The poet Joseph Addison once said that "reading is to the mind is what exercise is to the body" — and multiple studies have shown that cracking open a book can sharpen your focus, reduce stress and help you sleep better.
Emily Ballesteros, a burnout management coach in Seattle, considers reading to be her favorite act of self-care. "It encourages you to slow down, and focus on one thing," she tells CNBC Make It. "It's almost impossible to read a book while you're doing the dishes, for example – you have to give it your full attention, and I love that."
Reading can be especially helpful during the winter holidays because not only can it improve your mood, Ballesteros says, but it can also teach you how to live a happier, healthier life in 2022. Here are her five favorite books about mental health and self-care:
1. 'Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less'
By Greg McKeown
What can you let go of in your life to be happier?
In his book, McKeown, a leadership and business strategist, teaches readers the secret to achieving success without burning out: Get very clear on what feels essential to you and don't overthink or overexert yourself.
Ballesteros calls "Essentialism" an "easy read" and her "top recommendation" for someone who is experiencing burnout and has lost sight of what's important to them in their lives.
"The book pushes you to think about what is truly essential for you to live your most fulfilling life, not just for you to check off all these boxes that you might not even want to be checking off," she says.
2. 'Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving'
By Celeste Headlee
This one has a lot of famous fans including "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert, who said Headlee's writing could "save lives."
"Do Nothing" is a deep-dive investigation into the roots of capitalism, work and our obsession with productivity. It encourages readers to invest in quiet, leisure time and their relationships.
Headlee points out, for example, that people used to work with the sun – then the invention of candles and light bulbs allowed people to work much later in the day. "Work began to follow us everywhere," Ballesteros notes.
This book "is less action-oriented, but it is a helpful reminder that we're not supposed to be working this way, where we're constantly overwhelmed, as different things are always demanding our time and energy," Ballesteros says.
3. 'Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life'
By Henry Cloud
If you're a people-pleaser who has trouble saying "no," this book is for you.
Psychologist Henry Cloud explores the science behind setting boundaries in order to help readers unlearn the guilt that prevents them from setting limits in their lives. He also offers tools and talking points to better manage your boundaries.
"'Boundaries' is a good how-to guide for people who don't know how to set boundaries," Ballesteros says. "It also reminds you that you're not responsible for the way people respond to your boundaries, and that it's okay if certain limits upset people – which is a message a lot of people need to hear."
4. 'High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way'
By Brendon Burchard
Making the decision to change your life can feel empowering, but taking the steps to do so can often lead to confusion, overwhelm and fear. You might ask yourself: "Where do I start?" or "Is this right?"
Burchard, a performance coach, spent three years and close to $1 million studying high achievers to determine the six habits everyone should adopt to optimize their personal and professional lives.
"It's a great combination of engaging stories and proof of how developing these habits made these people more effective," Ballesteros says. Some of Burchard's tips include demonstrating courage, recharging throughout the day and setting clear steps to achieve goals.
5. 'Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones'
By James Clear
Commitment is the biggest challenge Ballesteros sees people run into when they decide to incorporate a new healthy habit into their life.
Clear's best-selling guide, "Atomic Habits," explains how to use small changes to achieve big results. It also talks about how to overcome a lack of motivation and how to get back on track when you fall off course.
But most importantly, Ballesteros says, it reveals the secret to getting a habit to stick: Tie the habit to your identity.
"Sometimes you have to be willing to fully identify as a person that does that habit, like reading or walking every day, in order to make it happen in such a busy world," she says. "The right habits can help you become the person you want to be."
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