In the last few decades — heck in the last year — science has been churning out radical new discoveries about the human brain and mental health which have us questioning what we thought were truths or throwing them away altogether.
We’ve learned that gut bugs greatly impact our mental health, depression is most likely an epigenetic syndrome, diet drastically reduces Alzheimer’s risk, and that we are able to intentionally guide neuroplastic change in our brains. All evidence points to the fact that you have much more influence over your brain and mental health than was ever believed.
Whether you’re dealing with depression and anxiety or want to make sure you know all there is to know about lowering your risk of age-related decline, knowledge is power.
Below are five books which I highly recommend for anyone with a brain….and they just also happen to be the ones from which I have written the most blogs! 🙂
Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life
Dr. Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., is one of the original researchers that confirmed that the brain remodels itself based on input, neuroplasticity, throughout your life. Even though he’s a brilliant scientist, Merzenich explains all the complicated science stuff in understandable ways that you can relate to your everyday life. His book, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, has been a wealth of information for me and my website readers.
In Soft-Wired, Dr. Michael Merzenich–a world authority on brain plasticity–explains how the brain rewires itself across the lifespan, and how you can take control of that process to improve your life. In addition to fascinating descriptions of how your brain has produced your unique memories, skills, quirks, and emotions, Soft-Wired offers sound advice for evaluating your brain and gives clear, specific, scientifically proven guidance for how to rejuvenate, remodel, and reshape your brain to improve it at any age.”
- Ten Fundamentals of Rewiring Your Brain
- Two Primary Ways to Drive Brain Neuroplasticity
- Are you Unknowingly Contributing to Your Brain’s Decline
- How to Work Your Brain in Your Workout (and why it matters)
- How Neuroplasticity Hurts and Helps Your Mental Health
- Your Brain’s Future: the Good and the Bad News
Hardwiring Happiness: The New Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence
In the book, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, Rick Hanson, Ph.D., does an excellent job of explaining why our brains are naturally wired to zero in on and hang onto the negative. What was once an evolutionary advantage is now the cause of stress, anxiety, and depression. Hanson spells out simple methods to override your brain’s default programming to build happier and calmer pathways in your brain. Dr. Hanson also offers an online program, The Foundations of Well Being, for more hands-on guidance.
Why is it easier to ruminate over hurt feelings than it is to bask in the warmth of being appreciated?
Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences, but slowly from good ones.
You can change this.
Life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated, and stressed, instead of confident, secure, and happy. But each day is filled with opportunities to build inner strengths and Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, shows what you can do to override the brain’s default pessimism.
Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace. You’ll learn to see through the lies your brain tells you. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build strengths into your brain—counterbalancing its ancient negativity bias—making contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In mere minutes each day, you can transform your brain into a refuge and power center of calm and happiness. You can hardwire in happiness.”
- How to Banish Negativity with This Simple Mind Tool
- How to Rewire Your Anxious Brain to be Calmer and Happier
- How to Change Your Brain From Reactive to Responsive
- Negative States Become Negative Neural Traits
- The Law of Little Things
The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse The Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time
Alex Korb’s, Ph.D., book, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse The Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time is the best book explaining how depression develops, physically and chemically, in the brain that I’ve ever read. Somehow, Korb manages to explain the neuroscience behind depression in an understandable, interesting style. He details how a brain gets depressed, the specific symptoms correlating with each brain malfunction, and steps you can take to reverse the patterns.
Depression can feel like a downward spiral, pulling you into a vortex of sadness, fatigue, and apathy. In The Upward Spiral, neuroscientist Alex Korb demystifies the intricate brain processes that cause depression and offers a practical and effective approach to getting better. Based on the latest research in neuroscience, this book provides dozens of straightforward tips you can do every day to rewire your brain and create an upward spiral towards a happier, healthier life.
Whether you suffer from depression or just want a better understanding of the brain, this book offers an engaging and informative look at the neuroscience behind our emotions, thoughts, and actions. The truth is that there isn’t one big solution to depression, but there are numerous simple steps you can take to alter brain activity and chemistry. Some are as easy as relaxing certain muscles to reduce anxiety, or getting more sunlight to improve your mood. Small steps in the right direction can have profound effects—giving you the power to become your best self as you literally reshape your brain, one small change at a time.
- What Depression Looks Like in Your Brain
- Breaking Bad Habits Begins in Your Brain
- Deciding Against Depression
- How Talking Tames Depression
- Using Your Body to Change Your Brain
- A Depressed Brain Lives in a Hostile World
- How the chemicals in your Head Contribute to Depression
- What’s the Difference Between Anxiety and Worry
The Brain That Changes Itself
Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, was my Bible during my recovery from a brain injury. Doidge shares inspiring stories about a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to function normally, stroke patients regaining lost abilities, people who overcame severe emotional and learning disabilities, IQs raised, and aging brains being rejuvenated. and supports it all with science. Doidge’s new book, The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity, is just as awesome.
An astonishing new science called “neuroplasticity” is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. In this revolutionary look at the brain, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., provides an introduction to both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they’ve transformed. From stroke patients learning to speak again to the remarkable case of a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, The Brain That Changes Itself will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.”
- Your Plastic Brain: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- You’re Not Stuck With The Brain You’re Born With
- Visualization: Get the Picture
- Finding New Ways to Get Messages to the Brain
- Culture Shock Really Is Brain Shock
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, another book by Dr. Rick Hanson, does a wonderful job of blending new neuroscience breakthroughs with ancient contemplative practices. It explains, how your thoughts sculpt your brain. And more importantly, how you can direct this process through mindfulness. The book details concrete steps you can take to build a calm and peaceful brain.
If you change your brain, you can change your life.
Great teachers like the Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, and Gandhi were all born with brains built essentially like anyone else’s—and then they changed their brains in ways that changed the world. Science is now revealing how the flow of thoughts actually sculpts the brain, and more and more, we are learning that it’s possible to strengthen positive brain states.
By combining breakthroughs in neuroscience with insights from thousands of years of mindfulness practice, you too can use your mind to shape your brain for greater happiness, love, and wisdom. Buddha’s Brain draws on the latest research to show how to stimulate your brain for more fulfilling relationships, a deeper spiritual life, and a greater sense of inner confidence and worth. Using guided meditations and mindfulness exercises, you’ll learn how to activate the brain states of calm, joy, and compassion instead of worry, sorrow, and anger. Most importantly, you will foster positive psychological growth that will literally change the way you live in your day-to-day life.”
- How to Calm Your Brain and Body
- How Your Mind Shapes Your Brain
- How to Stop Painful Memories From Haunting You
- Pulling Weeds and Planting Flowers in Your Mind
- Bad News Travels Fast (in your brain)