Depression sucks, and there’s no sugarcoating that. That’s why it’s important to actively seek support tools to help you get through those hard times. Over the years I’ve learned to cope with my depression by (among other things) keeping a few good books nearby.
Of course, reading a book won’t cure your depression, but it can help you work through what you’re feeling in a more constructive way. Books and stories also help validate that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling, even in your darkest moments.
Check out my list below of 7 life-changing books to read when you’re feeling depressed:
#1 Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D.
Feeling Good is an incredible tool to have in your depression toolbox. There are tons of research-validated Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exercises and worksheets included that help you understand your thought patterns and how they may be contributing to your depression.
I also appreciated the client success stories highlighted throughout the text; they give you hope that things can get better even when it doesn’t feel like they can. I personally got a lot out of this book, and it’s one I continue to come back to as I need it.
#2 The Depression Cure by Stephen S. Ilardi, Ph.D.
A lot of what Dr. Ilardi shares in The Depression Cure will feel like common sense at first, but that’s what made it such a game-changer for me. The 6-step program to dealing with depression is so simple you almost think it won’t make a difference – but it really does.
His research suggests our modern lifestyle has robbed us of the normal depression protective factors that we once had as hunter-gatherers. In order to beat depression, we must commit to adding those 6 factors back into our daily lives.
When I started working the steps, I didn’t feel depressed for almost 4 months! It was the longest I’d gone without symptoms in years. While Ilardi’s system hasn’t cured my depression completely, I’m incredibly thankful to have his simple, effective strategies to use when I need them.
#3 The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
I truly believe that depression is often a sign that something within us is not being expressed. When we aren’t creating space for our dreams, we lose meaning in our lives. Depression is really just the opposite of expression. That’s why I include The Artist’s Way in this list.
I’ve felt pulled to work my way through this book for a few years now, but it wasn’t until recently that I took the plunge. What I love about Cameron’s approach to unveiling your creativity (whether you see yourself as artistic or not) is that it involves two simple, but powerful daily exercises.
Maybe you’ve noticed that I’m a big fan of simple? The simpler something is, the less my mind resists it. When I’m feeling depressed even taking a shower can feel like climbing a mountain so the tools I use must be things I can do no matter how bad I feel. Maybe you relate?
Just like anything else, the process only works if you work it. I’m still working my way through it, but I can already feel a huge difference in how I feel on a daily basis. Not to mention I’m feeling a lot more creatively fulfilled.
#4 The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
The Alchemist is the story of an Andalusian young shepherd boy named Santiago who goes on a journey to find treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. The boy overcomes a lot of setbacks and personal challenges to get to his treasure only to discover a surprising truth at the end.
The core theme of the book is about having the faith and courage to pursue your destiny in life. It’s an incredibly inspiring and entertaining story that I’ve read over and over again.
# 5 Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
In Man’s Search for Meaning, psychologist Viktor Frankl documents his experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. In order to survive the atrocities he experienced, he had to find a will to live. He had to find meaning in what he was experiencing, and that’s exactly what he did.
His story had a profound impact on me and how I view my depression. Frankl taught me that by finding meaning in your life, you can withstand anything.
#6 The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements was one of the first self-help books I ever read, and it completely transformed me. Applying even one of the four agreements to your life will change you on a deep level.
The four agreements are:
1) Be impeccable with your word
2) Don’t take anything personally
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Do your best
If you feel like your thoughts are taking over your life, read this book. If you struggle with perfectionism, anxiety, and negative thoughts that tend to spiral out of control, read this book.
#7 Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner, Ph.D.
You may be wondering why I’m recommending a book on surviving cancer for coping with depression, and I’m asking you to trust me on this one because it’s an incredible read.
The survivor’s stories are a much-needed reminder that life is always worth living, even when everything feels against you. Not only that but the 9 key factors highlighted for their healing powers against cancer could be useful for all humans looking for meaning in life, deep healing and a sense of peace.
I genuinely believe this book should be recommended reading for everyone, not just those with cancer.
Now that I’ve shared my top picks, I’d love to know yours! Comment below with a book (or two) that helped you get through a difficult time.
IMPORTANT: If you’re having suicidal thoughts and considering harming yourself, please reach out for help. You can call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You are not alone.
Looking for self-care ideas? Check out my list of 25 Self-Care Activities You Can Do in 5 Minutes or Less (and cost $0)