Fond of reading self-help books? Ever wondered why they’re good for your soul?
We asked 20 experts “Why are self-help books good?”
Let’s take a look at their top insights.
Mental health author | Motivational speaker
Self-help books are extremely helpful to learn valuable life skills that most of us never learned in school.
Self-help books offer psycho-educational strategies to keep you focused on “how to” change. We all know what we want to change – but self-help book offers tips on “how to” change.
They’re support and encouragement and sometimes that is hard to find in our daily lives where some of us find ourselves competing for grades, jobs, money, and popularity.
Self-help books offer insights but they go much further than that. Insight into thinking patterns alone does not change things, especially if habits are deeply ingrained.
Sometimes, “knowing better” does not mean that we can actually “do better.” If so, we would all be the paragons of mental health!
Self-help books offer not only insights but practical skills and activities that we can immediately unlock repetitive unhealthy emotional patterns. Experiential exercises might be able to break through even the most strongly erected unhealthy habits and defenses.
Self-help books offer tools that most of us have never learned and provided the structure to grow and heal. They help us stay on the right track instead of having pessimistic and self-defeating thoughts undermine our success.
Self-help books help motivate us and offer hope to even the most discouraged reader.
For example, many self-help books are based on the foundation of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), the most widely used therapeutic orientation in the US if not the world.
CBT focuses on changing erroneous and unhealthy thoughts to change your feelings and change your life. Self-help books offer ways to tackle irrational thoughts that are at the base of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
For example, an example of a typical self-help assignment is to write an irrational thought such as “I will never get over this!” This statement can be changed to “I am having trouble getting over this.”
In the first example, there is no hope and that type of helpless thinking leads to depression and apathy. In the second example, you are more empowered and sticking to fact instead of fiction.
Health & Well-being Coach | Keynote Speaker
There are three primary reasons self-help books are good:
You are not alone.
Self-help books let the reader know they are not alone in their struggle. Reading about the experience others may have had with a similar challenge as yours can be both comforting and encouraging.
A Different Perspective.
Reading about how others have faced similar challenges and how they endured or dealt with them can provide a fresh perspective.
This is especially helpful when we feel like we have reached a dead end or things appear hopeless. Through the lens of someone else view, we can take a step back from our own difficulty and perhaps view things from a different angle. Many self-help books help the reader view challenges as opportunities.
While we as individuals are unique, the challenges we face in life are not.
Reading about how someone else handled, coped with, and potentially overcame an adversity that the reader shares, can lead to insight that the reader may not have otherwise considered. If written in an authentic voice, there or often many nuggets of wisdom to be had when mining through self-help books.
If there is only one thing you take away from reading a self-help book, especially if you find yourself in a miserable place beforehand, you are better off than not having read it. Realistically, you will often find numerous morsels of truth and wisdom to place with the others to build on.
Founder of A Conscious Rethink
I read a lot of self-help books and there are a number of reasons why.
Firstly, they act as a constant reminder to actually implement all the lessons I learn from them.
The very act of reading these books provides a regular prompt to go deep within and indulge in a little introspection. They pose questions of myself; my thoughts, my behaviors, and my beliefs. Questions that they then help me to answer.
Secondly, it’s so easy to read one book and think you understand a concept. But it’s not until that message has been reinforced by reading multiple books that you truly begin to “get” it.
So although you’ll find that many books will have similar messages, it doesn’t make them any less powerful in their influence on you.
After all, we all know the sorts of things we ought to be doing, but we don’t always understand how or why. It takes time for us to figure it all out and self-help books act as a guide and companion for the journey.
Thirdly, they are motivators. When I feel a little deflated and need a lift, I grab a self-help book and read. They all tend to be written in a very positive tone and they act as a source of inspiration to get me up.
And they empower me. After reading a chapter or so, I have the energy and enthusiasm to make a change to how I’m thinking or the way I’m acting. I believe that I can become a better version of myself and I see the route to take to make that a reality.
Finally, they help me put things in perspective. They take me out of myself and get me to look at the bigger picture. This alone helps me to alter my thought patterns and break out of any thought loops I might be stuck in.
My bookshelf is packed with dozens of self-help books and the collection will only continue to grow.
Coach on Social Dynamics, Dating & Relationships | Founder of The Power Moves
Not all self-help books are good.
A few have even been directly harmful. Self-analysis books, for example, have been known for developing fake memories in the readers and leading to false rape accusations within families.
And we could debate on whether the advice of using the law of attraction without working towards our goals is even helpful to people -and this is the best seller The Secret.
Now if we are talking about the good self-help books, those can be life-changing. How they can be life changing depends heavily on the books.
