February 3, 2023

Save the Net Books

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Do self-help books work? Do they really help?

It’s that time again! By that I mean that it is the beginning of a new calendar year. A new year brings renewed hope to get closer to the people we want to be and the lives we want to live. One genre that really thrives on this feeling is “self-help”. But do self-help books work? Do they really help us to help ourselves? And if so, how?

A research paper published in the Journal of Happiness Studies entitled Do Self Help Books Help? may give us some insight into this. The article acknowledges that there is a lot of skepticism about this genre. It also outlines scenarios where self-help books can actually work! Here are some of the times.

If the book is problem-oriented

Self-help literature can be divided into two broad categories: problem-oriented and growth-oriented. Problem-oriented books offer advice on how to overcome specific problems. These can include insomnia, stress, addiction, anxiety and depression. Growth-oriented books provide “wisdom” on topics such as happiness, finding purpose, career growth, and building fulfilling relationships. Research suggests that people benefit from reading problem-focused self-help books, but there isn’t enough evidence to support the effectiveness of growth-focused books.

If the book is based on current research

An increasing number of self-help books are published each year as the genre continues to thrive. Some of these are poorly written and only solidify ideas that are already in place in pop culture. Some books will also contradict someone else’s advice. The books that are most likely to benefit you are based on the latest research and written by someone qualified to provide that insight.

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If you are self-motivated

The study states, “Self-help has the greatest success among people who are highly motivated, resourceful, and have a positive attitude towards self-help treatments.” If you are already motivated to make a change, self-help books can serve as a valuable resource by providing you with guidance to do just that. But if that’s not the case, you should look for an alternative solution that offers a little extra support and holds you accountable.

How can you benefit from reading self-help?

Whatever advice you receive, consider how it fits into your context and life. You might want to reject some of these outright, customize some of them, and maybe easily incorporate some of these into your routine. It’s better to take small incremental steps to build habits, practices, or behaviors that make sense to you. Understand that the author wrote about what works for them. Even advice in self-help books that is based on evidence and research does not apply to all people around the world. There are systemic issues that are holding some of us back, and we need to acknowledge this to see how much of their advice applies to us.

Books can have an impact. It’s okay and even rewarding to be influenced by them. But here are a few things to keep in mind when practicing the techniques you’ve learned from self-help books:

Make sure the book you are reading is written by someone who is qualified to give the advice he is giving. If not, find yourself a better book that does just that. Create a feedback loop with yourself to periodically ask if you’re benefiting from the new thing you’re trying. If you want to track this, you can log your progress. Talk to trusted friends and family members about the changes you’re making. A little real-time support can go a long way. Manage your expectations. These books are marketed as life changing books that will lead to unprecedented success in the field of your choice. However, personal change is slow and can be difficult. Have realistic expectations of how much the book can help and how much time this may take. If you make drastic changes, be sure to consult a doctor. This disclaimer will also be present in any well-written self-help book.

Self-help isn’t the only genre that helps you grow and learn. Poetry and fiction can provide much-needed shifts in perspective. Memoirs and collections of essays can teach us much about a life well-lived. If you enjoy these more, lean in now!

If you want to delve into the self-help genre, here are some recommended lists.