Breaking through: 9 Books To Accompany You Through Your Mental Health Journey

Some companion for creating a better path for your life.

Alejandro G. Rangel
17 min readFeb 21, 2022


Mental Health. Still quite taboo, isn’t it? There is no mistaking the fact that the monster does not even need to be masked. Everyone talks about it. We talk about being vulnerable, needing some sort of “mind cleansing”, and being emotional, crying, or having an “episode” are not bad things. However, when it matters most, nobody wants that side to show. We all want that perfect social media image.

It is crucial to distinguish self-help books from mental health books.

Here is a list of some books I believe can be helpful to you and have been helpful to me. As I have, I hope you will find wisdom, comfort, and breakthroughs as well.

What Happened To You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

Most times, the symptoms of trauma are unseen, even to those who have experienced them. The most vivid recollection of Oprah Winfrey’s childhood is one of acute loneliness. To overcome dysfunctional coping methods like people-pleasing and overeating, she needed to understand the trauma she had suffered. Trauma is more detrimental to a child’s brain when they are younger. You have a personal “codebook” in your brain where you record all of your experiences.

A personal codebook can help you comprehend the apparently unexplainable emotions and systems that developed to help you survive. The new book Neurosequential Model by Dr. David Perry shows how the brain responds to trauma. Dr. Perry helps trauma survivors understand how their brains absorb trauma in various ways. After an automobile accident left Richard Roseman with overly sensitive survival mechanisms, he assisted Roseman in regaining control of those systems. Oprah Winfrey worked 100-hour weeks and disregarded her body’s warnings that something was wrong.

Dr. Perry adds that to cope with trauma effectively, one must learn how to use tactics such as positive regulation. Addiction is more likely to take hold of a youngster whose ability to regulate his or her emotions has been compromised by abusive adults. Trauma recovery causes synchronizing our breathing patterns with our circadian cycles. Oprah has learned how to recognize her body’s stress signs. For those who were not taught how to regulate their emotions as a child, there are still methods to get back in balance.

The simplest and most basic rhythm we can hear is the beat of our heart. Being able to love is seemingly as natural as being able to breathe. It is impossible if you have never been loved. Gloria could reclaim her role as a mother after experiencing love for the first time. Trauma may be healed by learning how to create healthy connections.

In the correct dosages, stress may aid in the development of resilience. It was a privilege for Dr. Perry to deal with youngsters who had been saved from the clutches of an abusive cult. Maintaining a healthy level of stress is like lifting weights. Thereafter, we are more resilient and stronger. The good news is that everyone can pick up the skill of building connections.

Traumatized children frequently have a developmental age that is much younger than their chronological age. Racism in our society is a pain that is passed down through the generations. If you want to help your kid become more resilient, give them a task that is both challenging and doable. Nonwhite people’s trauma does not occur in a socially isolated environment. A long history of brutal colonialism, slavery, and racism has led to this moment.

If trauma is a society issue, rather than an individual one, then trauma-informed treatment may be helpful. Trauma may affect children’s brains, even if you do not see it on the surface. Survivors of trauma require care throughout their lives, not only in the immediate aftermath of an occurrence. To help them, they will need to be cared for by professionals who understand the problems of dealing with a wounded brain. The purpose of Oprah Winfrey’s blinks is to assist individuals overcome their personal trauma and abuse experiences.

Trauma is not an individual disease; rather, it is the product of traumatic events, such as racism and poverty. To recover, we all need the help of others in our social circles.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

War veterans are just the tip of the iceberg for dealing with trauma. In 2014, 12 million women were raped in the United States. Abuse of children is a problem in the United States that affects 3 million people each year. Trauma-related stress activates the body and brain of a PTSD patient. Her left side of the brain, which handles logical reasoning, slows down.

A common problem with flashbacks for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is that they may be difficult to distinguish from reality. Traumatized youngsters have a predisposition to assume the worst. Images from periodicals were used to show this point. According to him, many people who were traumatized as children are still suffering in their adulthoods. We do not remember the scent of the place we were in or the features of a person’s face in great detail.

Smell, taste, touch, and hearing had a far larger role when people were asked to recollect painful events. Through the use of EMDR, patients can better understand and control their thoughts and memories. So, the patient may form a new and better connection with the painful memories by engaging in such activities. Yoga provides a safe environment for trauma victims to come in touch with their feelings and learn how their bodies respond to them. Annie’s first yoga sessions were very challenging for her as a rape survivor and a PTSD sufferer.