If we are talking about the overall self-help literature though, I see one big area where they help readers:
Developing an internal locus of control.
The vast majority of self-help books have the positive message that readers can change and improve their situation, that their life is up to them and that with action and effort they can tackle almost anything.
Author | Media Contributor
From both personal and professional perspectives, self-help books can not only be beneficial to those in need but in some cases, lifesaving as well.
First, society at large is sadly still of the idea that seeking help in any respect is a sign of weakness; thereby “shaming” someone in need into silent suffering (something that I see far too often).
A good self-help book can mitigate self-imposed shame by providing direction, comfort, support, actionable advice and resources.
Secondly, even when someone in need of help takes proactive steps to seek it, there may be questions that they are downright afraid to ask; regardless of the situation for which they need support.
Whether it is because they are ashamed, embarrassed, convinced that they are alone in their feelings or have already asked the question(s) and received negative and/or judgmental responses, many self-help books are capable of answering the questions that readers are afraid to ask.
Finally, those in need who also struggle with shyness, introversion or just prefer to remain private in their feelings are still in need nonetheless. Self-help books are a way to communicate with such a readership so that indeed, no one need suffer alone, in silence or in despair.
Managing Director at Healing Holidays | Bespoke travel agent for luxury health and wellness retreats
Self-help books are designed to help and guide you, which means they inevitably include pages and pages of positive language.
Since one of the first steps to self-recovery is thinking and acting positively, even the writing itself in any self-help book will lift your spirits. Positive language in self-help books allows you to learn about yourself and what you can achieve; improving your self-belief and consequently helping you on your journey.
Reading motivational language also boosts your productivity, which is obviously the aim of these styles of books, but they use this language to help others in a way that is achievable.
Often, the problem with helping yourself get over something, whether this is anxiety, stress or even using your phone too often, is the need to set a long to-do list, one which is unachievable and unrealistic in relation to the deadlines you’ve set yourself.
Self-help books combat this issue, teaching you the art of doing things at your own pace and taking you through tips to help you with your recovery, step by step.
Writer | Life Coach | Activist | Speaker
Self-help books offer companionship.
Sometimes you just need to know that other people are experiencing or have experienced what you are dealing with–whatever that is. The authors share their journeys and offer the wisdom they gained from obstacles in their own lives. This can help many readers.
Another reason is that, as humans, we want answers.
We have many desires, but mainly, we want to be happy with ourselves. All different authors share all different ways to do this, so readers can see what works for them. It’s good to be exposed to different ideas, views, and methods.
Reading and following a self-help book can be a confirmation to self that they are willing to do what it takes to change their lives. It’s a commitment and can be extremely powerful.
Trying to improve yourself, level up your life, step up and grow on a personal level, is something everyone agrees with.
Yet, how many people keep up with the morning journalling or daily meditation for more than a few weeks?
We’re surrounded by distractions, from social media to movies on demand, and we’re working long hours and looking after our families, so sticking with any kind of self-care of self-improvement routine can feel like pedaling a bike uphill.
We’re not flakey or inconsistent for failing to stick it out. It’s hard, it genuinely is.
And this is where self-help books come in, as a regular reminder of the fact that we’re on this planet for more than just paying bills.
As Zig Ziglar said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Compared to blogs and other online resources, books also have the advantage that they remain available to go back to and re-read, to deepen the lessons learned. I find that it’s almost like reading a different book when I go back to some of my favorites a year or two later – because I have changed and evolved in the meantime.
Registered, board-certified art therapist | Licensed professional counselor | Author
I have so many self-help books and I love to recommend them for my patients.
As much as I tell my patients to listen to motivational podcasts and Ted talks, there is nothing like a book. A book can be marked up and dog-eared. You can refer back to it at different times in your life to gain a new perspective.
What stuck out before may not be relevant now but there is always a good juicy tidbit waiting on the next page!
I created a self-help book that encourages the reader to draw and write all over it. Being interactive with a book makes all of the difference in how much the reader takes away from the experience. Just reading the material is not enough to fully digest the information and incorporate it into your life.
Technology Investor | Author
Self-help books are “good,” in the same way most books are good: they expose you to new ideas.
Often, someone reading a self-help book is looking to make a change in their life or develop a skill, and books can provide ideas and anecdotes for different approaches to achieve the desired outcomes.
Many self-help books proclaim to provide a cure-all solution or mindset that will make all of your dreams come true. While this is rarely (if ever) the case, it is used for marketing and sales purposes.
Still, good self-help books like Stumbling on Happiness by Harvard Psychology Professor Dan Gilbert can provide valuable insights into the human mind, or give you strategies to make adjustments in your daily life.
