Mind-body-spirit is not really a category but an umbrella term for a number of interrelated categories, among them self-help, popular psychology, alternative health, occult/esoterica, and various nonmainstream philosophies and forms of spirituality. As such, MBS gives rise to a sprawling collection of books, and “sometimes when people talk about mind-body-spirit, they focus on the spirituality and forget the mind and body,” says Joel Fotinos, publisher of St. Martin’s new MBS imprint, St. Martin’s Essentials. “Many of these books have no spiritual element, but they are all about feeling better and living better lives.”
Positive psychology—which focuses not on mental illness but emotional wellness—can offer a way toward that better life, and it is one of the many well-published genres within MBS. Books such as St. Martin’s Essentials’ The Emotion Code: How to Release Your Trapped Emotions for Abundant Health, Love, and Happiness (May 2019), by holistic physician Bradley Nelson, provide readers with tools for identifying and releasing emotions that keep them repeating negative patterns.
A classic author in the genre is Wayne Dyer, whose bestselling 2001 book, Your Erroneous Zones, introduced many people to positive psychology concepts. You Are What You Think (Hay House, Oct.) collects quotes by Dyer that span his long career (he died in 2015), including one of his most famous: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Many of these books base their advice on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), such as Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think, Act & Be Happy, How to Use Chicken Soup for the Soul Stories to Train Your Brain to Be Your Own Therapist (Chicken Soup for the Soul, Sept.). Coauthors Amy Newmark and Mike Dow encourage readers to practice CBT, which traces emotions back to the inner narratives that create them. Newmark is the editor-in-chief and publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Dow—a regular on the television shows The Doctors and Dr. Oz—is a psychotherapist and bestselling author of The Brain Fog Fix.
New thought, an early-20th-century philosophy that presaged CBT, underlies The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality (Inner Traditions, Oct.), by new thought practitioner Mitch Horowitz (Occult America). Horowitz aims to explain the power of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and how we can change those stories to break free of problems and unhappiness. Horowitz is a PEN Award–winning historian, longtime publishing executive, and new thought commentator for publications including the New York Times, Politico, Time, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as TV shows including All Things Considered, CBS Sunday Morning, and Dateline.
Heal: Change Your Mind, Change Your Body, Change Your Life by Kelly Noonan Gores and Adam Schomer (Beyond Words, July 2019) shows how positive thoughts can bring physical healing. Based on the 2017 film of the same name, the book focuses on how Gores beat stage four cancer with a combination of Western medical treatment and thought-based healing. Gores is a film producer, writer, and actress. Schomer is a documentary filmmaker.
Imagination Transforms Everything: Rewrite Your Life’s Story with “Intentional Meaning” by Andrea Kasprzak (Seal, May 2019) uses personal narrative, scientific research, and practical exercises to teach the concept of “intentionally imagining,” which advocates daydreaming as a method for change. And since one has to understand oneself to change one’s story, there’s Know Yourself: A Book of Questions by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst (Workman, Apr. 2019), which uses a series of revealing questions to foster self-awareness. Smit and van der Hulst are the creative directors of Flow magazine.
The Way of Happiness
Is happiness a goal or is it a path? In The Happiness Paradox (Familius, Jan. 2019), Richard Eyre writes about the “false goals” that people believe will bring them happiness—control, ownership, and independence—but that paradoxically cause unhappiness. He suggests different goals—serendipity, stewardship, and interdependence—to create joy. “Happiness is less about our external circumstances and more about our internal paradigms,” he writes. “It is less about what happens to us and more about what happens in us.... about changing how we see the world around us, changing the lens through which we see our lives and our circumstances and ourselves.” Eyre and his wife, Linda Eyre, are the authors of the bestseller Teaching Your Children Values.
When circumstances aren’t happy, there are books to help. Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster by Linda Graham (New World Library, Sept. 2019) combines Western psychotherapy with Eastern wisdom traditions to help readers develop skills for emotional intelligence that will equip them to cope with crises and setbacks. Graham is a psychotherapist who integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and positive psychology in her work. And Shelley Wilson tells How I Changed My Life in a Year! (BHC, Oct.) using affirmations and positive thinking to face 12 challenges in 12 months.
Caroline Foran suffered from crippling panic attacks and writes about setting herself free in Own It (The Experiment, Mar. 2019). She learned to recognize and avoid what triggered her panic and to apply self-care techniques like listening to soothing music, collecting inspiring quotes, and using essential oils. She decided to accept her anxiety rather than waste energy running away from it. “We need to do what’s necessary—mentally and physically—so that anxiety, should it be present, can work for us rather than against us,” she writes. Foran is a journalist, digital publisher, and interior designer.
Amy Sher also urges readers to calm their minds in How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can (Llewellyn, Feb. 2019) using practices such as emotional freedom technique (EFT), a form of acupressure that involves tapping energy meridians in the body to release negative emotions. Sher, an energy therapist, has been featured on CNN and in the San Francisco Book Review.
Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate by Gabrielle Hartley and Elena Brower (Harper Wave, Jan. 2019) offers help through divorce using practices like meditation and yoga and changed thinking: “You may now officially dissolve your misconceptions about divorce: the battle, the negative legacy, the stigma, the loneliness, the gossip,” they write. “Starting now, you’ll choose the tone of your approach. Regardless of what others are choosing, you can choose to be generous, gracious, and aware of the consequences of your actions.”
Kate Zimmerman, senior editor at Sterling Publishing, says, “Mind-body-spirit is a rapidly growing category for us, as new readers look for solutions in difficult times.” Sterling’s Go Together by Shola Richards (Sept.) confronts what the author calls the illusion of separateness that causes much of human conflict and suffering. Instead, she suggests a focus on ubuntu— the Zulu concept that people are universally connected to each other. “The only thing that is required of us to stop the recurring pattern of the painful lessons of the past is to commit to go together from this point forward,” Richards writes.
But can simple kindness create happiness? In A Year of Living Kindly (She Writes, Sept.), Donna Cameron argues that the conscious practice of kindness can change the world and oneself. Through stories, observations, and summaries of research, Cameron—who has worked at a number of nonprofits and activist groups—argues that kindness benefits both the receiver and the giver.
Be the Light That You Are: Ten Simple Ways to Transform Your World with Love by Debra Landwehr Engle (Hampton Roads, Apr. 2019) also urges love—of others and of self—as the solution to the political, emotional, and economic crises of our time. Engle outlines 10 steps, such as acknowledging our gifts, fostering self-love, and deciding to forgive. She is also the author of The Only Little Prayer You Need and Let Your Spirit Guides Speak. And Calling Us Home by Chris Luttichau (Head of Zeus, Nov.) shows how practices like meditation and mindfulness can also foster happiness. Luttichau (Animal Spirit Guides) draws on his 35-year study of shamanism and Earth religions.
Be Kind to Yourself
Loving others can be hard, but loving ourselves can be even more difficult. How to overcome barriers to self-love is the aim of books such as The Perfection Detox: Tame Your Inner Critic, Live Bravely, and Unleash Your Joy (Lifelong, Aug.), by positive psychology coach Petra Kolber, who calls on women to recognize the negative effects of perfectionism and offers a step-by-step program to eliminate self-criticism, guilt, and shame.
The Little Book of Self-Care by Mel Noakes (Ebury, Oct.) is another practical guide to caring for both mind and body. Noakes, a health coach, stresses slowing down, getting enough sleep and exercise, and, most of all, examining what we believe about ourselves. “[Our] beliefs are all stories we’ve made up to make sense of the world, and stories that can be altered at any point if we realise they no longer serve their purpose,” she writes.
After Maggy van Eijk’s woes piled up—she ended a relationship, made bad choices, and alienated friends—she resorted to alcohol and injuring herself. In How Not to Fall Apart: Lessons Learned on the Road from Self-Harm to Self-Care (TarcherPerigee, Sept.), van Eijk describes overcoming depression, anxiety, and self-loathing by changing her way of thinking. Van Eijk is the social media manager for the BBC in London.
No One Does It Like You: 78 Illustrated Affirmations for Self-Kindness by Amy Rose Spiegel (Workman, Mar. 2019), illustrated by Catherine Willemse, is inspired by the “Daily Affirmations” column in Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s Lenny Letter. The book offers inspirational quotes to encourage women, such as, “Regard yourself as the moon,” “Wash everything in your light,” and “You can be true evidence of goodness for others.” Willemse is a Dutch artist who specializes in illustrations, film, and animation; Spiegel is a senior editor at Broadly and the author of Action: A Book About Sex.
The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self-Care by Emma Loewe and Lindsay Kellner (TarcherPerigee, Oct.) collects personal rites organized in a calendar around the seasons; the rituals are based on practices like breathwork, astrology, and forest bathing (see “New Books Explore the Japanese Practice of Forest Bathing,” p. 34) to connect mind, body, and spirit.
Also formatted to be a handy guide, The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive (Guilford, Aug.), by psychologists Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, contains the material they cover in their eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion course. “Many people don’t have an MSC course in their local area, or else they can’t afford it, or else they don’t have the time,” Neff writes. “We wanted to make MSC available to anyone who wanted to learn how to be more self-compassionate.” Tools include guided meditations and exercises, among other techniques. Neff is associate professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas at Austin; Germer has a private practice in Arlington, Mass., and is lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance.
