Books to Help with Depression

Find happiness with these books to overcome depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health concerns that we all experience. It affects people of all ages and can develop in a variety of different ways, particularly if left untreated. While sadness is an unavoidable aspect of life, it usually only lasts for a short period of time before a person is able to naturally recover their mental equilibrium.

However, persistent depression can be indicative of a mood disorder. This can impact one’s life in critical ways, from a loss of energy to being unable to enjoy activities that previously made one happy.

Although talking to a therapist is often the best step one can take, there are a number of incredibly useful books to help with depression that can bring meaningful change to your daily life and mental health. To assist you, we’ve selected the very best among them from psychology professionals to give you the knowledge you need to lead a happier, healthier life.

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness

by J. Mark, G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal & Jon Kabat-Zinn

From the publisher: If you’ve ever struggled with depression, take heart. Mindfulness, a simple yet powerful way of paying attention to your most difficult emotions and life experiences, can help you break the cycle of chronic unhappiness once and for all.

In The Mindful Way through Depression, four uniquely qualified experts explain why our usual attempts to “think” our way out of a bad mood or just “snap out of it” lead us deeper into the downward spiral. Through insightful lessons drawn from both Eastern meditative traditions and cognitive therapy, they demonstrate how to sidestep the mental habits that lead to despair, including rumination and self-blame, so you can face life’s challenges with greater resilience. Jon Kabat-Zinn gently and encouragingly narrates the accompanying CD of guided meditations, making this a complete package for anyone seeking to regain a sense of hope and well-being.

What Critics Say

“Whether you struggle with depression or simply want to understand your mind and emotions better, you will find this book accessible and useful. Depression is epidemic in our society, and I would love to see this sensible treatment approach gain ground.” –Andrew Weil, MD, author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health and Healthy Aging

“A revolutionary treatment approach. For depression sufferers, this is a truly useful guide to achieving emotional balance.” – Daniel Goleman, PhD, author of Emotional Intelligence

“An invaluable resource not only for those who suffer from depression, but for anyone familiar with the downward spiral of negative thinking and self-doubt. The authors of this book explore the reasons for depression and give us guidance and support, along with useful tools to find a way through it.” – Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Love

“This book brings together the practices of both science and insight meditation in an effective fashion that is understandable to the ordinary person—no esoteric practice or mental health background is necessary.” – Marsha M. Linehan, PhD, ABPP, professor and director emeritus, behavioral research and therapy clinics, University of Washington; developer of DBT

Length: 273 pages
Genre: Mental Health, Self-Help
Publisher: The Guilford Press
Average customer review: 4.5 out of 5 stars (6,244 ratings)
Buy it: Amazon

The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

by Alex Korb

From the publisher: Depression can feel like a downward spiral, pulling you down into a vortex of sadness, fatigue, and apathy. Based in the latest research in neuroscience, this book offers dozens of little things you can do every day to rewire your brain and create an upward spiral towards a happier, healthier life.

Depression doesn’t happen all at once. It starts gradually and builds momentum over time. If you go through a difficult experience, you may stop taking care of yourself. You may stop exercising and eating healthy, which will end up making you feel even worse as time goes on. You are caught in a downward spiral, but you may feel too tired, too overwhelmed, and too scared to try and pull yourself back up. The good news is that just one small step can be a step in the right direction.

In The Upward Spiral, neuroscientist Alex Korb demystifies the neurological processes in the brain that cause depression and offers effective ways to get better “one little step at a time”. In the book, you’ll discover that there isn’t “one big solution” that will solve your depression. Instead, there are dozens of small, practical things you can do to alleviate your symptoms and start healing. Some are as simple as relaxing certain muscles to reduce feelings of anxiety, while others involve making small efforts toward more positive social interactions. Small steps in the right direction can have profound effects giving you the power to literally “reshape” your brain.

Like most people, you probably didn’t wake up one day and find yourself completely depressed. Instead, it probably happened over time, as a series of reactions to difficult situations and negative thinking. But if you are ready to reverse the trajectory of your depression and find lasting happiness, this book will show you how.

What Critics Say

“This book is a must-read for those who struggle with depression and want some guidance on how to understand and manage it―as well as for therapists who want to learn more about the neuroscience of depression and its treatment.” – Elyn Saks, author of The Center Cannot Hold

“Alex Korb’s The Upward Spiral is a clear and engaging explanation of the neuroscience behind depression. Korb sheds light on this mysterious and often misunderstood disorder, and, in the process, enlightens the reader about the basics of the brain and how it shapes―and is shaped by―our moods, motivations, decisions, and actions.” – Anson Dorrance, co-author of The Vision of a Champion

The Upward Spiral presents an engaging, accessible, and informative synthesis of the current thinking on depression and its treatment. A cohesive neuroscience perspective is skillfully interwoven with a practical guide to strategies that can both attenuate pathological negative moods, as well as enhance emotional well-being across the clinical spectrum.” – Helen S. Mayberg, professor of psychiatry in neurology and radiology, and Dorothy C. Fuqua Chair in psychiatric neuroimaging and therapeutics at Emory University School of Medicine

Length: 240 pages
Genre: Mental Health, Self-Help
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications
Average customer review: 4.5 out of 5 stars (2,091 ratings)
Buy it: Amazon

The Feeling Good Handbook

by David D. Burns

From the publisher: Make life an exhilarating experience!

