Keys to Living, Loving, & Dying Well | Self-Help Reviews

LIVING AND DYING WELL This month’s column gets down to the basics. The key is to pay attention in mind and body.

LIVING AND DYING WELL This month’s column gets down to the basics. The key is to pay attention in mind and body. Yoga and mindfulness are two popular practices by which to do that, both of which are detailed in two of the books below. Other authors have written prescriptions for increasing happiness, as well as being kind and civil to others. And while Scandinavian literature seems to be popular these days, recipes for good living spring from these countries as well. Finally, sex and anger are strong drives, and a pair of titles here help increase the former while squelching the latter.

redstarBerman, Lea & Jeremy Bernard. Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life. Scribner. Jan. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781501157981. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781501158001. SELF-HELP

Coauthors Berman and Bernard write from the experience of being White House social secretaries and special assistants to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively. Their roles were not only to assist in social and political functions but to ensure that attendees were taken care of and had a positive experience. With this book, they’ve condensed their knowledge with the aim of helping readers treat others with dignity and show a willingness to listen and collaborate. They address and elaborate on 12 cornerstones of civility, including handling conflict diplomatically, owning one’s mistakes, and radiating calm. VERDICT Excellent in terms of getting the “inside scoop” on the White House and training oneself to deal with all kinds of people.

redstarBreaking Sad: What To Say After Loss, What Not To Say, and When To Just Show Up. She Writes. Nov. 2017. 280p. ed. by Shelly Fisher & Jennifer Jones. ISBN 9781631522420. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631522437. death & dying /bereavement

Nearly everyone has had experience with loss or has sat alongside a grieving friend or relative, wanting to be helpful but unsure of the kind of support to give. Writer Jones and educator Fisher have compiled stories from everyday survivors speaking about their hardships, the best and worst things people said or did, and offering advice for anyone going through similar trials and for those surrounding the bereaved. They cover new loss, loss at a tender age, unacknowledged loss, and other sorrowful situations. VERDICT Insightful guidance for all who are grieving or know someone who is in pain. Highly recommended.

Byron, Erin. Yoga for the Creative Soul: Exploring the Five Paths of Yoga To Reclaim Your Expressive Spirit. Llewellyn. Dec. 2017. 312p. ISBN 9780738752181. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738753713.

Klein, Melanie C. Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body. Llewellyn. Jan. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780738750828. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738755939. health/wellness

While both of these books include “yoga” in the title, they contain diverse messages, written for different audiences. ­Psychotherapist/yoga teacher Byron (director, Welkin YogaLife Inst.) has found that comprehensive yoga therapy can correct imbalances and help to harness artistic personal resources. She presents a variety of exercises and intention-setting practices that assist in everything from purifying one’s environment and refining the senses to accessing creative potential and busting out of one’s cocoons.

Klein’s (sociology & women’s studies, Moorpark Coll., CA) work challenges the corporate view of yoga as a practice for the beautiful and fit. Stories from 30 women of different races, ethnicities, gender identity, age, and ability level portray how yoga has helped them battle cancer, accept their bodies, find refuge from the world, and fight addiction. Included are “thought starters” at the end of each chapter, which ask readers to reflect on and personalize the message. VERDICT Yoga for the Creative Soul would work well for seasoned yogis who want to hone their practice with an artistic bent, while Yoga Rising provides inspiring reading for all women regardless of their workout proclivities.

Cousineau, Tara. The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World. New Harbinger. Feb. 2018. 200p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781626259690. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781626259713. SELF-HELP

In response to the uptick in bullying behavior, psychologist Cousineau (founder, BodiMojo) proposes the renewal of a commitment to kindness. To this end, the author offers narratives that accompany the four steps of principle, scientific basis, exercise, and reflection, all of which are geared toward developing an affectionate spirit. The steps include learning how gentleness can be seen in everyday life, how mindfulness and intention create empathy, and how emotional upset can be released through compassion. The text is incredibly readable, with drawings and bullet points that send the points home. VERDICT An exceptional read for anyone who dismays of mean-spiritedness and wants to make a difference.

Dunne, Linnea. Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living. Running Pr: Perseus. Oct. 2017. 160p. index. ISBN 9780762463756. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780762463763.

Wiking, Meik. The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People. Morrow. Dec. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780062820334. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780062820341. health/wellness

When Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge took off last spring, there was no doubt that sequels would be forthcoming. Now the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute explores the Danish concept of lykke (LOO-ka)—pursuing and finding the good that exists in the world every day. Here, ­Wiking investigates the cognitive dimensions of happiness and compares the life satisfaction scores of the Danes with those of other nations, concluding that helping others, working together, and lowering one’s expectations can lead to more contentment.

Similarly, former newspaper columnist Dunne proposes that lagom (lah-gom), the Swedish concept of “not too little, not too much, just right” can help people improve their work-life balance and savor both relationships and delicious food. Dunne’s guidebook is full of tips, color photographs, and recipes that demonstrate how readers can simplify their wants and enjoy what they already have. She covers everything from eating and styling lagom to feeling and socializing lagom in a clear upbeat tone, which encourages readers to participate. ­VERDICT While both books are delightful and would be popular in public libraries or for personal purchase, Lagom is more aesthetically appealing.

Francis, Emily A. The Body Heals Itself: How Deeper Awareness of Your Muscles and Their Emotional Connection Can Help You Heal. Llewellyn. Dec. 2017. 336p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9780738750736. pap. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738753515. SELF-HELP

Francis (Stretch Therapy) applies her training in yoga, pediatric therapy, exercise science, and tai chi to impart the wisdom found in her newest book. Surprisingly, she says, the body’s muscles are communicators of emotions, and that by learning to listen to them, a person can maintain the highest state of wellness possible. Throughout the book, Francis offers affirmations, visualizations, meditations, stones, and essential oils that work with a particular muscle. Each chapter details a particular part of the body, and all exercises are paired with photographs, making it easy for the reader to perform. Glossaries of exercises and affirmations, along with different modalities and tools to try round out a comprehensive presentation. VERDICT Readers interested in holistic treatments and therapies will find this a solid resource.