No single book is likely to provide you with all of the keys to achieve your dreams, but by reading many books and collecting the thoughts and strategies that are most effective for you personally, you’ll certainly become well equipped to make positive changes in your life.
Stress Management Expert | Author | Radio Show Host | Motivational Speaker
Self-help books are worthwhile because they trigger introspection in the privacy of your psyche as well as processing according to your personal tempo.
Usually, a menu of strategies is presented, so that the reader can choose what resonates and ultimately motivates.
In addition, the reader is able to review key chapters, pages or phrases as a reminder of how to sustain improvement to keep moving forward.
Being self-driven to complete a self-help book is a good indication of personal enlightenment, a sign of growth along with the desire to do better, be better.
Dr. Paulette Sherman
Licensed Psychologist | Relationship Counseling | Phone Coaching
The reason I think self-help books are good is that when you get a great book, it can represent 20 years of someone’s experience and expertise and 1-3 years of them crafting the book, and often you get this for under $15!
If it is well done then not only does it have timely stories, wisdom, tips, and ideas, but often if guides you to master a goal in a step-wise process so that you can transform from the comfort of your own house, on your own schedule.
You can reread it as needed and can take notes and highlight specific parts that speak to you. I like to think of it as a home study course that is more conversational and applicable to everyday relational topics.
Author | Speaker | Business owner
It’s because of self-help books that I have totally reinvented my life after age 50.
When you grow up poor and in a small town with few resources, you don’t even know what personal development is, let alone have access to it.
The closest thing to it is church or Sunday School.
So when I finally discovered personal development through self-help books, I became a serious student.
As a result, I have started a business, wrote and published a best selling book, and now am an inspirational speaker sharing what I have learned with other women in Appalachia as well as around the world.
Once people know that information contained in those books could lead to huge changes in life, a whole new world can open up. I know because it did for me.
Director of The Applied Kinesiology Center of New York
Self-help books can be the mentors, parents, and the positive influencing neighborhoods we may not have been fortunate enough to have had early on in our lives.
These books can be confidants who are always there for us to inspire, console and improve our bodies, minds, and spirits.
We need to feed our bodies with high-quality foods and self-help books are the nourishing sustenance for our souls and should be a part of our daily routine to find ourselves, be ourselves, and ultimately be ourselves at our best.
Keynote Speaker | Therapist | Success Coach | Author
I can attest to the fact that most people gather knowledge and growth from self-help books.
Although many themes are repurposed or restated, those life-long learners and pursuers of excellence yearn for even a nugget which can offer them a way to view life from a different perspective.
There are times someone can hear the same thing over and over, but if phrased a certain way which resonates best, a spark is often ignited.
Self-help books can offer someone a new idea which can change the trajectory of their lives.
Marriage & Family Therapist | Author
We all process at different speeds and different depths at different times.
Finding the “just right” fit in a self-help book helps me feel validated, grab new “power tools“, and motivates me to do the next right thing for my personal growth. A book may sit on my shelf for years and then one day I pick it up and BAM! it’s exactly what I needed that moment.
International Bestselling Author
You are struggling with loneliness or you are going through heartbreak. You don’t have anyone to turn to. You feel desperate.
Then you pick up a book and suddenly your entire world changes. You feel that someone who has been where you are now was able to recover and not just survive, thrive!
The author not only was able to heal herself but also help thousands of others. You try a few suggested tips and realize that they work. You just healed yourself. With the help of a great book.
I think a good self-help book can be a great vehicle for personal growth.
Over the years, by reading self-help books I have learned about psychology, people’s motivation and why they behave a certain way. I have improved my communication skills, I have acquired healthy habits and got rid of unhealthy ones. I have decluttered my home and I have even mustered the courage to write a book.
Self-help books taught me how to better cope with stress, how to see the best in every situation, how to be more organized, how to take action, how to open an online business, how to introduce hygge in my life and how to be a better parent.
Often, a person wants to first delve introspectively without judgment or intimidation. Self-help books allow a person to first use resources to help define their needs and to understand what they may be able to do for themselves.
Self-help can also be a huge difference between getting no help or some help, especially with limited resources. One of the reasons we wrote Don’t Be a Cow! as an interactive book – and I write a companion blog – on finding happiness was to give the person an ability to identify some of the issues and empower themselves, by actually working through the issues most of us have faced.
And we chose a whimsical way to provide our own reflections so as to take some of the onus away from looking for help.
Author | Diversity Speaker
I believe self-help books are necessary to get people out of ruts. We tend to ruminate and can become stymied in indecision. A self-help book can give a reader a new way of assessing an issue. It can give a reader tools for moving forward.
In addition, many people are hesitant to ask for help, believing it is a sign of weakness. So reading a self-help book in private can be healing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are self-help books only for adults?