Trauma-related stress may be eased by practicing mindfulness. It can stimulate brain areas involved in emotion regulation and to maintain a healthy level of stress hormones. Traumatized individuals may use neurofeedback to influence their brain waves to increase the production of alpha waves. Brainwaves are shown in real time using neurofeedback to help patients identify times of relaxation. Patients may even be rewarded for reducing their stress levels by interacting with a system that simulates gaming.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

There are several elements that may affect human behavior, some of which are neurological and some of which are environmental. Many of the oldest areas of the human brain come online shortly before a certain action is performed. Understanding human behavior requires an investigation of the brain’s biology and cultural and historical context. We are far more inclined to respond violently in a combat zone because of our increased sensitivity to risk. These parts of the brain were passed down to us by our ancestors via evolution.

These are the areas that process our most primitive impulses, such as dread of death. The cerebral cortex, which is the brain’s biggest section, contains the amygdala. This is the part of the brain that is linked to aggressive behavior and anxiety. Aggression and impulsiveness are both under the control of the frontal cortex, which regulates emotions in this region. These two domains are crucial in defining what is acceptable conduct.

Sensory cues are continually being sent to the brain by our brains. Images of strangers’ faces influence our perceptions of them and our feelings toward them. ‘People’s faces’ because we have brains that are sensitive to skin tone, a defendant with a stereotypically “African” face may get a harsher sentencing. Is it as straightforward as you may believe to link hormones and behavior?… Even while studies have revealed a direct association between testosterone and violence, it does not cause it.

Oxytocin, a hormone linked to trust, is especially noteworthy since it is linked to pleasant emotions. 85 percent of the brain’s growth occurs in the first two years of life, yet only 15 percent of the brain’s development is determined by behavior. Childhood trauma may lead to an overgrowth of the amygdala and an undergrowth of the frontal cortex. As a result, there is a greater likelihood of aggression in later life. Some distinctions in conduct are influenced by one’s cultural background.

No matter where you were raised, it will have a significant influence on your character. People in the West are more likely to recall the specifics of a scene when there is just one person in it. When a person is displayed, East Asians are better at recalling the scene. Rather than the result of a random mutation, the development of individualist and collectivist cultures results from their respective environments and circumstances. Individualism in the United States may be explained by ecological and geographic variables.

Divorce is more prevalent in the United States than in other countries because of these factors. There is an association between neurological disorders and one’s political views. Morality is also influenced by the brain’s neurobiological connections. Conservatives have larger amygdalae and more gray matter in their cingulate cortex, while liberals have more. People who are sensitive to other people’s suffering activate their Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC).

One of the brain’s many interconnected areas, the frontal lobe and amygdala, are connected here. Empathy is more about self-preservation than it is about helping others, according to these neural connections. Researchers have shown that when we experience empathy or compassion for those distressed, distinct areas of the brain are active. We can only properly comprehend what it means to be a part of a society if we know how these behaviors came to be.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

It is common for individuals’ issues to be more complex than they look when they first walk into treatment. Insights were gleaned from an encounter between a therapist and another therapist’s patient. Four patients’ tales and how treatment works from the patient’s viewpoint are shown in these blinks. He hid the loss of his kid for over a year from his therapist, according to John’s tale. He was nasty in treatment because he could not interact with the therapist.

The true remedies to his difficulties, however, were to accept his pain and to become more vulnerable. Therapists must be able to see beyond their patients’ protection systems in order to address the reality. Psychotherapy may be complicated by two basic human characteristics: our dislike of and desire to avoid experiencing uncomfortable feelings. Therapists challenge their patients by making them face their deepest scars, which may be unattractive or even painful to look at. To stave against the perceived danger that treatment poses, many patients build defenses.

With one woman, focusing on her ex-boyfriend as a kind of self-defense was exactly what she needed. Experiments with an elderly lady who had been socially isolated for more than a decade are described in this article. Most times, individuals come to treatment because they are feeling lonely. An author could not write her book because it seemed useless to her, says Wendell Raichle, a therapist. As a result, she wrote the book that these blinks are based on.

In addition, the author understood that writing was an important aspect of her identity. To be on the safe side, author Julie opted to walk away from her book deal. Even though she was facing the end of her life, she did not let her fatal illness bring her down; instead, she made the most of it. One of the most important aspects of healing is regaining one’s feeling of self-worth. At 25, Charlotte had a drinking problem and an unhealthy attraction to men.

