Release year: 2022

Author: Dr Julie Smith

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Link to my handwritten notes


(Thank you Lidia Mansur for this recommendation!)

To me, mental health is the holy grail of our human world. I have done a year of therapy last year, and it completely changed my life. If I had a magic wand, I would change our culture to make therapy as well regarded as hitting the gym. One day, maybe…

So, what is this book about? What is that mysterious thing that nobody told you about before? Well, I should say things, plural. It’s all the basic mental tools that you might expect to come across in therapy. How to deal with a rainy day, how to approach failure, how to deal with regrets, how grief happens, etc. The book is meant as an introduction to these concepts. While it doesn’t always go into incredible depths on these topics, it makes up for that by covering a wide range of topics. No matter who you are, there is certainly a section or two that will catch your interest and maybe even teach you things.

One of my favorite discoveries from this book is the Feelings Wheel, which can be useful to help you name your emotions when you’re feeling distressed. As you may have heard, being able to name an emotion while it is happening is incredibly powerful, the equivalent of finding the key that will let it escape your body.

In my mind, no book can replace the healing properties of talking about our honest feelings to another attentive human, but if you don’t know where to start on your self-healing journey, I would say that this book is surely a sensible first step.

Félix rating:

⭐ Star quotes

  1. (p. 35) You can’t control the thoughts that arrive in your mind. You can control what you do once they appear.
  2. (p. 35) Notice how you can choose to focus in on a thought, like Jim Carrey putting the mask over his face (in the movie The Mask), or you can let it pass and wait for the next thought to arrive.
  3. (p. 45) When dealing with low mood, focus on your personal values around health.
  4. (p. 46) Slow change is sustainable change.
  5. (p. 69) Motivation is a by-product of action.
  6. (p. 76) Once you sustain the habit of prioritizing your healthy behaviors, they will sustain you.
  7. (p. 78) We protect ourselves from the psychological threat of shame by sabotaging a process before it gets started.
  8. (p. 87) When the task ahead feels like a mountain to climb, you don’t look up at the peak. You narrow your focus and set yourself the challenge to make it to that next ridge. When you get there, you allow yourself to absorb that feeling of being on your way. Then you go again.
  9. (p. 88) A simple shift of language can help us turn towards gratitude. Try switching “I have to…” with “I get to…”
  10. (p. 94) You cannot change what you cannot make sense of.
  11. (p. 108) No amount of therapy or psychological skills is going to overturn the destructive impact of poor sleep or diet and lack of physical activity.
  12. (p. 117) The Feeling Wheel
  13. (p. 123) Listen carefully. Don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. Reflect back what you hear them saying; let them know they are being heard and respected.
  14. (p. 129) When we block one emotion, we tend to block them all. We can be left feeling hollow, numb and struggling to find meaning and to engage with life in the way we once did.
  15. (p. 135) Acceptance is not an end point in grief. It might be fleeting moments in which you have found a way to live in this new reality.
  16. (p. 158) Ruminating and churning over a nasty comment with no sense of how this can help you is just a continuation of the attack on your character.
  17. (p. 147) Adding pressure to feel a certain way in a particular time-frame only adds pain and distress.
  18. (p. 174) If we believe that mistakes and shortcomings should be met with humiliation and shame no matter what the intention, how do we ever begin to be OK with taking risks and making mistakes ourselves?
  19. (p. 174) How other people respond to my failures does not provide an accurate assessment of my personality and worthiness as a human, but instead indicates how that person relates to failure.
  20. (p. 175) Coming back from failure (resilience) cannot be dependent on others. We will take responsibility to tend to our wounds with compassion and dust ourselves off after a fall.
  21. (p. 193) Every time we say no to something because of fear, we reconfirm our belief that it wasn’t safe or that we couldn’t handle it.
  22. (p. 218) The best kind of coach is not one who swoops in to rescue you, but one who is honest with you and encourages you to find the strength within yourself to move through difficult moments, so that you may discover your own strength.
  23. (p. 224) Through the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death saves us.
  24. (p. 225) Consider living, not in spite of the fact that it will all end, but because of it.
  25. (p. 244) When stress becomes sustained over long periods, our brain tends towards more habitual behaviors that demand less energy.
  26. (p. 251) When outbreaths are longer and more forceful than inbreaths, this slows the heart rate and calms the body.
  27. (p. 260) Mindfulness is not ultimate, unbroken concentration. It is the process of noticing when your mind shifts its focus and intentionally choosing to redirect that focus back to the present moment.
  28. (p. 274) Concealing shame keeps it going.
  29. (p. 278) Sometimes we are not happy because we are human and life is difficult a lot of the time.
  30. (p. 311) When we play the blame game, nobody wins.
  31. (p. 314) Gaining clarity on what matters most to you acts as a compass and a guide when we are unsure how to move forward.