While self-help books are often targeted toward adults, they can be beneficial for people of all ages. Young adults, teenagers, and even children can gain valuable insights and guidance from self-help books catering to their needs and developmental stages.
Topics such as building self-esteem, developing healthy habits, and fostering positive relationships can be helpful for younger audiences as well. It’s essential to choose age-appropriate self-help books that resonate with the reader’s interests and experiences to ensure the content is relatable and useful.
Do self-help books actually work?
The effectiveness of self-help books can vary greatly depending on the individual reader, their willingness to change, and the quality of the book itself. Some people find self-help books to be incredibly useful in providing new perspectives, practical tips, and motivation for personal growth.
However, not all self-help books are created equal, and it’s important to find ones that are well-researched, evidence-based, and tailored to your specific needs.
Remember that self-help books are just one tool among many for self-improvement. In essence, self-help books can work, but they are most effective when combined with active participation and a genuine desire to grow.
Are self-help books only for people with serious problems or issues?
Self-help books are not solely meant for those with serious problems or issues. In fact, they can be beneficial for anyone looking to grow, learn, and improve various aspects of their lives (e.g., enhancing communication skills, developing a positive mindset, or learning to manage stress)
Moreover, self-help books can be particularly helpful for those who are curious about personal growth and self-development. They can serve as a starting point for exploring new ideas, techniques, and thought processes that can lead to a more fulfilling and enriched life.
How do I know if a self-help book is right for me?
To determine if a self-help book is right for you, consider the following factors:
• Relevance: Ensure the book addresses a topic or issue you’re genuinely interested in or struggling with. It should resonate with your current life situation and personal growth goals.
• Author credibility: Research the author’s background, experience, and qualifications. A credible author should have expertise in the field through personal experience, professional work, or academic research.
• Reviews and recommendations: Read reviews from other readers and seek recommendations from friends, family, or professionals. This can give you an idea of whether the book has been helpful to others with similar needs.
• Evidence-based approach: Look for books that incorporate research-backed methods and strategies. Books that cite studies, offer practical examples, and provide actionable steps are more likely to be effective.
• Alignment with your values: Choose a book that aligns with your personal values and beliefs, as this can make it easier to embrace the suggested changes and techniques.
Can self-help books help with mental health issues?
Self-help books can support and guide those experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues, such as anxiety, stress, or low self-esteem. They can offer practical tips, coping strategies, and insights that may help individuals better understand and manage their mental health.
Can self-help books replace therapy or professional help?
While self-help books can be valuable resources for personal growth and self-improvement, they should not be seen as a replacement for therapy or professional help. Self-help books offer general advice and strategies, while therapy provides personalized guidance, support, and interventions tailored to an individual’s unique needs and circumstances.
If you’re experiencing serious problems or concerns, such as severe mental health issues, relationship difficulties, or unresolved trauma, it’s essential to consult a qualified mental health professional. In many cases, a combination of self-help resources and professional support can provide the most comprehensive and effective approach to personal growth and healing.
Are there any downsides to reading self-help books?
• Overreliance: Relying too heavily on self-help books may lead to a cycle of consuming information without taking meaningful action. Constantly seeking new ideas and techniques without implementing them can create a sense of stagnation.
• Inadequate guidance: Not all self-help books are created equal, and some may offer poor advice or lack a solid foundation in research. Following such guidance could lead to disappointment or potentially exacerbate existing issues.
• Oversimplification: Self-help books often aim to make complex topics accessible and easily digestible, which may sometimes result in oversimplification. This could lead to unrealistic expectations or a limited understanding of the underlying issues.
• One-size-fits-all approach: Self-help books typically offer general advice, which may not be suitable for everyone. People’s needs and circumstances can vary greatly, and what works for one person might not work for another.
How do I make the most of a self-help book?
To maximize the benefits of a self-help book, consider these tips:
• Take your time: Instead of rushing through the book, read it slowly and thoughtfully. Give yourself time to reflect on the ideas and concepts presented.
• Apply the lessons: As you read, consider how the advice and techniques can be implemented in your life. Make a plan to put the recommendations into action and track your progress.
• Reflect on your experiences: Regularly evaluate the impact of the changes you’ve made. Are they helping? Do they need to be adjusted? Keep a journal to document your thoughts and experiences throughout the process.
• Be selective: Choose books that resonate with your needs, values, and goals. Focus on quality over quantity, and don’t feel pressured to read every self-help book that crosses your path.
• Combine with other resources: Use self-help books as just one tool in your personal growth toolbox. Seek out additional resources, such as workshops, support groups, or professional help, to complement your learning and growth journey.
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