From Wish Lists to Real Life | Self-Help Reviews

If asked what one desires most out of life, many would say meaning and happiness. The books reviewed here will help readers along that path, offering lessons in spiritual adventures and ways to worry less. Some of the tools explored are meditation, enneagrams, and tips for unplugging from social media. Positive relationships are always a frontrunner in a list of “wants,” here issues of jealousy and divorce after 50 are thoroughly examined.

Ablon, J. Stuart. Changeable: The Surprising Science Behind Helping Anyone Change*; *Including Your Spouse, Your Kids, Your Coworkers, and Yourself. TarcherPerigee. Apr. 2018. 304p. notes. ISBN 9780143129011. $27. personal growth

Ablon (psychology, Harvard Medical Sch.; coauthor, The School Discipline Fix) has found from his work with both challenging individuals and professionals that employing a collaborative problem-solving system and linking actions to outcomes can help anyone change their behavior. In the first chapters, he explains why “tough love/might makes right” approaches often exacerbate problems. He then details what he deems a smarter method comprised of three steps: empathizing, sharing one’s concerns, and brainstorming to find solutions acceptable to all. While this advice may seem unrealistic, the author provides numerous case studies that point to successful change and resolution. VERDICT A useful paradigm for identifying and transforming problem ­behaviors.

Bono, Tim. When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness. Grand Central Life & Style. Mar. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781538743416. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781538728093. personal growth

When Bono (psychology & brain science, Washington Univ., St. Louis) researched perceived fulfillment in young adults around the globe, he found a surprising inverse relationship between happiness and time spent on social media. Ultimately, what generates a feeling of well-being, says the author, includes life with other people, managing a bad day well, and developing willpower. Bono’s teaching can be distilled to a positive mind-set, and throughout this book, he walks alongside readers to help them develop just that. VERDICT Although geared toward young adults, Bono’s message will benefit older readers as well.

Crowley, Jocelyn Elise. Gray Divorce: What We Lose and Gain from Mid-Life Splits. Univ. of California. Jan. 2018. 232p. notes. index. ISBN 9780520295322. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520968110. relationships

According to U.S. census statistics, divorce over the age of 50 is on the rise. ­Crowley (public policy, Rutgers Univ.; Mothers Unite!) asserts that the main causes of this phenomenon are the movement of achieving one’s personal goals and a dramatic growth in life expectancy. The author analyzes the “whys” and prevalent life outcomes of partners before and after the relationship ends. In general, the downsides are economic for women and social for men, but the positives for both were independence and freedom. Crowley’s guidance steers readers toward an empathetic understanding of older divorcing couples as well as ways to support these individuals in their new lives. VERDICT Recommended.

Hanley, Kate. How To Be a Better Person: 400+ Simple Ways To Make a Difference in Yourself—and the World. Adams Media. Jan. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781507205266. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781507205273. personal groWth

For Hanley (Stress Less), being a better person means having more sympathy, more courage, and the willingness to do the right thing. Simple suggestions in seven categories (e.g., “See the Positive,” “Be Healthy,” “Show Love,” and “Give Back”), including dropping skepticism and writing more letters, are each followed by a brief paragraph that states how these behaviors create a positive impact as well instructions for implementing them. Reading and applying Hanley’s tips are delightful ways to begin turning intentions into actions. ­VERDICT Recommended for anyone who wants to make a positive difference in the world.

Hardy, Benjamin. Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success. Hachette. Mar. 2018. 256p. index. ISBN 9780316441322. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316441360. success

Willpower doesn’t work, claims psychologist Hardy, because internalized goals aren’t strong enough to achieve real change and one’s environment often contributes to counterproductive behavior. The key, says Hardy, is to shape external inputs, such as information consumed, relationships, frequently visited places, and experiences. Hardy further instructs readers to “force functions,” including leaving the phone in the car if the goal is to spend quality time with friends and family. Essentially, he advocates finding a power higher than oneself and outsourcing willpower to goal-enriching surroundings. VERDICT A welcome prescription for those striving to overcome challenges and realize their aspirations.

redstarLanger, Gigi. 50 Ways To Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking To Find Peace, Clarity, and Connection. Possum Hill. Jan. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9780999122006. pap. $14.95. personal growth