There is a lesson in Julie’s tale for all of us, no matter what challenges we experience in our lives. In order to make healthy choices, we need to overcome our reluctance to alter our ways. Her experience shows an alexithymia-like condition in which an individual has an instinctual coldness toward romantic partners because of their perceived vulnerability. Experiencing the highs and lows of life requires allowing our emotions to run free. They make a great leap forward when they can freely communicate their deepest feelings.

There are many ways to express your feelings, like penning a letter of love or yelling obscenities. Crying is a way for a person to open up and express their actual feelings.

Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life

To cope with the challenges of life, author Eric Greitens seeks for the skills, habits, and training necessary to build resiliency. Despite the difficulty, overcoming challenges will help you grow as a person. Resilience is a skill that may be developed and used to our advantage in the face of adversity. It is worth the effort to get what you want. The only way to discover your true calling is to put yourself out there and try different things.

If you do not know anybody in a new town, take a job there or go to a new country for the first time. Do not be afraid of obstacles; in fact, we thrive on them! Being able to accept what you cannot alter to concentrate on what you can control is a key component of resilience. If you do not accept responsibility for your actions, you will face dire repercussions in the future. Practicing a habit again and over may help us achieve our long-term objectives.

Make it a point to be nice every day if you want to improve your character. Habits are formed when we do the same thing repeatedly. We become mean if we are nasty constantly. To combat this, work even harder in the gym to develop good training habits. Accepting failure as a necessary step in learning and growing is at the heart of resilience.

Fear of failure may be conquered at any age. You will expand your horizons, try new things, and learn new skills if you can accomplish that. Without meaningful employment and solid social connections, you can not really enjoy life to the fullest. The more often you fail, the more likely it is that you are not trying hard enough. The only way to become better is to fail.

Your soul and your intellect will be awakened and freed if you push yourself frequently. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, push yourself to the limit. Building bravery, strength, and wisdom is the goal here.

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

People’s vulnerability to depressive episodes may be explained by the brain’s anatomy. Depression and a downward spiral may be caused by a dysfunctional prefrontal cortex. People who are depressed are more likely to be lonely since making plans is more difficult when they are depressed. It is possible to get into a downward cycle of worry and anxiety. Chronic depression may result from such spirals in the worst-case scenario.

You use your prefrontal cortex to plan and think about prospective issues. The limbic system is causing havoc by erupting with anxieties. So, all you see are the horrible things that may happen. Thoughts of impending doom are the source of worry, anxiousness is a completely other emotion. Anxiety and worry may be distinguished, yet they intensify one another.

Depression leads to a downward cycle because it compels individuals to concentrate on the negative. Billi’s comfort eating is an illustration of how bad habits may exacerbate an already difficult circumstance. Getting some physical, mental, and social exercise may help ward off sadness on several levels. To receive the dopamine fix that a depressed brain craves, the brain needs more repetitions of undesirable behaviors. Getting even the tiniest amount of exercise can help you build a momentum that will carry you higher.

Making choices and establishing a sense of confidence create opportunities for achievement. Setting goals causes your brain to create feel-good hormones. Reducing stress and overcoming depression are both made easier with better sleep. Sleep deprivation affects almost every element of your physical and emotional health. Gratitude and a desire to connect with others stimulate positive brain networks.

Being positive instead of pessimistic is a good way to combat depression. Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, as most individuals do. Your mood might be lifted by spending time with loved ones. Your mood might be lifted even by making eye contact with a complete stranger.

Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story

There is no scientific basis for personality assessment. A wonderful illustration of this is the early twentieth-century development of the Myers-Briggs personality tests. It is Merve Emre’s contention that the beginnings of personality testing are tainted with pseudoscience. The findings of a long-term study on personality were made public in 2016. People’s personalities are not based on statistics.

Instead, it shattered a long-held belief in personality assessment. When you discover that there is no scientific basis for this testing, it is a liberating experience. If we believe in the “end-of-history delusion,” then we may expect relatively minimal changes in the future. Since you can see, this is a misunderstanding, as you may predict and even prepare for future change. We are frequently held back by the notion of a true self.

If you believe this myth, you are at your best when you remain true to who you are. Adam Grant conquered his fear of public speaking by offering to give guest lectures. People are not born with a personality; rather, they are the product of their actions. You eat and pay your expenses because you care about your children. Even something as seemingly pointless as spending 30 minutes on YouTube watching cat videos has a reason for being.

