'The Happy Brain' by Dean Burnett

Before studying negative emotions, it’s worth looking into how we understand happiness and what mechanisms in our bodies regulate emotional responses.

Neuroscience expert, comedian, columnist for The Guardian Science, and bestselling author of The Idiotic Priceless Brain, Dean Burnett aims to give the reader scientific knowledge without being loaded with academic language. Burnett’s writing is lively and simple, yet he manages to talk about such complex things as the structure of the brain and the regulation of chemical reactions in the body. 

The book begins with the description of the brain parts and explanations why none of them is responsible for our moods. Dean Burnett then briefly discusses the role of neurotransmitters – dopamine (responsible for reward pleasure), endorphins (response to pain and stress), and oxytocin (attachment hormone). Scientific research is interspersed with case studies and interviews with experts. Among the questions the book raises are whether genetics affects happiness, whether our happiness depends on our capacity for self-control, and whether money can make you a happy person.

Burnett takes on an ambitious and complex task and therefore does not attempt to provide comprehensive and unambiguous answers. Rather, the scholar gives readers hints, tools with which everyone can better understand the recipe for their own happiness.

‘Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry’ by Catherine M. Pittman

The book “Rewire Your Anxious Brain…” is written by Kathryn Pittman, a clinical psychologist, and co-authored with archivist Elizabeth Carle, who supplemented the material with scientific research on the topic and also evaluated theoretical recommendations based on her own experience with anxiety. 

Drawing on a scientific approach, the authors aim to write primarily an applied text.

The book consists of three sections: how the brain works when you experience anxiety; how you can control anxiety induced by the amygdala or amygdala body (the area in the human brain responsible for the emotions, for the generation of fear in particular) and how you can control the anxiety generated in the cerebral cortex

Turning to neuroscience, the authors show why we experience certain feelings and how we can alter them. Catherine and Elizabeth believe that understanding what is happening to us motivates us to work with our own fears and anxieties. The material is well structured: at the end of each chapter the main theses are listed, there are many diagrams and exercises, such as those related to deep breathing and muscle relaxation.

‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’ by Matt Hai

“The purpose of this book is not to assert that everything around us is terrible and we’re all lost–because we already have Twitter for that,” says writer Matt Hague. Generally, he writes books for children and adults, his story “A Boy Called Christmas” has been translated into 40 languages, and The Guardian called it a “modern classic.”

“Planet of the Nervous” is a tale of a personal search for a point of balance in a world of sensational headlines and career race. Hague himself says, “I try to write about the tangles of the world and the tangles of thinking by deliberately creating a tangled book.” The author shifts from one topic to another, as if trying to cover the entire spectrum of anxiety in contemporary society, while remembering to accompany his intellectual itineraries with advice on how not to succumb to stress and discouragement.

Hague believes that in an age dominated by technology, everyone should consider how to keep themselves mentally and physically fit. In his case, running, walking the dog, yoga or meditation, a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, time with the kids and wife, and the decision to turn off the phone before bedtime and leave it in the other room are salvation.The writer does not believe in medicine, but he does know firsthand how important it is to treat yourself kinder.

‘Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection’ by Haemin Sunim

Haemin Sunim has a rather unusual biography: he was born in South Korea, went to the United States to learn how to shoot, was educated at UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Princeton, and decided to become a monk at age 25. He now teaches Zen meditation techniques and was formerly a professor at the College of Social Sciences in Massachusetts. In his home country, Sunim recently opened the School of Broken Hearts.

Perhaps the secret of its popularity is that Sunim has managed to repackage the wisdom of Buddhism in a form that is accessible and understandable to the modern urban dweller. The main lesson that Gemin Sunim teaches is to accept and love yourself and this world along with all its imperfections. Un addition to spiritual wisdom, the monk and teacher is no stranger to concern for the body: Sunim recommends regular exercise and a healthy diet to keep the body and mind healthy.

‘The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It’ by Margaret Wehrenberg

Margaret Werenberg’s work is valuable for its abundance of practical guidance: chapters provide evidence-based cognitive and behavioral tools to help manage anxiety, panic attacks, and fears. For example, in one of the chapters, Werenberg talks about the role breathing has on the brain and the functionality of the body and gives several breathing exercises.

Margaret Werenberg is also attentive to theory: in particular, she explains why pills are not the only way to relieve anxiety symptoms. It is very important to understand the reasons for your condition and be ready to change your habits and attitudes. Werenberg knows that change is not instantaneous and prepares the reader for progressive improvement through regular self-development.

‘My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search’ for Peace of Mind

Scott Stossel is an American journalist and editor of The Atlantic. For Stossel, anxiety is not just another object for journalistic material, but a problem with which the author has been struggling for several years. Wanting to deal with this phenomenon, Stossel did a solid research job, collecting as many scientific articles on the topic and recommendations from different specialists as possible.

Stossel brings together the social, neurological and environmental causes of anxiety, as well as tricks on how to minimize external triggers and learn to control your psychological state. There are also parts in the book where the journalist shares his own experience, discusses his doubts, delusions and fears. 

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