Books for the Mind, Body, and Spirit

books for the mind body and spirit

In one of Brene Brown’s books on vulnerability, she writes at length about the breakdown spiritual awakening she experienced several years ago. And she writes it just like that, which makes me laugh every time.

It was a long year. I lovingly refer to it on my blog as the 2007 Breakdown Spiritual Awakening. It felt like a textbook breakdown to me, but Diana called it a spiritual awakening. I think we were both right. In fact, I’m starting to question if you can have one without the other.

Well, my own breakdown spiritual awakening of sorts has been going on for 10 months (NOT THAT ANYONE IS COUNTING…Lord, what I wouldn’t give to be blissfully unaware of my emotions on some days), and yes, I can agree with Brown. It’s been a long year. It’s been hard, but so incredibly essential, you know? Why am I here? What brings me joy? Why do I hurt? What is my purpose? THE QUESTIONS, PEOPLE. I’ve delved into some serious soul work, and am learning so much about myself and human nature in general.

I’ve always loved to learn, and research is just about my favorite thing in the world. I love to fill my brain to the brink with information. (This is a good and a bad thing.) So, as you can imagine, when trying to understand how these strong emotions and physical symptoms just seemed to pop up out of nowhere (or so I thought), I looked in many different directions for help. To make a long story short, through a multitude of appointments and therapy sessions and all sorts of biznass (you name it, I’ve tried it), my core belief regarding how humans heal themselves has only grown stronger and stronger.

In order to truly heal, the mind, body, and the spirit need to be addressed. Yeah, I’m getting ready to go all woo-woo on you.

The whole package, people. You can put band-aids on problems all day long, but if you don’t get to the true root of your (physical or mental) pain, you will never truly heal. You just won’t. Which means going really, really, uncomfortably deep down into the pit of your being and possibly making massive life adjustments.

Geez, this is heavy. Let’s take a 15-second dance break.

Okay, that’s better.

I’ve read a tremendous amount of books on the subject of the mind, body, and spirit. Here are some that really hit home with me in one way or the other. Maybe they will with you too.

Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself – This book seriously rocked my world. If you only buy one book from this list, let it be this one. I had seen a few of Dr. Rankin’s interviews about her personal transformation, but never picked up her book until last week when I received an email from a reader. I want to read it again and again. Powerful proof that your positive and/or negative thinking directly affects your health. Also, great Ted talk here.

21 Days to Master Affirmations The first of three books on this list by Louise Hay, who is one of my favorites. This one is filled with helpful affirmations to assist you in getting out of your own way. I repeat several on a daily basis. “I trust the process of life” is always a good one.

You Can Heal Your Life – Another Louise Hay gem, this is such a resource for those that have trouble with repetitive negative thought patterns. “The only thing we are ever dealing with is a thought, and a thought can be changed.” Think about that! The point of power is in the present moment.

Heal Your Body A-Z – Hay shows you that, if you are willing to do the mental work, almost anything can be healed. You can look up your specific health challenge and you will find the probable cause for it, as well as the information you need to overcome it by creating a new thought pattern.

Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself – I’ve changed my eating habits completely, and this book has some great information on how food affects our bodies.

Gift from the Sea – A classic. Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age, love and marriage, peace, solitude and contentment.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers – “If you are like me, you’d like to able to understand and describe life better. Then you could manage and control it and maybe realize a small profit or advantage. But that would be death.” PREACH IT, Anne Lamott.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown’s wildly popular book about allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day – Remember the Headspace app that I raved about? This is the founder’s personal story of finding meditation, and how it transformed his life.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – “Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking. Illogical pessimistic attitudes play the central role in the development and continuation of all your symptoms.” Dr. David Burns outlines scientifically proven techniques that will help you develop a positive outlook on life – I liked reading this book, but didn’t do much of the “homework.”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Even though Daring Greatly seems to be the Brene Brown fan favorite, this book really resonated with me. She explores how we can cultivate the courage and conviction to wake up and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough,” and to go to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Healer Don Miguel Ruiz exposes self-limiting beliefs and presents a simple yet effective code of personal conduct learned from his Toltec ancestors. The concepts are simple, yet you still are able to chew on a lot.