Graham, Jessica. Good Sex: Getting Off Without Checking Out. North Atlantic. Nov. 2017. 304p. bibliog. ISBN 9781623172343. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781623172350. Sexuality

According to Graham, spiritual teacher, writer, filmmaker, and actor, anyone can have good, or at least better, sex through meditation and mindfulness. To that end, the author’s first book provides exercises that help readers get in touch with their bodies, focus on their minds, and communicate feelings. Graham tackles the more difficult areas of shame and insecurity and suggests ways to relieve negative feelings. As in other areas of life, finding acceptance in the moment can lead to greater patience with oneself and others. All of which influences a sexual experience. VERDICT While Graham writes explicitly about the sex experience, this isn’t a “how to.” Instead, this work presents a spiritual path to finding authentic sexual communication with another person. Recommended.

Harrington, Samuel. At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life. Grand Central. Feb. 2018. 304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781478917410. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781478917434.

Mannix, Kathryn. With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in the Age of Denial. Little, Brown. Jan. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780316504485. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316504539. death & dying/bereavement

Death comes to all people, whether they are happy or not, kind or mean, and whether they practice yoga or watch TV all day. So why does one pick up a book about how to die? The answers come from those who have participated in the deaths of others, by listening, affirming, and then helping those who remain.

In At Peace, physician Harrington, who serves on the board of a nonprofit hospice in Washington, DC, describes the terminal patterns of the six most common diseases, then guides readers in end-of-life conversations and instructs them in how to minimize painful treatments. He speaks with experience and compassion as he discusses the biological and emotional factors of aging and outlines the practical aspects of planning for death. Chapters on dementia and advance directives conclude his work.

In With the End in Mind, physician ­Mannix, through her expertise in palliative care and cognitive behavior therapy, shares stories from a lifetime of caring for the dying. Using case histories, Mannix provides poignant insight into the way people live when they know they are dying, and what those around them may be thinking and wishing to say. The book ends with a template for writing a last letter to loved ones. VERDICT Where At Peace provides a framework for dying, With the End in Mind puts meat on the bones, with some overlapping of personal accounts and medical processes in each. Both are highly recommended.

Janssen, Mary Beth. The Book of Self-Care: Remedies for Healing Mind, Body, and Soul. Sterling Ethos. Nov. 2017. 224p. index. ISBN 9781454926313. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781454926320. personal growth

Alternative medicine consultant Janssen contends that wellness can be achieved through developing a consciousness-based wholeness among mind, body, and environment. Being in touch with the spiritual is essential, and Janssen proposes a number of solutions (e.g., mindfulness, meditation, visioning, etc.) through which to achieve this state. She draws on the teachings of Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and well-known philosophers to encourage readers to make life-affirming decisions and engage in positive behaviors. VERDICT Janssen provides a comprehensive and valuable handbook for enhancing consciousness and compassion.

redstarLieberman, David J. Never Get Angry Again: Essential and Proven Strategies To Stay Calm and in Control in All Situations. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2018. 256p. bibliog. ISBN 9781250154392. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250154408. SELF-HELP

Lieberman, PhD (How To Change Anybody; Make Peace with Anyone), believes that in order to conquer fiery fits of uncontrollable anger or rage, a person must permanently reorient one’s perspective. To do this, Lieberman first describes the psychological dynamics of anger and human nature before offering the tools and techniques to offset the emotion. He discusses self-control, acceptance, and a trust in God that helps one develop self-love, make peace with the past, and evoke new behaviors in the future. Additional suggestions range from setting boundaries to talking to people who won’t listen. VERDICT An essential instruction manual for anger management, but also a detailed work on how to get along with other people.

Happy Days

redstarKing, Vanessa. 10 Keys to Happier Living: A Practical Handbook for Happiness. Headline. Dec. 2017. 336p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781472233424. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781472233448. SELF-HELP

The quest to find happiness is a popular pursuit, and King, psychology expert for the nonprofit Action for Happiness, provides readers with ten actions that will move them in a positive direction. Creating the acronym Great Dream, King’s keys range from giving, relating, and exercising, to direction, resilience, and acceptance. Each chapter explores a “key,” accompanied by explanations, charts, exercises, and examples of each concept. Instructions for learning new things, connecting with people, and living mindfully will resonate with many readers, and their follow through will undoubtedly result in more fulfillment. VERDICT A cut above similar titles. Not only is the content here beneficial, its packaging creates a practical guide to follow.

Leanse, Ellen Petry. The Happiness Hack: How To Take Charge of Your Brain and Program More Happiness into Your Life. Sourcebooks. Nov. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9781492656913. $14.99. SELF-HELP

To those who are looking for shortcuts on the road to happiness, TEDx Talk speaker and ­Stanford University professor Leanse responds with a work about understanding and gaining control over one’s brain, asserting that these are the first steps in facing life with clarity and resilience. Rather than going through the motions on autopilot, we must learn to clear away the distractions (e.g., electronic gadgets) and focus on building connections with others and approaching daily activities with purpose. By resisting the quick fixes, one can reclaim one’s focus and live more abundantly. VERDICT Leanse condenses research based in neurological science into an easy-to-read format. Recommended.

Deborah Bigelow works as an Adult Services Librarian, Dexter District Library, MI

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