Langer (Educational Psychology) writes from both experience and expertise when she describes the power within to handle difficult life challenges, create meaningful relationships, and fulfill one’s wildest dreams. Four strategies (“get honest,” “claim power,” “make choices,” “use growth principles”) and 50 tools for defeating negative thinking, plus self-quizzes, action steps, personal anecdotes, and success stories show readers how to create a life-affirming environment and build confidence. VERDICT Langer’s homing in on all the aspects of negative self-talk and worry add breadth to her advice and make it a powerful tool for readers.

redstarLeahy, Robert L. The Jealousy Cure: Learn To Trust, Overcome Possessiveness, and Save Your Relationships. New Harbinger. Mar. 2018. 240p. bibliog. ISBN 9781626259751. pap. $16.95. relationships

In his newest book, Leahy (The Worry Cure) reveals that jealousy can be a positive feeling when it causes people to reflect on their relationships. But it can also hijack a person’s mind and drive one’s partner away. Using a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness techniques to encourage healthy relationships, Leahy first details the strategies that don’t work (e.g., interrogation, accusations, looking for clues) and then guides readers through evaluating and talking back to jealous thoughts. Leahy concludes with a section on how couples can work together to find acceptable solutions. VERDICT Solid counsel for those whose relationships are plagued by jealousy and the individuals it targets.

Mundy, Jon. A Course in Mysticism and Miracles: Begin Your Spiritual Adventure. Weiser: Red Wheel. Mar. 2018. 320p. index. ISBN 9781578636013. pap. $24.95. Spirituality

From the author of Lesson 101 comes a book that defines mysticism and pinpoints the basic characteristics of the mystical experience. According to Mundy, PhD, mysticism embodies a sense of timelessness, a release of the ego self, bliss, and the occurrence of wonder, awe, reverence, and happiness. Quotes and stories of more than 200 individuals—mystics, sages, saints, and everyday people—illuminate these concepts. The author then ties these ideas to the path of miracles and shows how they work together to create an awareness of the intrinsic beauty of life. VERDICT An accomplished explanation of the many ­facets of mysticism.

redstarPrice, Catherine. How To Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan To Take Back Your Life. Ten Speed: Crown. Feb. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9780399581120. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399581137. SELF-HELP

Science journalist Price (Vitamania) is not telling readers to throw away their smartphones. Instead, she is suggesting people stop and become conscious of how and why they use their devices, and to set boundaries between their time on- and offline. Early on, Price presents research on the effects smartphones have on relationships and mental and physical health. She then outlines a 30-day plan for using technology in a more beneficial manner, providing exercises and prompts, such as getting rid of junk apps, establishing no-phone zones, and developing their attention span. The result, assures Price, will be a fuller, more connected life. VERDICT Excellent, realistic advice for anyone wishing/needing to cut down on their screen time.

Simon, Julia M. When Food Is Comfort: Nurture Yourself Mindfully, Rewire Your Brain, and End Emotional Eating. New World Library. Mar. 2018. 334p. index. ISBN 9781608685509. pap. $16.95. SELF-HELP

Overeating is a complex behavior, but according to Simon (The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual), it mainly indicates that those affected are missing important self-care skills generally learned in childhood. To promote healing, the author teaches mindfulness and nurturing skills that rewire the brain. Seven specific skills, such as practicing validating thoughts, getting clear on needs, and reframing self-defeating voices, complement exercises and case studies, making it easy for readers to follow and apply the lessons. ­VERDICT Simon covers all the bases of a complicated issue and offers genuine hope.

Stabile, Suzanne. The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships. InterVarsity. Apr. 2018. 240p. index. ISBN 9780830846429. $24. relationships

Taking a particularly novel approach to relationships, Stabile (The Road Back to You) employs enneagrams to help readers interpret individual ways of experiencing the world. Being familiar with a person’s enneagram number (similar to a relationship style or Myers-Briggs indicator) and stance (aggressive, dependent, or withdrawing), one can relate to others more easily. Stabile explores each number in depth and how people with varying basic drives can work together in harmony and have compassion for one another. ­VERDICT A fascinating view into different ways of being.

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