10 Mindfulness Books That Will Change Your Life
Looking for the best mindfulness book? Interested in meditation or stress reduction? Read this article to discover our list of 10 best books on mindfulness!
It can be difficult to try and stay in the moment and acknowledge our negative emotions without letting them control us. This is why mindfulness can be an essential practice to implement in your life. Research has proven that it’s associated with higher happiness levels and greater purpose in life.
With the plethora of self-help books, it can be tough to know where to start, especially if you’re looking for mindfulness exercises rooted in science-based practices. Our list of the ten best mindfulness books that will change your life comprises recommendations from psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, and leading voices in the field, such as Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around us.
While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice daily.
You’re mindful whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses or state of mind. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re remodeling the physical structure of your brain.
Research further shows that mindfulness can reduce stress, improve physical health, and raise your quality of life.
Mindfulness books are a great way to get you started in your practice or as a resource that sits on your bedside table for you to pick up later whenever you need a boost in spirit or inspiration.
Whether you’re looking for effective ways to de-stress or want to learn more about the science behind mindfulness, these books can be an informative, calming read. If anything, they can help you carve out space for yourself and focus on one thing at a time.
1. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This one-size-fits-all mindfulness handbook will teach you the concepts, get you started with exercises, and sit on your bedside table as a welcome reference. The chapters are short and self-contained, so you can dip in wherever you want.
The author of this book is the mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn. He wrote it in 1994, and it has remained a bestseller and classic. Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979, which was then associated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The brevity of this read makes it suitable for a wider audience and is meant to provide quick and easy access to the essence of mindfulness.
Wherever You Go, There You Are has short, self-contained chapters that offer entertaining personal stories from the author and features mindfulness exercises.
2. Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence — The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice by Daniel J. Siegel
For the mindfulness skeptics out there who are interested in how this practice works, scientifically speaking, Aware is the book for you. Neuroscientist Daniel J. Siegal writes an in-depth analysis of the science underlying mindfulness meditation’s effects.
Siegal provides practical instruction for mastering the Wheel of Awareness, a life-changing tool for cultivating focus, presence, and peace in one’s day-to-day life.
An in-depth look at the science that underlies meditation’s effectiveness, this book teaches readers how to harness the power of the principle where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows. Siegel reveals how developing a Wheel of Awareness practice to focus attention, open awareness, and cultivate kind intentions can help you grow a healthier brain and reduce your life’s fear, anxiety, and stress.
Whether you have no experience with a reflective practice or are an experienced practitioner, Aware is a hands-on guide that will enable you to become more focused and present. This book is slightly more dense than others on the topic but is packed with ample evidence about the positive impact of mindfulness. This mindfulness book is for the interested learner willing to take more time to digest technical information.
3. A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein
If you are looking for a more active reading experience, this mindfulness book is for you. This workbook teaches readers mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques. Mindfulness author and teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, who also appears on this list as the author of the book Wherever You Go, There You Are, developed this program.
MBSR is designed to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, panic, depression, and chronic pain. This workbook is not about getting rid of stressors in your life but rather developing healthier ways of dealing with them.
On the publisher’s book website, you can listen to mindfulness meditations, yoga instructions, and breathing exercises. You can also download several accessories to the book, including meditation transcripts, practice logs, and worksheets.
4. Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
If you tend to be too tough on yourself, this mindfulness book is for you. Self-Compassion offers concrete action plans for dealing with issues that may arise in our day-to-day lives, focusing on being kinder to ourselves.
The research of Dr. Kristin Neff and others strongly suggests that people who are more self-compassionate lead healthier, more productive lives than those who are self-critical. And the feelings of security and self-worth provided by self-compassion are highly stable. Self-Compassion steps in precisely when we fall, allowing us to get up and try again.
Dr. Neff helps readers understand that compassion isn’t only something we should apply to others. Just as we’d have compassion for a good friend going through a hard time or feeling inadequate somehow, why not for ourselves? Many people believe they need to be self-critical to motivate themselves, but they feel anxious, incompetent, and depressed. The research on Self-Compassion reveals that this act of self-love does not work to encourage self-indulgence but rather helps us to see ourselves clearly and make needed changes.
5. Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson
If you want to learn more about the history of mindfulness and why some assumptions about it are false, this book is for you. Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson’s Altered Traits show us the truth about what meditation can do for us and how to get the most out of it.
In Altered Traits, readers understand how concepts grounded in Eastern spiritual practices became the focus of neuroscience, psychology, counseling, and medicine.
Goleman and Davidson demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will only get us to the highest level of lasting positive change with specific additions. More than mere hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, all of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training.
6. Unf*ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper
Starting something new can be difficult when we’re in a bad mental state, but mindfulness may be what we need to address our anxious, depressive, and angry responses to triggers in our lives.
Our brains do their best to help us out, but they can often be detrimental to our growth — having meltdowns, getting addicted to things, or shutting down completely at the worst possible moments. Your brain knows it’s not good to do these things, but it can’t help it sometimes, especially if it’s obsessing about trauma it can’t overcome.
That’s where this no-nonsense mindfulness book comes in. With humor, patience, science, and some expletives, Dr. Faith explains what’s going on in your mind and how to rewire it. Unf*ck Your Brain talks readers through retraining their brains to respond appropriately to the non-emergencies of everyday life and to deal effectively with old or newly acquired traumas (particularly post-traumatic stress disorder). Dr. Faith helps her readers understand mindfulness techniques and how to apply them to their lives.