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life – Finally, this book by Dr. Daniel Amen is a little (lot) less woo-woo, but I was fascinated by his work with brain imagery and mood disorders. (What can I say, I was a psychology major.) Very compelling read, and you can also check out his Ted talk here.

What are your thoughts on the mind and healing? I’d love to hear any and all opinions, as well as any other great books on the subject.

  1. Kristen

    January 8, 2014 at 7:43 am

    This is fantastic! I’m really working on finding a little more … I don’t know, peace? balance? presence in the moment? this year, and you KNOW I’m going to add these to my reading list. You and I might need to chat one of these days soon.

    I’m actually using the Headspace app now to get 10 minutes of meditation a day, and some of the techniques are totally helpful. I’m sure they’re all laid out in the book, too, but I figured it was worth mentioning. Going to do a full review on Fit Bottomed Girls later this month if you’re interested.

    Hugs to you. And I want in on the next dance party.

  2. Kristen

    January 8, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Aaaand, I just read that you’re already totally familiar with that app. Sorry. Speed reading while prepping for a meeting does not always lead to good comprehension skills …

  3. J.Mill

    January 8, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Oh yes yes yes! You do you, girl.

    I was going to write in the comments on your Downtown Dish Debacle (those controversial comments!) about my new years resolution to journal more and blog less. It’s so easy to come down on bloggers when you are faceless and without a blog for equal (and opposite) reaction. I need time to ‘do me’ and blogging opens oneself up to critique when all I really need is an outlet.

    I love your book suggestions and the Tedx Talk you linked. I’ve already shared it with friends and on twitter. It’s a great perspective.

    I’m currently reading Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup. (I’m not trying to get pregnant and I’m not going through menopause, it’s just a good read.) And I was so shocked to see your post with some similar ideas on women’s healing. I think the universe it trying to tell us all something!

    Long comment, but all to say “good for you” and “I wish you healing”!

    • whoorl

      January 8, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      Thank you! Will check that book out.

  4. Emily

    January 8, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Totally in this place with you! What a great collection of books! Have you read Kris Carr’s book Crazy Sexy Diet? It’s a life-changer has well! And I’m totally on the Brené Brown bandwagon! It’s like she put words to all my feelings that I didn’t know I had and definitely didn’t understand! I’m loving the art journal e-course she’s doing with Oprah!

  5. Jennie

    January 8, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Thanks for sharing some of your process with us, Sarah! It’s inspiring and it’s helping me realize that I have changes to make even if I don’t have specific health issues.

  6. Stacey

    January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

    I’m all for introspection, but I think there is a point where it can become self-indulgent. I definitely had a rough 2013 too, but then I remember that I still lead a very privileged life (as a white, middle class woman) compared to the rest of the world. In those moments of self-doubt, I find volunteering is the best cure. Helping other people and remembering just how good I have it, makes all the difference.

    I hope you find peace and health in 2014.

    • whoorl

      January 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Absolutely! Have you heard the story of Cami Walker and 29 Gifts? I love it.


      • Stacey

        January 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm

        Thanks—that looks like a wonderful book.

  7. KJS

    January 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I research (too much, maybe): blogs, internet, books, and the sources for therapy and dietary changes make it easier to know what maybe we could or should be doing, but on the other hand, it sometimes all feels so far from balanced…it is hard to know, all the treatments, diets, time and commitment, it truly costs more money than I have to spend on it, but that isn’t to say I don’t find health and wellness to be a priority, I do! I was just curious, what do you find is the easiest way to implement changes, following books, audio, a combination? SO MUCH information.

    • whoorl

      January 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      I hear you on the excessive research! Like I mentioned, it’s definitely a good and bad thing…it can almost take you deeper into your personal issue, and not in a good way. I don’t know if I have an answer for you- it’s different for everyone.

      I think what this all comes down to, and it is explained so eloquently in the Mind Over Medicine book, is that whatever it takes to get you in a positive mindset is what is best for you. So much of the treatments and diets and what not work almost like a placebos – when you as a person decide that xyz is going to make you a better person, that’s when the magic happens. I hope that makes some sort of sense.

