How do we know we're choosing the right books on wellbeing?
From the very start of my wellbeing journey, I have searched for books to educate and inspire myself by offering fresh, innovative and exciting approaches to the subject of wholistic health. But, skimming through hundreds of titles, I would often find it difficult to tell what works were truly valuable.
I want to help my readers navigate the wellbeing book market in a better, more organized way.
A quick Google search will highlight an absence –conspicuous to me –of books on Wholistic Wellbeing. ‘Wellness’ and ‘wellbeing’ crop up in abundance but the idea of Wholistic Wellbeing, as I understand and advocate it, is somewhat lacking. The wellness and wellbeing books out there are, for the most part, rooted in some kind of religious, spiritual or scientific framework. But what about going beyond these straightjackets? What might we gain from viewing wellbeing wholistically, and what books might help us on this journey?
A book that I can recommend as a starting point is Corporate Wellness Programs: Linking Employee and Organizational Healthby Astrid M. Richardsen and Ronald J. Burke. Their argument that employee wellbeing and organizational success are closely linked is one I personally advocate, not just as the former CEO of Edifecs, but as a seeker of wellbeing. Why is corporate wellness a good place to start thinking about Wholistic Wellbeing more widely?
The corporate workplace is like a bootcamp for life in general: we learn to deal with challenges in a calm, collected and professional way; to navigate competition and carry each other up; to cultivate strong friendships and read rooms (or Zooms), becoming more perceptive and empathetic. Our professional wellbeing holds a mirror up to our Wholistic Wellbeing –something the examples in Richardsen and Burke’s book illustrate clearly.
A second top recommendation would be Herbert Benson and Eileen M. Stuart’s The Wellness Book, which identifies wellbeing as a creative energy: something born out of imagination and control, invoking mind, body and spirit. The Wellness Book does a great job demystifying the compartmentalisation of health as understood in traditional medicine, emphasizing the connection between our physical and emotional wellbeing in particular: as observed, for example, in the link between stressand hypertension; the physical manifestation of a panic attack; and the mutual effect of depression and anxiety on sleep deprivation.
Benson and Stuart’s focus on gentle nudges and gradual changes towards wellbeing is another key point, as people often mistake the path to Wholistic Wellbeing as an eat-pray-love cliché involving a conversion to Buddhism, the total abandonment of meat and alcohol, and walking barefoot through the grass. This book eloquently explains how to forge your own path towards happiness and fulfilment, acknowledging that wellbeing means different things to different people.
When searching for books on wellbeing, think first about what outlook on wellbeing you are most interested in. The topics will feed into each other but may offer a slightly different perspective – more spiritual, or more scientific – it is ultimately up to you to choose which angle inspires and compels you the most.
Once you know that, try to vet the authors. What is their educational background? What is their experience? Do they offer science-based solutions? If they are spiritual, what are their credentials? What are the reviews saying? Choosing the right book on wellbeing is about choosing the right sources.
Reading the right books is essential to Wholistic Wellbeing: you don’t want to be misled or disappointed, but rather be challenged and enlightened. As with a powerful work of fiction, the best books on wellbeing are those you feel compelled to revisit, spotting new things with each reread and drawing new conclusions every time you put it down. So tuck yourself in bed with a cup of tea, and start your Wholistic Wellbeing journey with a good book!