16 Best Mental Health Books on Wellbeing + 3 Workbooks

Books about Mental HealthDo you need support while going through a rough patch or guidance to improve your mental health and wellbeing?

Seeking advice from books can be a good starting point if you cannot afford coaching or therapy.

However, it is important to be discerning when it comes to self-help. There are some excellent and worthy books out there, written by professionals with the necessary expertise, moral integrity, and good intentions.

But there are also books that are less helpful and propose self-help ideologies that can end up making us feel worse rather than better.

In the article below, we share a list of well-researched and critically acclaimed self-help books that have helped many people over the years. Some have survived the test of time and become perennials on the self-help bookshelves, while others are excellent new additions to the genre.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free. These creative, science-based exercises will help you learn more about your values, motivations, and goals and give you the tools to inspire a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students, or employees.

4 Best Mental Health Books

The following four books are bestselling classics of the genre and are all based on solid psychological research. They have helped millions of people understand themselves better and can all be found in most bookshops with a self-help/mental health/wellness section.

Texts included here are based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, logotherapy, and positive psychology principles. Pick the ones that most resonate with your personal preferences.

1. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – David D. Burns

Feeling Good

The science underpinning David Burns’s Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy may no longer be cutting edge, but its core message remains a powerfully relevant one.

It is based on the premises of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Burns explains fundamental CBT principles clearly and convincingly, and provides numerous examples and anecdotes from his clinical practice to illustrate them.

Feeling Good shows us how our feelings are shaped by our thoughts. It tells us we are not our thoughts — that we can distance ourselves from negative thoughts and learn to question their validity.

The book shares some great techniques for training our minds to question and disempower negative thinking about ourselves and others. Psychotherapists have repeatedly nominated it as one of the best and most efficacious self-help books on the market.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living – Russ Harris

The Happiness Trap

While CBT remains a powerful technique for addressing negative thoughts, we are, of course, not purely rational creatures. Sometimes, our attempts to control our thoughts can even become counterproductive.

In The Happiness Trap, the doctor Russ Harris explains the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) — a third-wave cognitive behavioral intervention that also integrates insights from ancient wisdom practices.

Harris invites us not to try to control our negative thoughts or uncomfortable feelings, nor to attempt to reason them away, but simply to de-fuse with them. He suggests we accept them and then try to let them go.

So-called negative thoughts, Harris argues, are a natural part of being human. If we accept that we don’t always think happy thoughts and will also experience feelings such as sadness, anger, and shame occasionally, these thoughts and feelings will come and go more naturally.

By stopping our attempts to try to control thoughts and feelings, we will also have more energy available to commit to value-based action.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Man’s Search for Meaning: The Classic Tribute to Hope From the Holocaust – Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning

According to psychiatrist, founder of logotherapy, and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, our most important task in life is to furnish it with meaning.

Indeed, we must find meaning even in our suffering. In his deeply moving book, Frankl observes that those who did this when they were interned in Nazi concentration camps had a much higher chance of survival. If there is a powerful “why” that drives us, he writes, we can tolerate almost any “how.”

While meaning making can take many forms, including loving, creating, and contributing to the wellbeing of others, Frankl insists on one limitation: Meaning has to be situated in the world rather than in our own psyches.

Our life’s purpose cannot just be the desire to become our best possible self. The self is a very poor site for meaning, Frankl argues. We need projects that transcend the self. We need to feel part of a community or contribute to it by making something or caring deeply for someone.

Find the book on Amazon.


4. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being – Martin Seligman

Flourish

One of the founding fathers of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman, proposes a new perspective on human wellbeing in his book Flourish.

Merely striving for happiness, he writes, is not sufficient for a fulfilling life. Instead, Seligman argues that human flourishing involves five key elements, which can be summed up by the acronym PERMA:

  1. Positive emotion
    Seligman emphasizes the importance of experiencing positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, and contentment.
  2. Engagement
    Seligman also highlights the significance of being fully and deeply engaged in activities that provide a sense of flow and absorption.
  3. Relationships
    Seligman recognizes the value of positive social connections and emphasizes our need for healthy relationships. Building and nurturing strong connections with others are major contributing factors to wellbeing. They generate a sense of belonging and community.
  4. Meaning
    Like Frankl, Seligman argues that finding purpose and meaning in life is crucial for flourishing. We therefore need to pursue activities that align with our values, strengths, and beliefs, and that provide a sense of fulfillment and direction.
  5. Accomplishment
    Finally, we need to set and aim to achieve meaningful goals. Seligman promotes the pursuit of mastery and accomplishments in various areas of life to foster a sense of competence and personal growth.

Find the book on Amazon.

3 Mental Health Workbooks

These workbooks perfectly complement the books listed above. Two are based on ACT and one is based on CBT approaches.