With his phenomenally successful Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Dr. David Burns introduced a groundbreaking, drug-free treatment for depression. Now in this long-awaited sequel, he reveals powerful new techniques and provides step-by-step exercises that help you cope with the full range of everyday problems.

* Free from fears, phobias, and panic attacks
* Overcome self-defeating attitudes
* Discover the five secrets of intimate communication
* Put an end to marital conflict
* Conquer procrastination and unleash your potential for success

With an up-to-date section on everything you need to know about commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs and anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, this remarkable guide can show you how to feel good about yourself and the people you care about. You will discover that life can be an exhilarating experience.

What Critics Say

“The CBT bible.” – The Observer

“Invaluable guide to dealing with fears, anxieties, panic attacks, procrastination and communication problems.” – USA Today

“A wonderful achievement—the best in its class.” – M. Anthony Bates, clinical psychologist, Presbyterian Medical Center, Philadelphia

“Clear, systematic, forceful.” – Albert Ellis, PhD, President, Albert Ellis Institute

Length: 729 pages
Genre: Mental Health, Self-Help
Publisher: Penguin
Average customer review: 4 out of 5 stars (4,988 ratings)
Buy it: Amazon

The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs

by Stephen S. Ilardi

From the publisher: Most Americans work long hours, eat on the fly, and lead increasingly sedentary, isolated lives. Alongside this lifestyle, depression rates have skyrocketed: approximately 1 in 4 Americans will suffer from major depression at some point in their lives. Where have we gone wrong? Dr. Stephen Ilardi sheds light on our current predicament and reminds us: our bodies were never designed for the sleep-deprived, poorly nourished, frenzied pace of twenty-first century life. In fact, our genes have changed very little since the days of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and are still building, in effect, Stone Age bodies. Herein lies the key to breaking the cycle of depression.

Inspired by the extraordinary resilience of aboriginal groups like the Kaluli of Papua New Guinea (who rarely suffer from depression), Dr. Ilardi prescribes an easy-to-follow, clinically proven program that harks back to what our bodies were originally made for-and need. Here you can find the road back to lasting health by integrating the following 6 elements into your life: an omega-3 rich diet; exercise; plenty of natural sunlight; ample sleep; social connections; and participation in meaningful tasks that leave little time for negative thoughts-all things that our ancestors had in abundance.

Already, The Depression Cure program has delivered dramatic results, helping even those who have failed to respond to traditional medications. Interweaving the stories of many who have fought-and won-the battle against this debilitating illness, this ground-breaking book can illuminate the path to lifting the fog once and for all for you or a loved one.

What Critics Say

“Ilardi writes clearly, avoiding jargon, and speaking eloquently about many topics. His depiction of negative lifestyle influences on people’s emotions and actions are on target … Overcoming depression is not a simple challenge but one, I suspect, has a chance of success by reading this book.” – Metapsychology Online Reviews

“[Ilardi’s] program helps patients reclaim six ancient lifestyle elements that can improve or eradicate depression. These include a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the critical building blocks for brain structure and function; enjoyable activities that keep us from dwelling on negative thoughts; exercise that stimulates important brain chemicals; sufficient sunlight exposure to keep the body’s clock in sync; social support to avoid isolation; and healthy sleep habits that allow the brain and body to recover.” –

“Ilardi’s theory draws on discoveries in cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, which add heft to his common-sense advice … The Depression Cure arrays data that may inspire action.” – Kansas Alumni

Length: 304 pages
Genre: Mental Health, Self-Help
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Average customer review: 4.5 out of 5 stars (1,328 ratings)
Buy it: Amazon

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being

by Martin E.P. Seligman

From the publisher: “This book will help you flourish.” With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in ten years—and the first to present his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for fifteen years, is different—it’s about actually raising the bar for the human condition.

Flourish builds on Dr. Seligman’s game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show how to get the most out of life, unveiling an electrifying new theory of what makes a good life—for individuals, for communities, and for nations. In a fascinating evolution of thought and practice, Flourish refines what Positive Psychology is all about.

While certainly a part of well-being, happiness alone doesn’t give life meaning. Seligman now asks, What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world? In a word, what is it that allows you to flourish? “Well-being” takes the stage front and center, and Happiness (or Positive Emotion) becomes one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology, along with Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment—or PERMA, the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment.

Thought-provoking in its implications for education, economics, therapy, medicine, and public policy—the very fabric of society—Flourish tells inspiring stories of Positive Psychology in action, including how the entire U.S. Army is now trained in emotional resilience; how innovative schools can educate for fulfillment in life and not just for workplace success; and how corporations can improve performance at the same time as they raise employee well-being.

With interactive exercises to help readers explore their own attitudes and aims, Flourish is a watershed in the understanding of happiness as well as a tool for getting the most out of life. On the cutting edge of a science that has changed millions of lives, Dr. Seligman now creates the ultimate extension and capstone of his bestselling classics, Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism.

