelming or vague, or if just getting out of bed feels impossible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, Kogent5 said:

I've been reading a lot (and watching videos) about self-help during quarantine. I just finished one that I would thoroughly recommend - Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Right now I would put myself in the severe depression category and am in an emotionally abusive household, but I've been able to implement some habits because of this book and it has helped stabilize my mood. Do I feel amazing? Absolutely not. I can't even say I'm hopeful for the future. But I make my bed in the morning, I've been checking things off of my to-do list that have been there for months, and have figured out some effective coping mechanisms (i.e. tiny habits) to reduce my anxiety. And I did it in a way that feels maintainable.

It's a book I'd recommend if a lot of advice out there seems too overwhelming or vague, or if just getting out of bed feels impossible.

Kogent5,

Good to hear from you.  That's great.  A coup[le weeks ago I was reading the marketing legerdemain for a book called Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life (by Susan David), where she recommends a technique she calls "tiny tweaks."  We used to call this "chunking" or breaking down bigger goals into smaller component parts.  You're right.  This is what you have to do when you're really down in depression.  It's often all you can do.

I'm bipolar.  The good and the bad is that when I'm in the lowest throes of major depressive episode (which has been most of the last 10-12 years), like everyone else in that state, everything seems (and is) soooooo difficult.  I happen to have just had one of the most revitalizing months of my adult life, just catching fire, and overnight it seems, reviving a great workout routine, being focused, productive, efficient and effective in my job running my law practice, moving to a larger/better office (had to), hiring a paralegal (really needed, but was a big risk), getting a website up in one Saturday morning, writing out a very detailed, formal goals program for myself, and even for the business, and accomplishing several of them already, reading and listening to good books, working on improving my family relationships, and a hundred other things.  It sounds great (and it is).  But I am so conditioned to think that it's kind of all or nothing like this, and have the vertigo-inducing anxiety (or terror) a lot that....this will fade, it won't last, I can't sustain it, I'll crash.  It's like walking a tightrope without a net, and 'knowing' or at least believing, I'm going to fall, I'm going to fall, I'm going to fall again, and its going to be more painful and calamitous than I can bear.  This is almost over; it's going to happen any second, and it'll be my final humiliation...what an idiot I am for thinking I could do, let alone sustain this.

I remember though, how extraordinary capable we are as humans to change, to learn, to respond.  To grow in insight, habits, practices, and....to get back to your point...in what is truly the only way and thing we can - the littlest things.  For it is all we can ever have - is this moment.  I've been wrestling and savoring this, even when I feel so nervous I think I'm going to fall apart. 

Looking back, I realize how during all those months and years of suicidal depression, where I hated life, and everything seemed so perfectly awful, hopeless, pointless, and that I'd never be able to feel even decent, let alone good again, it was, of course, the little things I managed to be able to do, that has led me to these broader sunlit uplands now.  So thanks for sharing.  It encouraged me.  I know how hard it is to be beat down in the trenches of misery and fear and depression.  Keep doing the next right thing you can.  You can do it.  There's a doctrine (for lack of a better term) from information theory that the most fundamental stuff of reality is not atoms or matter or even energy of any kind, but rather data.  information.  bits.  And the definition I once heard the theorists give is that the definition of this information is a change that causes a change.  It seems circular, but then again ultimately all knowledge is.  This is how I think about the ebs and flows and even evolution of change, neuroplasticity, etc. now.   Don't know what you can do with that, but keep reading and doing what you can.  I salute you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, gandolfication said:

A coup[le weeks ago I was reading the marketing legerdemain for a book called Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life (by Susan David), where she recommends a technique she calls "tiny tweaks."  We used to call this "chunking" or breaking down bigger goals into smaller component parts.  You're right.  This is what you have to do when you're really down in depression.  It's often all you can do.

Does this book advice on how to deal with things that look like human but likely have cacti sticking inside their rectums?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...