Modern religions are patriarchal, but women played powerful roles in paganism, which has not only revived interest in witchcraft but also in feminine archetypes. “Ancient wisdom returns again and again, given voice by each generation,” says New World Library editorial director Georgia Hughes. Seeing themselves in a different light is the message of two books that remind women of their strength: NWL’s The Holy Wild: A Heathen Bible for the Untamed Woman by Danielle Dulsky (Sept.) explores feminine archetypes and offers ideas and practices that celebrate women’s powers. “This book is a five-part ode to Her, to you, and to the yet-to-be-rebuilt bridge between our spirituality and our lived, embodied experience,” Dulsky writes. “I am seeking you out, the wild woman who is through making apologies for her own divinity, the Witch who is handcrafting her own religion stitched from her own truth.” Dulsky (Woman Most Wild) is a longtime activist for the Divine Feminine and leads women’s circles and witchcraft workshops.
Wild Woman’s Way: Unlock Your Full Potential for Pleasure, Power, and Fulfillment by Michaela Boehm (Enliven, Aug.) also seeks to release the long-suppressed sexuality and spiritual power of women through tantric yoga practice. Boehm writes that the book is “a passionate love letter to the body... an invitation to re-wild yourself, to strip away layers of coping, adaptation, and trauma to reveal what has always been there—what is ready to emerge, free from internal and external beliefs and dogma.”
How to Pay Attention
Books on meditation are legion, but the subset focused on mindfulness continues to be popular. HarperOne has had great success with its F-word books: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was a breakout bestseller last year and remains popular; it was followed by Unfu*k Yourself. Now there’s How to Stay Human in a F*cked-Up World: A Mindfulness Practice for Real Life by Timothy Desmond, a Buddhist scholar, lecturer on psychology at Harvard Medical School, and mindfulness teacher.
Little Bit of Mindfulness by Amy Leigh Mercree (Sterling, Nov.) is an introduction for beginners and part of the Little Bit Of series, which also includes works on yoga, meditation, astrology, chakras, and palmistry. Leigh Mercree also is the author of The Compassion Revolution: 30 Days of Living from the Heart (Llewellyn).
Mindfulness can be applied to almost any activity: Inward Traveler: 51 Ways to Explore the World Mindfully by Francine Toder (Aziri, Sept.) contains 51 blog-length chapters describing ways people can apply mindfulness techniques as they travel. In Tune (The Experiment, Mar. 2019), by Emmy Award–winning composer and multi-platinum-selling music producer Richard Wolf, is a how-to on listening to and playing music as a jumping-off point for mindfulness meditation. The two activities might seem antithetical (one needs silence to meditate, right?), but Wolf, who has practiced Zen meditation since his teens, suggests 12 ways to synchronize the two activities, which require many of the same qualities (which Wolf calls “bridges”), such as concentration, perseverance, and silence.
Mindfulness teacher Frances Trussell’s You Are Not Your Thoughts: The Secret Magic of Mindfulness (O-Books, Nov.) offers principles and tools to make mindfulness accessible to all. Frances advises schools, nonprofits, and businesses on integrating mindfulness into their employee training and interactions with clients and customers.
Organized as a course text, Expecting Mindfully: Nourish Your Emotional Well-Being and Prevent Depression during Pregnancy and Postpartum by Sona Dimidjian and Sherryl H. Goodman (Guilford, Jan. 2019) aims to help expectant and new mothers through what can be a difficult passage using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, journaling exercises, and other practical tools. A companion website offers audio downloads narrated by meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg, as well as video clips of prenatal yoga practices. Dimidjian and Goodman are both clinical psychologists and university professors. Also directed at mothers is One Minute to Zen: Go From Hot Mess to Mindful Mom in One Minute or Less by meditation teacher and mindfulness coach Ali Katz (Skyhorse, Nov.), which serves bite-size tips for living more mindfully amid the chaos of family life.
Those committed to traditional religions also have found that mindfulness practices are helpful and not in conflict with their faith. Living in the Presence: A Jewish Mindfulness Guide for Everyday Life by Benjamin Epstein (Urim, Sept.) points to commonalities between Judaism and mindfulness practice, which Epstein says align with biblical teachings to be fully present and aware every moment of the day. Epstein is an ordained rabbi, psychologist, and author who combines CBT with mindfulness and other spiritual techniques.
Many mind-body-spirit books have roots in ancient wisdom and practices, but authors in its genres are also addressing contemporary political and social issues. HarperOne—founded in 1976 as Harper San Francisco—was a pioneer in mind-body-spirit, and publisher Judith Curr says, “That’s been our core throughout HarperOne’s history.” She adds, “More recently, we are taking into account the spike in desire for political and social activism books as people search for ways to effect change on an individual and grassroots basis.”
One such book is A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution by Marianne Williamson (HarperOne, Jan. 2019), author of the bestseller Return to Love. In this time of fear and divisiveness, Williamson urges spiritually aware Americans to return to—and act out of—our deepest value: love.
Below, more on the subject of mind-body-spirit books.