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happiness

Sep 16 2013

Inspirations for a healthier life

by Jesse M

Reading Glenda’s post from last month about losing weight got me thinking about books I’ve read over the years that have inspired me to alter my diet or exercise habits. These are not diet or exercise books though. Rather, these books inspire lifestyle changes by providing information that challenges the reader to think about their everyday behaviors in a different way.

Stuffed and starved coverStuffed and starved: markets, power, and the hidden battle for the world’s food system by Raj Patel

In this eye-opening book, author Raj Patel takes readers on a journey through the global food system, demonstrating how both the problems of malnourishment and obesity are both symptomatic of the worldwide corporate food monopoly. Well sourced and argued, this book may make you think twice about alternatives when considering your next trip to the supermarket.

Born to run coverBorn to run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen by Christopher McDougall

An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? Part investigation of the biomechanics of running, part examination of ultra-marathons and their enthusiasts, McDougall takes readers into Mexico’s Copper Canyons to meet and learn from the Tarahumara Indians, who have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury utilizing only the simplest footwear. By the end of this book you’ll want to get up and go for a run yourself.

Hungry Planet coverHungry planet: what the world eats by Faith D’Aluisio

This award-winning book profiles 30 families from around the world and offers detailed descriptions of weekly food purchases; photographs of the families at home, at market, and in their communities; and a portrait of each family surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries. The photography is the real star of this book, especially the images of each family with one week of food. The disparity from country to country (and in some cases, across different regions of the same country) is often startling, and may cause readers to take a closer look at how much they themselves are consuming.

Stumbling on happiness coverStumbling on happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Written for a lay audience by Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, the central thesis of this book is that, through perception and cognitive biases, people imagine the future poorly, in particular what will make them happy. Gilbert discusses these issues and suggests ways that we can more accurately predict our future feelings and motivations. A major takeaway for me from this book was that if I wasn’t feeling motivated to do something now, it isn’t likely I’ll be miraculously more motivated later. This applies to all sorts of things in my life I have a tendency to procrastinate on, such as exercising, doing laundry, or starting a diet.

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The older I get, the more things I find to geek out that I never knew I enjoyed such as science fiction, reality television (RuPaul’s Drag Race is my current favorite) and, increasingly, self-help books.  I love the idea of growing and transforming oneself into the person you’ve always thought you could be (I guess that’s why I’ve gotten so addicted to a competition show about drag queens). Below are some of my favorite titles for helping you cherish your life and, um, remember your spirit (is that something that Oprah would say?):

Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man by Steve Harvey: This is a book that I never thought I’d have a crack at. When I requested it here at DCPL I was approximately # 148 on the list. Either way, it was worth the wait and I was done reading it in 2 days. Harvey, one of America’s Kings Of Comedy, offers down-to-earth yet highly insightful (and frequently hilarious) words of wisdom about men, women and relationships.

Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson: This little book caught my eye and challenged me to read it. “How can anyone be against happiness?” I asked myself as I read the back cover blurbs. The thing that I truly enjoyed about this book is that, despite its slightly snarky yellow frowny-faced cover, it was quite a soulful and erudite book. Author Wilson offers an intriguing discussion on what he calls generative melancholy, a feeling of discontentment that, if one allows himself to feel it, can be channeled into positive endeavors and authentic, emotionally-rich living. I’m not sure I explained that properly so I’d suggest simply reading the book.

The Shy Single: A Bold Guide To Dating For The Less-Than-Bold Dater by Bonnie Jacobson:  Shyness is something that I’ve lived with since I was a kid. I’ve outgrown my social awkwardness for the most part but I still find myself being anxious and feeling out of place in big gatherings, shindigs or on a dance floor. I can live with being introverted but I do often wish I could just be myself a little more. Jacobson’s book offers simple exercises, anecdotes and wisdom about the nature of shyness and finding ways to push through the anxiety.

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