What Critics Say

“Repaves the path to true happiness. A relentlessly optimistic guidebook on finding and securing individual happiness.” – Kirkus

“Important” – Publishers Weekly

“I was immediately charmed … Seligman’s intentions are admirable and exciting. He is consumed by his mission, which is to take psychology on from its traditional role in alleviating misery, and broaden it into positive psychology—the entirely different art of teaching us how to be wiser, stronger, more generous to others, more self-disciplined, and more capable of dealing with difficulty and rejection … The book is full of nuggets about why positive approaches work.” – The Sunday Times

Length: 349 pages
Genre: Mental Health, Self-Help
Publisher: Free Press
Average customer review: 4 out of 5 stars (4,479 ratings)
Buy it: Amazon

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

by Russ Harris

From the publisher: Are you, like millions of Americans, caught in the happiness trap? Russ Harris explains that the way most of us go about trying to find happiness ends up making us miserable, driving the epidemics of stress, anxiety, and depression. This empowering book presents the insights and techniques of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) a revolutionary new psychotherapy based on cutting-edge research in behavioral psychology. By clarifying your values and developing mindfulness (a technique for living fully in the present moment), ACT helps you escape the happiness trap and find true satisfaction in life.

The techniques presented in The Happiness Trap will help readers to:

* Reduce stress and worry
* Handle painful feelings and thoughts more effectively
* Break self-defeating habits
* Overcome insecurity and self-doubt
* Create a rich, full, and meaningful life.

What Critics Say

“Eminently practical and readable. This book reveals that when calibrating one’s life according to acceptance and valued action, happiness is a pleasant sideshow in the larger carnival of an engaged and purposeful existence.” – Zindel Segal, PhD, author of The Mindful Way through Depression

“Carefully and creatively presents techniques that anyone can use to undermine struggle, avoidance, and loss of the moment. Harris systematically explores how we get into the ‘happiness trap’ and then shines a powerful beacon showing us another way forward.” – Steven Hayes, PhD, author of Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life

“An exciting alternative to the usual approach of so many self-help books. Harris explains how we can work with ourselves as we are, rather than aggressively trying to alter ourselves. I’m impressed by the simple and effective methods of ACT.” – David Richo, PhD, author of The Five Things We Cannot Change

Length: 240 pages
Genre: Mental Health, Self-Help
Publisher: Trumpeter
Average customer review: 4.5 out of 5 stars (6,336 ratings)
Buy it: Amazon

Change Your Thinking: Overcome Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, and Improve Your Life with CBT

by Sarah Edelman

From the publisher: Practicing psychologist Sarah Edelman clearly lays out how to use CBT to develop rational thought patterns in response to upsetting emotions and situations. By following the practical, easy-to-follow exercises and examples, you can take control of your thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and find more positive ways of dealing with life’s hurdles—and a happier you. Change Your Thinking will teach you how to fight negative and self-defeating beliefs to minimize your experience of upsetting emotions.

* Recognize “thinking errors” that cause you unnecessary distress.
* Learn how to dispute thinking errors with your behavior and rational thoughts.
* Prevent negative thoughts and emotions from occurring.
* Acknowledge and face the obstacles that prevent you from obtaining your goals.
* Achieve a more balanced and happier life.

Whether you’re faced with overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, frustration, anger, depression, or anxiety, CBT can help you change your thinking and make a difference in your life—beginning today.

What Critics Say

Change Your Thinking is an excellent self-help book that will inspire readers to modify their faulty thinking and self-defeating behavior so they can more effectively cope with stress and pursue happiness.” – Martha Sue Davis, Ph.D., psychologist and author of psychology self-help books

“Supported by over 30 years of clinical research, Sarah Edelman has written a volume that is clear, practical, empowering, thoughtful, and forward-thinking. She distills a broad and complex literature to provide the reader with useful strategies for coping with life’s problems … it offers sensible guidelines for leading an optimistic, balanced, and worthwhile life.” – Mark A. Reinecke, Ph.D., ABPP, ACT, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Northwestern University

Length: 320 pages
Genre: Mental Health, Self-Help
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Average customer review: 4.5 out of 5 stars (461 reviews)
Buy it: Amazon

Stay in Touch

What books to help with depression have been effective for you? Drop us a comment to let us know which ones you would recommend to other people in a similar situation ♥

11 thoughts on “Books to Help with Depression

  1. Kennedy says:

    I’ve been looking at natural ways to deal with my depression (I don’t want to go on anti-depressants), so I’m gonna give The Depression Cure a try. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Michael says:

    I’ve been using the Feel Good Handbook for a really long time now to improve the way I think in social situations. I can recommend it to anyone who deals with anxiety and panic attacks in addition to depression.

  3. Erin says:

    The Mindful Way through Depression has been such a big help for me. I’ve battled with depression since I was a teenager, and I feel like I’m getting better at reorganizing my thought patterns now.

    • Brian M. says:

      It took me a while to get used to the routine of good self-care. For me, having a book to sit down with regularly has helped a lot to keep my thoughts structured more positively. I recommend The Mindful Way through Depression for anyone in a similar situation.

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