      • KJS

        January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm

        That book was on the top of my to read list after hearing about it on NPR, so I have a real feeling it will speak to me. I agree with what you say, belief and hope and what is best for the individual, less doubt, less fear. It has been a five year quest to get back to where I was health-wise, meanwhile trying to stay FUN and not affect anyone else more than necessary, because that is part of my fear of not feeling as I once did. Luckily, it isn’t constant, and whenever health is around, I figure YES! I’M BACK…but, then even when I am healthy my body doesn’t work the way it did (and maybe that is just something to let go, heck I’m five years older)…anyway, I wish you well on your journey…Cheers To Health and Wellness and Magic!

  8. Tiera

    January 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks for the book list. I’ve only read Daring Greatly.
    In the last year I’ve found the following books to be helpful.

    Eckhart Tolle – A New Earth – coupled with the online podcast program he did with Oprah that works through each chapter
    Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now
    Dan Millman – Way of the Peaceful Warrior
    Mitch Albom – The Time Keeper
    Pam Grout – E2 – Nine Do it yourself energy experiments that prove your thoughts create your reality. Now I have to admit that not all of the experiments were out right successes for me but it did make it’s point that we manifest in our lives what we think about.

  9. Melissa

    January 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I love your blog and think you are just absolutely adorable. A few years back I had some health symptoms that I did not like and started seeing doctors. After lots of tests and appointments my doctor said that I had depression there was nothing he could do for me and that I should get out more. I was living in Australia at the time and they just don’t give out depression meds like they do here. Anyways, I found a “woo woo” doctor and through some strange methods my symptoms completely cleared. She told me that we can never underestimate the effect stress has on the body. It is the whole package!
    Your instagram post with the rubberbands has really disturbed me….I can’t relate to your “fearful” thoughts. Like thoughts someone you love will get hurt??

    • whoorl

      January 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      My #1 fearful thought is that I will never get/feel well again. A therapist suggested snapping the rubberband on my wrist every time I think that thought. As you can see, it was A LOT. ;)

      • Melissa

        January 8, 2014 at 8:01 pm

        I’m really sorry you are going through such a rough time right now. You will have rely on others hope and faith for you that you WILL heal.

  10. natalie

    January 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Mind, body, spirit, amen! My struggle lately has been caring for the mind part of the equation. I have two toddlers (1.5 yr and 2.5 yrs) and find that I am often out of touch in the current events arena… and I haven’t read a real book since 2011. Obama is still the Pres, right?

    I have heard Daring Greatly mentioned before and have been meaning to read it. Thank you for the reminder.

    It’s been fun to follow @TheWholeWay on IG. Good going!


  11. Alyssa

    January 8, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I had a season of anxiety and depression and all the physical symptoms that go along with it several years ago. It’s really hard, but keep doing the work and you will come out a stronger person and you will have skills to teach your children. Your thoughts lead the way to your feelings and behaviors, it’s so true– try to replace your negative thoughts with something kind and empowering like you would tell a friend and you will find it will become a habit! Good for you for fighting and taking charge of your health!

  12. sarah

    January 8, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Love the inclusion of Gift from the Sea! We had a reading from it (about not fearing the ebb of relationships) in our wedding. I read it yearly. This stuff is near & dear to me as a psychologist. Hope you find wellness, and thanks for sharing your journey.

  13. Sarah (sensiblysassy)

    January 9, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Wow this is right up my alley!
    Self discovery is a beautiful and painful thing. I commend you on this journey. I have been trying to get to know myself on a deeper level without my ego getting in the way-gosh it is hard keeping that pesky ego out of it! I am reading mind sight by Dr. Daniel Siegel-amazing blend of emotionally based experience and science based studies. But the thing that has really transformed me for the better is The Work by Byron Katie-I strongly recommend checking her books out!

  14. Emily Peck

    January 20, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    It’s been a hard year for me as well. I feel like I’ve grown 10 years in 10 months and I too, have found solace in some of these reads, especially Brene. I can’t wait to check some of these out! I’ve also heard great things about this book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0452272041/ref=ox_sc_act_title_7?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER