Book Reviews: Rewire Your Anxious Brain, Uncovering Happiness, The Altruistic Brain, & The Like Switch

Hello everyone,

it’s that time of the week again. Yep, time for some book reviews. Enjoy!

Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry by Catherine M. Pittman, Elizabeth M. Karle
I’ve been suffering with anxiety issues since I was a little girl, and I have read a lot of books on this topic in the past few years, hoping to learn new techniques to help me cope with anxiety every time it rears its ugly head. Rewire Your Anxious Brain is by far the best one I’ve come across.
As the authors explain, there are two pathways to anxiety. The first is through the amygdala, which acts as a primal response. If you are scared or anxious but don’t know why exactly, that’s the culprit. The amygdala takes over the part of the brain that makes conscious decisions, so telling someone to get a grip just doesn’t work. The other pathway is through the cortex, the center of “worry”, which creates anxiety by thinking about all the things that may go wrong in the future. These types of anxieties are different and need to be treated with different techniques. Here, you’ll find quite a few. They include meditation, exercise, mindfulness, and planning.
It’s true none of these are new and can easily be found in most books about anxiety. But most books don’t help you figure out what type of anxiety you have, and explain which techniques will work best for you and which ones won’t at all. This one does. That’s its strength. If you suffer from anxiety or know someone who does, I highly recommend you pick up a copy. It has the potential to change your life.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion by Elisha Goldstein
I’ve suffered from depression on and off for most of my life. Although I’m well now, I always thought I will suffer from more bouts in the future. Dr Elisha Goldstein gave me hope that won’t happen. According to him, it is possible to live depression-free. You just have to become more resilient to adversities by helping the brain release its natural antidepressants (who even knew the brain had its own antidepressants?!). How? Mindfulness and compassion.
But, before you can use these techniques, you need to figure out what triggers depression for you. Goldstein will help you figure it out in the first part of the book. In the second part, he introduces the five natural antidepressants produced by our brains, which can be a great alternative, or supplement, to medication. These include mindfulness (the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment), self-compassion (a state of mind in which you understand your own suffering with an inclination to support yourself), and play (all those activities that don’t seem to have a practical purposes but are fun and makes us feel good). Goldstein, with the help of scientific studies, explains how all these techniques are good for us, and teaches us how to use them. Finally, the third and last part, titled The Natural Antidepressant Tool Kit, features lots of practical tips on how to implement everything you’ve learnt in the book. They include yoga poses, exercises to change your mindset from one of fear to one of growth and purpose, and strategies to stick to healthy habits.
Golstein explains everything clearly. He writes in an engaging, compassionate, and straightforward way that makes the book a pleasure to read. Informative and insightful, Uncovering Happiness is one of the best books that I’ve read about depression. I highly recommend it to all those who are suffering from it, their families, and their therapists too.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

The Altruistic Brain: How We Are Naturally Good by Donald W Pfaff
The media love bad, negative stories. Every day we are bombarded with news of wars, rapes, murders, frauds, and all sorts of crimes. TV shows portray friends, family members, and significant others constantly hurting each other for personal gain to make their storylines more interesting. In this negative environment, it is easy to believe that human beings are intrinsically bad and need a police state and strict rules to behave and not harm others. Most religions believe this too. But not science. The latest research in neuroscience hints at the exact opposite. Humans are hard-wired to be kind to others.
Human beings are social animals. Therefore, to survive, we need to collaborate and empathize with one another. That’s why we developed hormones and neural mechanisms that help promote prosocial behaviour. These mechanisms help explain why some people risk their lives to save perfect strangers, but also why we do small favours to those around us. Such behaviours are spontaneous. We do these things without even thinking about them.
Although scientific research in this area is still in its infancy, Pfaff’s theory is very fascinating and could, as suggested in the second part of the book, provide new approaches on how people, from all walks of life and cultures and with very different opinion could collaborate to solve problems that affect all of us.
My only problem with the book is that Pfaff pays a lot of attention to nature and very little to nurture. As he’s a neuroscientist, I guess that’s to be expected. But it is undeniable the environment in which you are raised as a huge influence on your behaviour. That’s why I look forward to further research that links both nature and nurture to provide a more complete picture.
Even so, the book is a very interesting read. And a very engaging one too. Don’t let the term neuroscience scare you. There are no difficult words or concepts here to put off those without a scientific background. Pfaff writes in a very straightforward and simple way that makes his theory accessible to anyone. Highly recommended.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over by Jack Schafer, Marvin Karlins
As a Special Agent for the FBI, Dr. Jack Schafer profiled and interrogated terrorists and created strategies to detect deception. A big part of his job was to study human behaviour to figure out how to get criminals to trust him so they would confess their crimes and how to tell when they weren’t completely honest with him. A lot of the things he learned can be applied to daily life to make friends, ace job interviews, and just start conversations with strangers without being awkward.
The book starts with the friendship formula, which explains what factors create and cement friendships. Then, Schafer focuses on body language and tone of voice, showing us how important it is to be able to read the non-verbal cues in a conversation so that, if something is wrong, we can fix it. But he also focuses on text messages and online communications when you can’t see the other person’s face. Communication then is trickier, but there are ways to make it work smoothly, and also to figure out if the other person is not being honest with us, even without reading his/her body language.
Written in an engaging, simple way, The Like Switch is an interesting and fascinating read that will help you better communicate and become friends with anyone.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

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