Completing a workbook while you are reading a related mental health book will deepen your learning and ensure that it sinks in at an experiential level.

Workbooks can help you transform mere information into something that constitutes deeper and felt knowledge that has the power to shift your perspective on yourself and on how you see the world.

1. ACTivate Your Life: Using Acceptance and Mindfulness to Build a Life That Is Rich, Fulfilling and Fun – Joe Oliver, Jon Hill, and Eric Morris

ACTivate your life

This workbook comes with a recommendation from Steven C. Hayes, the co-developer of ACT.

It includes a clear introduction to the ACT approach, numerous real-life scenarios that illustrate and make ACT principles come alive, and workbook activities both for clinicians and clients.

ACTivate Your Life can be used to set meaningful goals and helps us live a life of direction and purpose.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. ACT Worksheets – Russ Harris

Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap (mentioned above) offers the complete set of worksheets from his famous book for free on his website.

You can access the worksheets on The Happiness Trap website.


3. The Feeling Good Handbook – David D. Burns

Feeling Good Handbook

This handbook, by the author of the ground-breaking Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, is the perfect accompaniment to Burns’s highly commended book.

It contains updates on the science and numerous practical exercises and has been recommended by mental health professionals.

It will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

Find the book on Amazon.

3 meaning valued living exercises

Download 3 Meaning & Valued Living Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients with tools to find meaning in life help and pursue directions that are in alignment with values.

3 Children’s Books About Mental Health

Children, too, can benefit enormously from books about mental health. It is important and rewarding to help your children develop emotional literacy and awareness from an early age.

The books below are all well received, much praised, and suitable for different age groups. They provide children with emotion-related vocabulary and concepts, as well as inspiration for looking at our emotions with curiosity and a growth mindset.

1. The Feelings Book – Todd Parr

The Feelings Book

This colorful and engaging book helps very young children explore different emotions, ranging from happiness and excitement to sadness and anger.

It encourages open conversations about feelings, normalizes emotions, and promotes self-expression.

Recommended for children aged 3 to 6.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings From A to Z – The School of Life

An Emotional Menagerie

This beautifully written and illustrated emotional glossary for children contains 26 rhyming poems.

Arranged alphabetically, the poems cover feelings such as anger, boredom, curiosity, dreaminess, fear, guilt, and more.

They represent each emotion as an animal and explain how feelings arise, how they can make us behave, what effects they have, and how we can learn to manage them better.

This book aims to enhance children’s emotional literacy.

Recommended reading age: 8 to 11 years.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. You Are Awesome: Find Your Confidence and Dare to Be Brilliant at (Almost) Anything – Matthew Syed

You Are Awesome

This was the children’s book of 2019 and is a Sunday Times number one bestseller for a reason: It inspires and empowers young readers, helping them find the confidence to realize their potential.

You Are Awesome shows that success is earned rather than given, and that we can work hard to gain and foster talent. It promotes determination, self-belief, confidence, and a growth mindset.

Recommended reading age: 8 to 12 years.

Find the book on Amazon.

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3 Mental Health Books for Teens

Being a teenager is far from easy at the best of times, and it is especially hard in times of social media-fueled mental distress and in the age of climate change.

Teenagers can benefit enormously from books that normalize the changes and experiences they may go through, and that provide encouragement and inspiration for embracing their strengths and uniqueness.

The following books are examples that are particularly well written, authored by two award-winning journalists and by the excellent School of Life collective.

1. The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up, & Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self – Katty Kay & Claire Shipman

The Confidence Code for Girls

This book is aimed at girls. It offers insights and practical advice on building confidence, overcoming self-doubt, and embracing our unique strengths.

It empowers teenage girls to navigate challenges, take risks, and develop resilience. The book contains many valuable practical tips and powerful and inspiring anecdotes that teach girls to become bold, brave, and fearless.

It was a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller and is written by the bestselling authors of The Confidence Code.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Dare to Be You: Defy Self-Doubt, Fearlessly Follow Your Path and Be Confidently You! – Matthew Syed

Dare to be You

Syed’s sequel to the award-winning You Are Awesome draws on examples from sports, science, and business.

Dare to Be You encourages teenage readers to embrace their uniqueness, courageously to follow their path, and to look at the world around them more critically and discerningly.

It helps young teenagers appreciate the power of diverse and original thinking and to develop their inner confidence.

Recommended reading age 9 to 13 years.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Happy, Healthy Minds: A Children’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing – The School of Life

Happy, Healthy Minds

This exquisitely written and nicely illustrated book examines a range of different topics that children may experience as difficult.

Chapters include explorations of parents, friendship, school, anxiety, technology, first love, and emotions.

Described as an “atlas to a child’s mind,” Happy, Healthy Minds explores ideas about how children can cope with the vicissitudes of growing up.

Offering a sympathetic and supportive way of looking at ourselves and the world, it equips children with emotional intelligence and coping skills and makes them feel less alone with their problems.

Recommended for children aged 10 to 16.

Find the book on Amazon.

3 Books on Wellbeing

The following three books do not address specific mental health problems.

Rather, they provide more general timeless guidelines on living fulfilling and meaning-rich lives, by optimizing our ability to connect with other people, living more fully in the present moment, or practicing altruism.

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Written during the Great Depression, How to Win Friends and Influence People is still in print for a reason. Carnegie’s classic is teeming with sensible and practical tips for making the best of human relations.

And as many psychologists have shown, the quality, depth, and number of our relationships are a key factor in predicting our overall wellbeing.

Key to Carnegie’s method is the art of mentalizing — stepping into the shoes of others and trying to see the world from their point of view.

Very few of us master this art because it requires the ability to imagine how other people may think and to take their perspective.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment – Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle’s key message in his bestselling book is simple: We are not our thoughts.

We have the ability to become detached watchers of our thoughts rather than fusing with them. We don’t get entangled in them and observe our thoughts with discernment. By doing so, we can learn to be more present in our lives and cherish what Tolle calls the “power of now.”

Most of our thoughts, Tolle writes, revolve around the past or the future. Our past furnishes us with an identity, while the future holds “the promise of salvation.”

Both are illusions because the present moment is all we ever really have. We therefore need to learn to be present as “watchers” of our minds, witnessing our thought patterns rather than identifying with them. That way, we can relearn to live truly in the now.

This book is spiritual/esoteric rather than science-based, but it touches on felt truths that many of us will recognize.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Altruism: The Science and Psychology of Kindness – Matthieu Ricard

Altruism

In many theologies and wisdom traditions, altruism is the highest moral and spiritual value.

More recently, psychologists have shown that altruistic acts not only benefit the recipient but also lead those who perform them to be happier.

Like human relationships, altruism is a key factor in our overall wellbeing. Engaging in altruistic activities is a necessary component of meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Moreover, practicing altruism, the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard argues in this compassionate and carefully researched book, is the key not just to our personal happiness, but also to solving our most pressing social, economic, and environmental problems.

Altruism enables us “to connect harmoniously the challenges of the economy in the short term, quality of life in the mean term, and our future environment in the long term.”

Find the book on Amazon.

3 Audiobook Recommendations

Grit, Four Thousand Weeks, and Daring Greatly are all much-loved and bestselling recent books that are now available as audiobooks, too.

Grit explains how to strengthen our perseverance muscles and why that matters, while Four Thousand Weeks offers sage advice on how to make the most of our limited time on earth. Lastly, Daring Greatly invites us to be vulnerable — a core prerequisite for living an authentic life with deep and meaningful connections.

1. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth

Grit

Grit tops talent every time, according to the psychologist Angela Duckworth.

“Our potential is one thing,” Duckworth writes. “What we do with it is quite another.”

She defines grit as a drive to improve both our skills and our performance with consistent effort.

Importantly, gritty people are always eager to learn and are driven by an enduring passion. They have a growth mindset and learn from their mistakes. They also have direction and purpose and live more coherent lives.

Find the book on Audible.


2. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals – Oliver Burkeman

Four Thousand Weeks

Four Thousand Weeks is about our time troubles in troubling times.

“The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short,” Burkeman reminds us. On average, we have 4,000 weeks. From this simple observation follow various deeper and unsettling truths.

While most of us have infinitely ambitious plans about how to spend our time, we have only a very limited time span to put them into action. We therefore need a radical shift in perspective. We have to embrace our limits and free ourselves of the troublesome set of dominant cultural ideas about time management and productivity.

We have to confront, head on, the fact of our finitude.

All our attempts to master time are in effect avoidance strategies. We try to avoid facing the fact that our time, significance, and abilities are all seriously limited.

We also try to avoid tough choices regarding what we can and cannot dedicate time to. Burkeman invites us to refrain from treating our time as something to hoard and rather to treat it as something to cherish and share.

Find the book on Audible.


3. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brené Brown

Daring Greatly

The inspirational psychologist, bestselling author, and TED-talker Brené Brown challenges what we think we know about vulnerability.

Vulnerability, she writes, is not weakness but strength. Revealing our true selves to others is an act of tremendous courage, and it includes taking risks. And yet, it is also a powerful way of building connections, creating trust, and inviting meaning and purpose into our lives.

Vulnerability allows us to be truly seen and to connect on a basis of authenticity.

Find the book on Audible.

17 Tools To Encourage Meaningful, Value-Aligned Living

This 17 Meaning & Valued Living Exercises [PDF] pack contains our best exercises for helping others discover their purpose and live more fulfilling, value-aligned lives.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

Relevant PositivePsychology.com Resources

In addition to our list of recommended books and other self-care articles, we are also happy to offer you a range of completely free worksheets and exercises.

