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Avesta’s Favorite Books for Mental Health Awareness Month

Books Featured in This Post:

May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to reprioritize emotional wellness while breaking down stigmas and celebrating vulnerability. During May and every day, our team at Avesta honors the resilience required to navigate the shadows of depression and the courage it takes to ask for support. Books can help guide people through these shadows by offering insights into the human mind and the struggles many people face. Some stories offer compassion. Others equip readers with practical tools for healing.

Here, we offer a list of Avesta’s favorite books for Mental Health Awareness Month. We hope these stories provide clarity, guidance, and hope.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey

Spark mental health book cover

Spark is a book that reveals the transformative power of exercise on brain health, exploring its ability to enhance clarity, reduce stress, and combat depression. Author John Ratey draws on cutting-edge research to give readers a glimpse into exercise-fueled neurogenesis and mood elevation. 

Ratey also shares compelling case studies, like Naperville Central High School, which implemented a “Zero Hour PE” program, inviting students to exercise intensely before classes. This initiative improved students’ attention, mood, and academic performance, with the school ranking first in math and sixth in science globally. The program also reduced discipline issues and enhanced overall well-being.

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“Spark” is one of Avesta’s favorite books for Mental Health Awareness Month because it makes neuroscience accessible. It also offers practical strategies to use exercise as a powerful, natural tool for improving mental health.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk 

the body keeps the score book cover

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk delves into the profound impact of trauma on the brain, mind, and body, sparking depression, social disconnection, flashbacks, and risky behaviors.

The book highlights that traditional pharmacotherapy, though often the first line of defense, has limitations. Van der Kolk draws on his extensive clinical experience to emphasize the importance of safer, more natural approaches like yoga and mindfulness, which can help patients regain control over their bodies and emotions. 

Van der Kolk also explores innovative language, art, music, and dance therapies. He argues that these modalities, along with reconnecting with loved ones, can help trauma survivors find purpose and identity.

The Body Keeps the Score is a great book for Mental Health Awareness Month because it offers a holistic approach to treating trauma that blends engaging storytelling with scientific insights and practical strategies.

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life  by Jon Kabat Zinn

wherever you go there you are book cover

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn introduces readers to the healing power of mindfulness meditation. 

Kabat-Zinn explains how mindfulness can help people live in the present moment and reduce stress and chronic pain. Throughout the book, he provides straightforward techniques and emphasizes that meditation is accessible to everyone, not just Buddhist monks. The book argues that mindfulness can improve patience, non-judgment, and generosity, driving new levels of joy, peacefulness, and happiness.

The book also guides readers through calming their chaotic thoughts through acceptance rather than resistance. It introduces concepts like “nondoing,” karma, and non-harming, showing how they contribute to a more mindful and connected life. The book’s clear, concise instructions make mindfulness meditation approachable for anyone.

Wherever You Go, There You Are is one of Avesta’s favorite Mental Health Awareness Month books because it provides tangible protocols for managing stress, anxiety, and depression through practical advice and guided meditations. 

Change Your Diet, Change Your Mind: A Powerful Plan to Improve Mood, Overcome Anxiety, and Protect Memory for a Lifetime of Optimal Mental Health by Dr. Georgia Ede

change your diet change your mind book cover

Change Your Diet Change Your Mind is a comprehensive guide that reveals how dietary choices impact mental health and offers simple nutrition advice for optimal brain function and mood.

The book explains the root causes of mental health issues, critiques current nutrition guidelines, and defines a brain-healthy diet. It explores the harmful effects of processed foods and insulin resistance while highlighting the potential of ketogenic diets in restoring metabolic health.

Author Dr. Ede also suggests conducting dietary experiments like a 30-day dairy-free challenge to uncover hidden food sensitivities that might impact mental health. Her approach combines meal plans, recipes, and strategies for overcoming challenges like social gatherings and travel.

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Change Your Diet Change Your Mind is a particularly valuable book for Mental Health Awareness Month because it empowers readers to harness the power of nutrition to improve their mental health.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel

the four agreements book cover

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz provides a simple approach to personal growth through four essential principles rooted in ancient Toltec wisdom. 

Ruiz starts the book by revealing how societal conditioning and inner beliefs shape perceptions, often harming people’s overall well-being. He then introduces four agreements to help humanity reshape these beliefs and live a life of joy and fulfillment.

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word: Ruiz emphasizes the power of language and how using words impeccably means speaking with integrity and kindness to others and ourselves.
  • Don’t Take Anything Personally: He urges readers to recognize that other people’s opinions and actions reflect their own reality, not ours. By not taking things personally, we become immune to others’ negativity.
  • Don’t Make Assumptions: Ruiz cautions against creating stories in our minds based on assumptions. Instead, he encourages open communication and asking questions to prevent misunderstandings.
  • Always Do Your Best: The fourth agreement encourages people to give their best in all circumstances, understanding that “best” varies depending on the situation. By doing so, humans can live without regret and self-judgment.

The Four Agreements is a must-read for Mental Health Awareness Month because it offers essential tools for a balanced life. It encourages readers to embrace self-love and cultivate a more compassionate, authentic relationship with themselves and others. 

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer

the untethered soul book cover

Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul provides a compelling guide to overcoming the confines of one’s mind. 

Singer explores the relationship between the conscious self and its inner voice, offering strategies for transcending limiting beliefs and living in harmony. He explains that the voice inside one’s head is not the true self but a narrator attempting to make sense of the world. He urges readers to recognize this separation and cultivate a sense of peace by learning to observe these thoughts without attachment.

The book delves into topics such as fear, willpower, and energy flow, emphasizing that fear is the root of all negative emotions. It provides techniques for opening up to life’s energy rather than closing off in self-defense. And it encourages readers to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. 

The Untethered Soul is one of Avesta’s favorite books for Mental Health Awareness Month because it offers a path toward mental freedom through a framework for understanding how thoughts, emotions, and beliefs shape experiences. 

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan 

how to change your mind book cover

How to Change Your Mind investigates psychedelics as a treatment for mental illness, depression, and end-of-life anxiety. Author Michael Pollan combines extensive research with personal experimentation to take readers on a mind-opening journey through hallucinogenic healing.

The book explores three key areas:

Ancient Origins of Psychedelics: Pollan traces the use of psilocybin mushrooms to the Mazatec Indian tribes in Mexico, who used them as spiritual and healing tools for centuries. In the 1950s, Western chemists synthesized psilocybin, but societal fears and the war on drugs soon overshadowed its potential benefits.

Rewiring the Brain During Hallucinations: Pollan discusses a 2014 study from Imperial College London that used brain imaging to show how psychedelics create new neural pathways, enabling different regions of the brain to communicate in unprecedented ways. This interconnectedness enhances perception and can lead to transformative experiences.

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Alleviating Depression through Connection: Pollan highlights a 2016 psychedelic therapy study where 80% of participants reported reduced depression symptoms, and over 60% achieved complete remission. The study found that psilocybin helps patients reconnect with the world, rediscover joy, and transcend negative thought patterns.
How to Change Your Mind is a must-read for Mental Health Awareness Month because it makes a serious case for psychedelics as expansive tools for growth and ease. It remains a groundbreaking book that has significantly influenced public perception and psychedelics research.

We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride

We Are All So Good at Smiling book cover

We Are All So Good at Smiling is a poignant novel that explores the depths of adolescent grief, depression, and trauma while offering a glimmer of hope. 

The story follows two teenagers, Whimsy and Faerry, who find solace in each other as they navigate personal struggles and the dark forest at the end of Marsh Creek Lane. This place represents the suffocating roots and monsters of their past.

Whimsy and Faerry lean on each other through their challenges, offering support as they stumble through the forest together. Their friendship provides strength and solidarity 

Despite the heavy theme, author McBride’s writing remains uplifting, and the audiobook includes music to enhance the story’s emotional impact. The novel balances the harsh realities of trauma with an undertone of resilience.

We Are All So Good at Smiling is one of Avesta’s favorite books for Mental Health Awareness Month because It speaks directly to teens, reminding them they are not alone. The story is a powerful testament to the strength of vulnerability and connection, encouraging readers to lean on each other through their darkest moments.

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living by Russ Harris

the happiness trap book cover

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris presents a practical approach to mental health using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). 

Harris challenges the notion that humans should always pursue happiness. He emphasizes that life is inherently challenging and that constantly chasing bliss can lead to disappointment.

Instead, Harris encourages readers to live a meaningful life based on their values. Rather than trying to control negative thoughts, Harris suggests people acknowledge them without getting “hooked” into counterproductive behaviors.

He writes about key strategies, including:

  • Dropping Anchor: Acknowledge thoughts and feelings, connect with the body, and engage in your actions.
  • Unhooking Techniques: Notice and label thoughts (“I’m having the thought that…”). Use playful strategies like singing negative thoughts to a silly tune.
  • Living by Values: Differentiate between values and goals and set goals aligned with your values.

The Happiness Trap is a great book for Mental Health Awareness Month because it offers accessible strategies for anyone feeling overwhelmed by negativity or the relentless positivity culture. Harris’s compassionate, jargon-free approach makes ACT understandable and effective for parents, teens, and anyone seeking mental clarity and fulfillment.

The Bottom Line

As Mental Health Awareness Month unfolds, our Avestsa team hopes these books serve as beacons of hope and understanding. Each title offers unique perspectives and practical strategies that can help anyone on their path to healing. Whether it’s learning about the transformative power of exercise, understanding the complexities of trauma, or harnessing the potential of psychedelics, these books provide tools for emotional resilience and growth. They highlight the importance of prioritizing mental health and offer empowering guidance. By diving into these works, readers can find inspiration, knowledge, and the courage to navigate their mental health journey with compassion and purpose.

Call Avesta today for support on your mental health journey. We serve ketamine therapy patients in the areas surrounding Washington, DC, Bethesda, MD, and McLean, VA.

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