Having a quick look around my home I can find instructions for the television, washing machine, tumble drier, boiler/heating system, cooker and the car. If I need to do some decorating for example, I can go on youtube, type in what I want to do and then watch lot’s of people show me how easy it should be – it never is for me but that is another story! Yet the one thing I most need help with – my life – doesn’t come with any written instructions!
So ‘what are self help books?’ Self help books are basically instruction manuals explaining how to improve or achieve your potential in any given area of your life that you can have control over. These books tend to be specific to a certain area of help and can be written by professionals – Doctors, Counsellors, Psychologists etc. or people – including celebrities – using their personal experiences to help others.
What areas or categories are there?
Just using Amazon as an example, under self help books there are 28 different categories listed!
- Anger management
- Anxieties and phobias
- Art therapy and relaxation
- Communication and social skills
- Death and grief
- Eating disorders
- Hand writing analysis
- Inner child
- Journal writing
- Memory improvement
- Neuro-linguistic programming
- New Age
- Personal transformation
- Self esteem
- Stress management
- Time management
There will be others but most will fit into one of the categories listed.
In future posts I will delve into each heading in more detail.
How do I choose a self help book?
I recommend choosing a book focused on the area of your life you want to change – for example if Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is impacting on your life choose a book focused on this, rather that a general ‘change your life’ title.
Quality books tend to be structured in such a way as to be able to measure the effectiveness of your actions. If we look at lessons we have had in the past – school lessons, music lessons, sport lessons, learning to drive a car etc. each lesson has a very basic structure
- you were told what you were going to learn
- you were given the information, tools and tasks to do in order to learn
- Your learning was measured, usually by way of a test of some kind
Don’t panic about the word test, it is just a term used to measure learning and a very important tool in knowing if the actions you have been taking are working – if they are then great – if not, it allows you to look at finding the reason why.
Personal recommendation is also a good way to choose a book, if someone you know and/or respect recommends a book then it is often worth looking into.
Look at the way the book is written, do you like the style, do you understand it? Some people recommend only getting books from authors who are professionals in their field, and although I have read plenty of books by professional authors and found them useful, there are some which are so rich in medical jargon I have been unable to finish the book. In my experience those books written by authors using their own experience are as good as those written by the professionals.
I would also be wary of titles that appear to good to be true – unfortunately they often are!
Once I have read the book will I be a changed person?
Just by reading the book? Then no. You have to follow the advice and take action. These books are designed to help you identify a behaviour or thought that is undesirable and its cause. Once you have done this the tasks and advice given are designed to show you that you have a choice in the way you behave or think and how to reach that stage.
You will probably need to re read certain chapters many times to keep motivated and remind yourself of the action you should be taking. This is great, the more you do something the more natural it becomes.
What have we learnt?
- that self help books cover a huge range of categories
- are written by people from all walks of life,
- to look for focused titles rather than those with a broad range
- to look for personal recommendations for titles
- to choose a title whose written style suits you
- that books with structure are more effective
- that in order to achieve you need to take action
Finally don’t be disheartened if after following a book you don’t see the changes in yourself that you hoped for. There can be many reasons, quite often it means going back to the beginning and identifying a thought or behaviour and discovering the cause of it. If nothing seems to work or symptoms worsen then please seek professional medical advice.