When the doctor told me I had depressive symptoms, I came to the stark realization that I was expected to get a therapist. I was already uncomfortable talking about my feelings in front of friends and family, so the thought of bringing up my deepest, darkest thoughts to a stranger terrified me.
I got creative and started doing my own research. It started with a spontaneous trip to the library, a bit of wandering in the vacant aisles and picking out a few books with appealing covers. I wasn’t expecting much from them, just an interesting read that might entertain. Instead, it turned out to be a life changing experience.
A few chapters in, I was hooked. I loved their practical methods of bringing the joy out in my life and, as I took their advice, I saw my mental health significantly improve. I became the most confident I have ever been — and I owe a lot of that to the books I read.
Self-help books became my silent therapist. There were no questions, awkward silences or fears of judgement, just meaningful advice that I still strive to live by. While I’m still trying to better my mental health, these small tips and tricks have been helping me navigate through it all.
1. “True Face” by Siobhan Curham
Never compare yourself to “Fakebook” profiles
Like most teens, a lot of my insecurities are rooted in social media. It was part of my routine: go home, spend a couple hours on every social media platform I was on, and move on to something more productive. Going through Instagram and seeing everyone’s social lives made my life seem bland. I felt boring, but I didn’t stop scrolling.
I read “True Face” by Siobhan Curham and learned about “social media detoxes,” temporary breaks from all social media platforms. I decided to try it out for a couple of weeks. In that time, I wasn’t focusing on comparing myself to what I saw on screen and my confidence skyrocketed because of it. I used my newfound time to find the things I loved about myself. When I returned to social media, I saw the posts for what they were: isolated moments that were filtered and edited to look perfect. It was all “Fakebook” to me.
2. “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” by Sarah Knight
It’s OK to say no!
I’ve always had a hard time saying no to people. Whether it’s someone asking to hang out at 11 p.m. or take on extra work, I’ll likely say yes, even if it means I’ll wake up exhausted the next day. My biggest concern: disappointing someone.
On one of my library runs, I picked up a small white book titled “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” and thought, “Why not give this magic a try?”
It instantly became one of my favorites. All concerns about disappointing people went away because I learned that saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It gives you control over what you do with your life. It makes you focus on what would actually make you happy. And as long as I didn’t change as a person, my friends didn’t care if I couldn’t hang out every once in a while.
3. “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well” by Meik Wiking
Taking the occasional mental health day is essential
In the peak of my inability to say no, I found myself completely overwhelmed. I was busy balancing homework, extracurriculars and organizing a blood drive at school. My mind was on work mode 24/7 and I desperately needed a break.
When I finished “The Little Book of Hygge” (pronounced “hoo-ga”), I decided to give the Danish concept a try. After all, the book was written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. Hygge is all about creating a cozy atmosphere to bring joy, so I did just that. I spent the next day going to my favorite cafe, journaling and playing ukulele — anything to get my mind off of work. When I inevitably had to finish what I started, I felt refreshed and ready to take on the day. It was better than ignoring the stress and trying to finish everything at once. Whenever I feel myself getting to that point, I try to remind myself to take a little “me time” to reset and start over.
4. “Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living” by Jason Gay
Focus on the little things
A sprinkle of negativity can easily bring your good day to an end, like spilling coffee on clean clothes or missing the bus. When these negativities happened, I immediately labeled it as a “bad day.”
The book “Little Victories” changed my mind. It emphasized the importance of looking past negativities and cherishing the little things. I started by writing three things that made me happy each day, big and small. I soon found myself finding happiness in the smallest things, from the feeling of sipping a hot drink to perfecting my eyeliner for the day. It made me more optimistic. When anything negative happened, I easily brushed it off by looking for something that would put a smile on my face.