[#RapplerReads] Welcome the new year with these gentle, healing books

Marj Casal Handog

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[#RapplerReads] Welcome the new year with these gentle, healing books
Let this be the year we choose to be more kind to ourselves

Editor’s note: #RapplerReads is a project by the BrandRap team. We earn a commission every time you shop through the affiliate links below.

The new year used to be a time for setting unrealistic resolutions, only to find ourselves not being able to follow through within a few days. But after the last three years of living through a pandemic and a host of other challenges, we seem to have learned how to be more kind to ourselves. We now know that being able to make it through each day is already a hustle, there’s no need to demand more from ourselves.

And this year, it looks like people want to push it further. No, not by waking up at 4 am each day or cutting out sugar completely from your life. It’s by being more generous to ourselves, too. People are urging one another to let 2023 be the year they use their china even if there’s no special occasion, to spray on their expensive perfume while at home, to light that premium scented candle, and to finally write on that pristine leather-bound notebook they’ve been saving for years. 

To our fellow book lovers, we have our own bookish suggestion. Skip the usual self-help books that promise to whip you into shape if you follow their tried and tested drastic measures. Go for books that will soothe your mind and soul, those that will help you appreciate where you are now instead of making you want to live a different life. Slowing down and taking root can be tools for success (your own definition), too, you know. 

Here are some of our recommendations:

I Used to Have a Plan: But Life Had Other Ideas  by Alessandra Olanow

When I was in high school, I made a life plan for myself. The plan was to study psychology, become a doctor, specialize in some field, make loads of money, then retire somewhere abroad. I ended up taking communications as a degree and became a writer and video producer (and quite far from my financial freedom dreams) instead. Life rarely happens as planned, and I find this very frustrating. Books like these, however, remind me that I’m not the only one who goes through this. My plans seldom come true, but that’s okay because sometimes life teaches you to be stronger, shows you something newer, and takes you somewhere even better than you originally hoped for.

This book by Alessandra Olanow is comforting. Its pages are filled with drawings and little notes that somehow capture how I feel every time something doesn’t go as intended or I make a huge and costly mistake. It brings me through a journey of grieving, accepting that pain exists and it’s okay to feel pain, and slowly bringing back pieces of myself that have fallen apart.

I wouldn’t call this a self-help book per se. Every story, every bit of text and drawing here comes from Olanow’s own experiences and would definitely not resonate with everyone. I, however, find consolation from her words and most especially from her visual interpretation of what she has gone through. It’s as if she drew these for me and not for herself or anyone else.

– Julian Cirineo, Senior BrandRap producer

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

When was the last time you did absolutely nothing? No wait, don’t bring out the influencers with hot takes on working. Hear me out. Nothing, as in, intentionally going out of your way to not give in to your notifications, your negative thoughts, or anything trying to grab your attention.

Although doing nothing has long had a bad rep amid today’s hustle culture, author and Stanford professor Jenny Odell argues that the ability to be present is actually a skill in the modern world – one that can be achieved by being brave enough to pause.

In this self-help book, Odell dissects the capitalist mindset that monetizes our leisure and encourages toxic productivity. Although the title is pretty straightforward, it isn’t saying that we should ignore the world as it burns, but actually be mindful of where we divert our attention. Is it on the drivel, or is it on the things that matter?

It’s not exactly a quick read, but “How To Do Nothing” will ultimately teach us how to rest and tend our garden this 2023. Just like the fresh slate that the new year provides, we have to start with nothing so we can be present to do the things that mean everything.

– Saab Lariosa, BrandRap producer

Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make – and Keep – Friends  by Marisa G. Franco, PhD

Loneliness can feel deafening, debilitating, and worst of all, like it’s all your fault. For people who tend to put themselves down, creating meaningful connections can be difficult. “I’m not interesting enough.” “I’m too embarrassed to say hi.” “I won’t text my friends, they probably think I’m annoying.” I know I’ve come to these misled conclusions in my own head, and at the end of the day, it takes a toll on self-worth.

“Platonic,” however, tells its reader that it’s worth it to put yourself out there, because you’re not as terrible as what that voice in your head makes you out to be. To convince the most self-critical reader (such as myself), Franco uses scientific findings along with real anecdotes from interviewees of different demographics to show that more likely than not, people will accept your vulnerability, generosity, and most importantly, initiative.

Another foundation of the book is to introduce its reader to three attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant. Understanding where you typically fall will become an essential tool to navigate how you tend to nurture – or hinder – the growth of your relationships. Also, you aren’t a terrible person for being anxious or avoidant – it’s just your current state of being.

For those who are feeling lost in life, deep friendships are a healing force that fuels self-discovery and reassurance. As the book says, connections make us ourselves. “Platonic” is a soothing read for those who feel alone and misunderstood in the world, and an encouraging one to go out and do something about it.

– Giselle Barrientos, Senior BrandRap producer

How Do We Know Ourselves? Curiosities and Marvels of the Human Mind by David G. Myers

I’m an avid reader of self-help books. I’ve read books on how to manage my time, how to make better habits and stick to them, and an assortment of how to become a better version of myself. Don’t get me wrong, these books have helped me improve some areas of my life. But I guess after being told how to do things a number of times, I started craving books that would help me understand why I do things instead.

David G. Myers’ “How Do We Know Ourselves?” is one of those books. I’m glad I picked it up as the book I welcome the new year with. 

Instead of bombarding his readers with just another list of things to do, he shares interesting findings from the latest studies about human psychology. Things that can help us learn more about ourselves – like why we gravitate towards places or vocations that sound similar to our names, why we fear the wrong things, why we usually think we’re right but actually we’re not. 

I think that by first understanding why we do things, tips on how to do things will make more sense and will help us filter what’s really applicable to us or not. By doing so, we can (hopefully) feel less like a failure – because we’re not. Sometimes, it’s just not the right fit.

– Marj Handog, BrandRap Editor

How about you? What book did you welcome 2023 with? – Rappler.com

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Marj Casal Handog

Marj Casal heads the content team of BrandRap, Rappler’s sales and marketing arm. She helps create native advertising campaigns for brands like San Miguel Brewery, Shell, GCash, Grab, BDO, and more.