When you know why you are doing what you are doing, it becomes easier to change your identity. Keystone habit: establishing one defining behavior that enhances other aspects of your life, as described by Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habits. Most times, the most interesting keystone objectives are financial. The more specific your aim is, the more probable it is that you will stick with it and achieve it. If you only get out of bed when you need to, you are prioritizing “urgent” duties in your waking hours.

When all you have time to do is keep the status quo going, genuine change is impossible. Early risers have a better opportunity to study, which will help them become better people. In the words of Bob Greene, You can change your future by changing the story you tell yourself about your past. A new identity might result from a shift in perspective like Ken’s, he claims. A person’s identity is formed by the stories they tell themselves about their life events, according to psychologist Alan Greene.

No more dependable than horoscopes, personality assessments perpetuate damaging falsehoods. Personality transformation may be used as a tool to attain your goals.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The way we see ourselves and others is heavily influenced by our thinking. In the end, it decides whether we feel we are capable of growth and development. For individuals who have a development mentality, that skill is the most important thing in life is counterintuitive. Employees who are not ideal from the start should be fired as soon as possible, according to those with a fixed perspective. For new employees, big firms like Enron and McKinsey follow this philosophy by only hiring people who can progress in their positions.

Problems are not insurmountable for those with a development mentality; rather, they are challenges that must be overcome. Self-improvement and improving the world around them are top priorities for these people. When Lou Gerstner stepped in to save IBM from bankruptcy, Lee Iacocca was already the Chrysler Motors CEO. By rewarding employees who supported their coworkers and deconstructing the firm’s hierarchies, IBM’s Gerstner changed the culture of the organization forever. His ability to meet as many people as possible in an extremely short amount of time was facilitated by this method.

The emphasis shifted away from the achievement of individuals and toward the growth of the community. When confronted with a challenging issue, those with a fixed perspective only perceive the dangers. In her violin playing, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg displayed this sort of behavior. Challenges excite people who have a development attitude, and they seek to overcome them. The impossible may become a reality for everyone who adopts a development attitude.

Parents and teachers have a significant impact on the attitudes of their children. One step at a time, we can train our brains to think that way like any other muscle. As a person with a development mentality, you have the chance to seek help from others. Our skills and abilities may continue to expand when we adopt a growth mentality (Christopher Reeve) (Michael Jordan). Self-actualization can only be achieved by adopting a development mentality. Fixed-minded people impede their own growth by believing that they are born with intrinsic aptitude and fearing failure.

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It

Self-talk consumes more than a third of our waking hours. Our brains are equipped with everything we need to quiet the noise in our heads. Learn how to transform your toughest critic into the greatest friend with these blinks. When we are adults, our inner voices help us keep track of the objectives we are working toward. Our thoughts tend to slow down substantially when there is a lot of noise around us.

Chatter also interferes with our social interactions and might drive us to distance ourselves from others who are sympathetic. It is a vicious cycle: the more we babble, the more we isolate ourselves, and the more painful it becomes. Worse, excessive talking might harm our health in the long run. Chronic stress has been linked to heart disease and cancer in several studies. Get a few feet away from the source of the noise.

Fred Rogers penned a letter to himself in the third person back in 1979. Researchers have shown that talking to oneself from a distance may help ease feelings of guilt and humiliation and tension. Distancing yourself from the surrounding noise may be achieved by speaking to yourself as if you were someone else. Distant self-talk may help ease feelings of emotional distress, a research revealed. People’s arteries contract when they are anxious, but when they are in the mentality of a challenge, they are more relaxed.

Achieving emotional and cognitive balance is essential for reducing chatter. We seek consolation when we are distressed because it gives us a sense of security. We need support, but we also need someone who can help us see things from a different viewpoint. According to the FBI’s hostage negotiation approach, effective rapport-building techniques include active listening and empathy. Attention is not the same for everyone.

Involuntary and voluntary are the two categories. Involuntary attention is taxing since it needs you to use your effort to engage in it. When you are drawn into something, and it truly helps you recharge, you are engaging in involuntary attention. When you are in the presence of nature, you can not help but be transfixed and filled with wonder. There are several studies showing that placebos may help ease both physical and emotional discomfort.

Using a “chatter-reducing cocktail” metaphor, the author describes rituals as helping to quiet the mind. The most important takeaway here is that if we have faith, that something will lift our spirits, then it will. For example, washing the dishes is a routine that the author does when he is stuck at work. Stress and gossip may be avoided with this simple method.



Alejandro G. Rangel

Marketing maven | 🇲🇽🇺🇲 Citizen of the world