7. The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Miracle of Mindfulness is one of the best books for beginners or people wanting to explore mindfulness for the first time. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk who played a key role in introducing mindfulness to the Western world. This book, first published in 1975, has aged well. It has many different editions available, plus accompanying online meditation exercises.
This book is regarded as a classic and is beloved for its kind and lightly humorous tone. It advocates the expansion of meditation into action through mindful speaking, acting, working, and engaging the world.
It has seven short chapters introducing mindfulness meditation and one long chapter containing exercises to start you in your practice and provide a reference for the future. The book features 11 black-and-white drawings by Vo-Dinh Mai. Some exercises involve sitting and focusing on the body or breathing. Others will help you practice mindfulness during daily activities, such as ‘washing the dishes’ or ‘a slow-motion bath.’
8. Mindful Movement in Psychotherapy by Paul Salmon
This mindfulness book covers a critical missing piece from the stereotypical image of psychotherapy — movement. Salmon, a clinical psychologist, teaching in the department of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Louisville, says that movement is traditionally viewed as outside the realm of talk therapy.
Salmon is also a certified exercise physiologist, registered yoga teacher, personal trainer, and mindfulness teacher. He encourages clinicians to consider incorporating purposeful, mindful movement in their interventions. He is not talking simply about exercise but about movement infused with an awareness of what’s going on in body and mind, which can provide a way to rekindle appreciation for our ability to move and be physically active. Moving, he emphasizes, is baked into our DNA, but our lifestyles have greatly reduced it. Physical activity can create a tangible experience that helps us be more than passive bodies with overactive brains, providing an anchor to moment-to-moment reality.
Mindful Movement in Psychotherapy offers five progressively more engaging ways to bring movement into therapy. Salmon then defines the mindful movement and makes a case for it, reviewing how mindful movement is used in existing clinical programs. From there, the book offers practical applications for various conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and addiction. There are also 29 audio-guided practices that purchasers of the book can use personally or with clients.
9. Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience by Christopher Willard
Growing Up Mindful is one of the best mindfulness books to help parents, caregivers, educators, and counselors share mindfulness skills with children and teens. It offers 75 mindfulness exercises with adaptations to meet the needs of a wide range of ages. Willard also created an appendix to match exercises to your child’s personality and emotional development.
This mindfulness book can help kids increase their curiosity, reduce anxiety, and soothe the pain of trauma. It helps children and adults improve focus, decision-making, and stress response. Willard introduces two unique positive responses to stress: ‘attending’ and ‘befriending.’ Growing Up Mindful also contains a chapter that helps adults build the foundation of their mindfulness practice.
Willard’s book is relevant to this day and age. He has a modern take on the mindful use of social media and technology, engages the whole family in mindfulness, and summarizes information in simple illustrations and figures.
10. Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James R. Doty
This mindfulness book is widely considered one of the best memoirs on meditation. Into the Magic Shop opens with a story of how the neurosurgeon author used meditation to help him save the life of a 4-year-old boy after a mistake by an assistant in the operating room.
The book is the story of Doty’s journey as a child of poverty, with a mother with depression and a father with alcohol use disorder, to becoming a world-class brain surgeon. Doty was taught meditation after school in a neighborhood magic shop. Into the Magic Shop details these meditation exercises at length.
Doty’s lyrical writing and his anchor in modern science propelled this memoir to the New York Times bestseller list. This mindfulness memoir focuses on combined biological and spiritual healing through a riveting story, all the while giving readers tangible meditation exercises they can take with them.
Read life-changing mindfulness books with Headway
You’re not alone if you’re overwhelmed with finding time to read all these books. It can be difficult to fit in time for yourself amid juggling friends, family, and work. Listening to audiobook summaries is a great option if you want to enhance your reading list and grow your knowledge in as little time as possible.
Headway is a bite-size learning app that can be a valuable tool for those who need learning on the go. With this app, you can read or listen to short book summaries that offer the key ideas from each book, track your progress, master new skills, and achieve fun and easy growth to crush your learning goals — 15 minutes at a time.
Looking to broaden your reading horizons and improve your life with mindfulness? Interested in personal development and life-changing insights? Download Headway to access various 15-minute summaries of books by your favorite authors.
What is the best way to learn mindfulness?
Mindfulness comes in many shapes and forms. If you’re new to mindfulness, the many avenues available may give you decision fatigue. One of the most commonly used approaches is mindful meditation. If you are unsure where to start, A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein is a great active reading experience to work on various mindfulness and stress reduction techniques.
Can reading help with mindfulness?
Reading is so much a part of our everyday lives that we take it for granted – text messages, the banners that run across our televisions, the ads that pop up. And yet, reading can be a crucial opportunity for mindfulness — the ability to be in the present moment, aware while withholding judgment, both inside and outside of yourself. The act of reading itself can help with mindfulness. Reading a mindfulness book makes it all the better!
What is the best mindfulness book?
There are many self-help and mindfulness books out there, making it tough to know where to start and difficult to choose only one best book. Our list of 10 best books on mindfulness is a great place to start. Universally, Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabbat-Zinn is one of the most popular mindfulness books.