This week is Brain Awareness Week (12th – 18th March 2018). It is a brilliant campaign designed to raise awareness of brain research including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and brain anatomy to name but a few. Mental health and brain research are intrinsically linked, so I felt that this blog post was very fitting for this week.

Mental health is a topic which (like a lot of people) I never really paid much attention to… until my second year of University. I started to struggle with daily life a lot for a variety of reasons both personal and academic. After some advice, it became clear to me that I really needed to start looking after my mental health just as much as I try to look after my physical health.

I will admit now, I used to internally rolled my eyes at the mention of mindfulness/meditation. As a scientist I have been trained to look for facts and research which made it incredibly difficult to become interested in the topics such as mindfulness and positive psychology without seeing some proof of their success first. This leads me into the first two books which provided the scientific evidence I needed in order to accept the validity of mindfulness. These books kick started my collection of books promoting positive mental health and wellbeing…

Mindfulness 

The first book which got me into mental health and wellbeing is called “Mindfulness: finding peace in a frantic world”. I absolutely adore this book as it combines research with example case studies and mindfulness meditations. It is everything I have ever wanted from a mental health book, in that, it is factual with appropriate scientific references, yet it is accessible and feels so natural and easy to read. This book is incredibly eye opening and I would probably go as far to say that it has changed my way of thinking on a daily basis. Often I will notice myself thinking about topics mentioned in this book such as living life in “autopilot”.

I loved the first book so much that I went on to acquire “Mindfulness for health: relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing”, which is similar. This book focuses more on using mindfulness and mindful thinking as a medical treatment for stress and physical pain. Both are brilliant. I would thoroughly recommend “Mindfulness: finding peace in a frantic world” to anyone who is sceptical and/or wishing to get into mindfulness and promote positive mental health.

Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman. Please excuse the marked cover of 'Mindfulness' I take it everywhere with me!

“Mindfulness” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. “Mindfulness for Health” by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman. Please excuse the marked cover of ‘Mindfulness’ I take it everywhere with me! Both of these books also come with a free CD of guided meditations which are great.

Happy 

This is a much more relaxed book. I have always liked Fearne Cotton. She seems to exude a positive message, that it is okay to be unapologetically yourself. The strap line on the front cover of her book “Happy” says; “Finding joy in every day and letting go of perfect”. I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to sum this book up.  It is brilliant and written in a way which makes it so enjoyable to read. She has a way of connecting incredibly well with the reader and for me at least, a lot of what she said was very relatable . The book contains hints and tips as well as interviews with friends throughout, which add a more casual and lighter tone. I would thoroughly recommend this book to all my friends and especially as a gift for someone if you know they are going through a challenging time.

"Happy" and "Calm" by Fearne Cotton.

“Calm” and “Happy” by Fearne Cotton.

Fearne Cotton has also released another book called “Calm” which I have not read yet but I am excited to start it!

The Art of Being Brilliant

I was brought this by a friend recently and have barely put it down! This book is very different to the ones previously mentioned, in that it has a more business and development feel than the others (which focus more on inner peace, awareness, happiness and personal mental health). From the very beginning Andy & Andy set out by saying that everything in the book you will likely already know. The fact that I should already know what was in the book, funnily enough made me want to read it even more. It made me feel like I was forgetting something and I needed them to remind me of what it was in order to become more successful. They focus a lot on a concept called “positive psychology” which is very interesting.

The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker. The Art of Breathing by Dr Danny Penman.

“The Art of Being Brilliant” by Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker. “The Art of Breathing” by Dr Danny Penman.

The Art of Breathing

This is a very short book that was written by Danny Penman, one of the authors of the two previously mentioned “Mindfulness” books. This is more of a practical and illustrated book which I really enjoyed bringing with me when I was travelling back and forth between the UK and the Netherlands. It’s small size makes it perfect to have in a bag and dip in and out of when you get a few moments. The book is comprised of short passages of text and meditations. It’s a great top up book when you have already understood and practised the basics of mindfulness.

All of these books have helped to improve my mental health and wellbeing in one way or another. Remember everyone has mental health just as everyone has physical health, so why not pick up one of these books and boost your mental health today!

Please do let me know your thoughts or favourite books. If you want to know more about links between nature and mental health then visit my blog post here. You can also find some more of my favourite non-fiction books here.

Photo 17-03-2018, 15 21 23


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