If you are interested in CBT, for example, you may find the following worksheets helpful:

  • Getting Rid of ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts
    This worksheet helps you develop techniques for managing unhelpful cognitions.
  • Dysfunctional Thought Record
    This record keeping worksheet shows you how to log your unhelpful thoughts so that you can understand the patterns and situations in which they show up.
  • Testing Beliefs
    Our testing beliefs worksheet, finally, allows you to test your negative thoughts and underlying negative beliefs and assumptions behaviorally.

For those of you interested in ACT techniques, you may enjoy the following free worksheets:

  1. Values and Problems
    This worksheet introduces four key ACT concepts and shows you how to use them to live in a more values-oriented way.
  2. Values Clarification
    The Values Clarification worksheet helps you determine what is really important in your life and why.
  3. Exploring Willingness and Commitment
    This exercise invites you to isolate specific values and to commit to steps toward pursuing them in your life.

If you found this modest collection of mental health books too modest, you can also dive into our other lists of recommended books:

If reading about mental health care has piqued your interest in self-care and wellbeing, you might also benefit from one of our many life-changing masterclasses. Why not have a look at the Science of Self-Acceptance Masterclass, for example?

The Science of Self-Acceptance Masterclass© will help you and your clients end the unhealthy search for self-esteem. Learn how to build a lasting sense of being good enough, regardless of failures, meeting external standards, or gaining approval from others.

A last suggestion if you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others discover meaning is this collection, which contains 17 validated meaning tools for practitioners. Use them to help others choose directions for their lives in alignment with what is truly important to them.

A Take-Home Message

When choosing books on mental health and wellbeing, make sure that you know what kinds of approaches work for you.

Which psychological and philosophical frameworks best reflect your own values and beliefs? Which therapeutic interventions have worked for you in the past?

Are you attracted predominantly to rational reasoning-based models such as CBT, or do the notions of radical acceptance and letting go, which feature more prominently in ACT, chime with you more? Or might spiritual or existentialist models speak to you?

We are all unique and different, and choosing our self-help wisely is an important prerequisite for its chances to be genuinely of help in our growth and healing journeys.

To find self-help that works for us, we need to know our preferences and our preferred learning styles. Once we are clear about that, we will make more empowered choices.

We hope that in this selection of books, which covers a range of approaches, you will find the one that helps you with your own personal breakthrough. Feel free to share your insights and other book recommendations below.

Don’t forget to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.

Ed: Updated July 2023

Comments

What our readers think

  1. bradin

    What an interesting and good content you made, thank you

    Reply
  2. Dr Trefor Roberts

    Excellent article and although from some of the comments it appears some people think that this should be an exhaustive list, as a fellow clinician I am aware it can never be such. I rarely make blog comments but I have to say I think this list is an excellent start point. If I may (and I hope I am not breaking any posting guidelines here) I would like to add just one, “Keeping The Love You Find” by Harville Hendrix. Having a library of over 600 books it is, in my opinion, the bible for relationships, and as we all know, the health of our relationships can impact on pretty much every area of our mental health. Warmly, Dr T. Roberts

    Reply
  3. Ava Thomas

    Anxiety and reading go along very well, and everyone has their own comforting genre. For me, Patricia Hartmann’s work is extremely amusing and helpful. You should check out her work at her site pathartmannbooks.com

    Reply
  4. Mark

    32 is too many for a short casual article for someone seeking mental health help, which certainly means they are likely to not have a clear mind at the time. The categories are also rather a big jumbled. Please try to take the perspective of people who are seeking this information.

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for your feedback. We’re always looking for ways we can improve our articles so will keep this in mind for future posts!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  5. J

    “Mental Health” (number 3 in the audiobook section) should be removed!
    So many red flags about the author’s credibility that I couldn’t finish the first chapter.
    There is no evidence that she is a mental health professional or that she is qualified to be giving mental health advice/treatment. You can’t find information on her anywhere. Furthermore, she doesn’t provide sources for claims made, and even rips off of other psychologists’ ideas (for example, on pg. 7, Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” vs. “fixed mindset”) without citing them!
    This book is not only poorly written (style comparable to a high school research paper), but it is potentially dangerous for people who need legitimate mental health advice.

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi J,
      Thank you for flagging this with us. We’ll pass this on to our editing team to take a closer look.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  6. Raqib

    Fantastic job. Very helpful.

    Reply
  7. Janos Kovac

    Hi
    Thank you for the list of books.
    It is appreciated

    Reply
  8. DJ

    I would like to add to your list “10 Steps to Self-Esteem” by Dr. Burns. It addresses anxiety and depression and is in workbook form. Check it out!

    Reply

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