Self-help is big business. And if self-help is empowering people, then it’s also common sense that health professionals are prescribing more than conventional medicine to their patients being treated for various psychological problems.
On one level, self-help could be something like surrounding ourselves with things that lift our thoughts – photos of family and friends, art, flowers, etcetera. Things that remind us of the good, and can make us forget mundane problems, or at least to put them in perspective. And on another level, other than enjoyment, we could read books in the hope of escaping or healing our issues.
Some of my favourite “spirit-lifters” come from my local $2 shop. That’s not its official name but you probably know those well stocked variety stores. I found a large, glass diamond that catches the light, perched on my windowsill. It reminds me of the many facets to my life: I’m a businesswoman, a wife, an active participant in my church, and a volunteer.
Five pebbles adorn my desk etched with: Love. Faith. Hope. Peace. Trust. I’ve found they can be as powerful as the Bible story where the shepherd boy David slew the armour-clad giant with a stone aimed just right. My pebbles have been very handy for days when work stress seems all-consuming. Not for throwing at the wall (or a colleague!), but for exercising my mind with the spiritual qualities associated with each, to obliterate the fear or anxiety that would hold me back from progress.
Have you heard of bibliotherapy? Some recent local and world news headlines are hailing: “Don’t pop a pill, read a book”(1); “The medicinal power of literature: Books on prescription” (2); “GPs to prescribe library books to combat anxiety, depression…”(3); “GPs to prescribe self-help books for mental health problems” (4).
Several NSW libraries are participating in a pilot program due to launch in May 2013 called “Books on Prescription”. GPs and other health professionals are invited to partake by recommending self-help books to patients being treated for psychological issues.
Though the “self-help” concept isn’t new, it is a positive development for patients to be encouraged and reminded today, that there is ‘mind medicine’ as well as prescription medicine.
A book helped me to heal my life and get back on track. My husband’s work demanded that we relocate often, which meant we were never in one place long enough for me to build meaningful networks. After several years of this peripatetic lifestyle we landed up in the Isle of Man. Though it’s a beautiful island, the cold, grey days made me very depressed. Having no family nearby, and very few belongings, added to a terrible feeling of hopelessness.
Feeling at the end of my rope, I picked up a book(5) given to me years ago, and it became my lifeline. The last chapter titled, “Fruitage” contains 100 pages of people’s testimonials about both mental and physical regeneration just through the ideas in the book. Reading these helped clear my mind until I felt buoyant enough for us to work on a plan for the future. Our next move turned out to be the country that would become our home – Australia – though I’d never been before, it beckoned like a promised land! This experience was a turning point for my mental wellbeing and for our marriage.
The glass diamond and the pebbles on my desk are mere reminders of unlimited spiritual qualities – the mental strength any of us can draw on in times of need. It’s good to know that no matter how big the “giant” problem is, it could only take one well-aimed stone to treat (destroy) it.
Self-help is just that. Tools that empower us to change our lives by first changing our thinking. What inspires you to lift your thoughts out of mental strife?
(1) Sydney Morning Herald
(2) Independent UK
(3) Telegraph UK
(4) Guardian UK
(5) Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy