Review: How to Make Good Things Happen by Marian Rojas Estapé, M.D.

Honestly, I’d skip this one. EstapĂ© is a psychiatrist in Spain and conceivably wrote this book to talk about neuroscience and how to make choices that make life better. But I really can’t count all the statements I disagree with in this book. Here are a few of them:

  1. “Failures, and how they are framed, are the most decisive aspect of anyone’s trajectory in life.” I mean, I do agree that failures and how we deal with them have a lot of meaning, but the most decisive aspect? I don’t know.
  2. “A person without a project cannot be happy.” I mean, I like a project as well as the next guy, but cannot be happy? Really? So my happiness when I’m on vacation and lying on a beach doing absolutely nothing is false?
  3. “It is always wiser to remain silent. Silence is the gatekeeper of intimacy.” I completely disagree with this one. We all know there are times when silence is better. But always? I see a ton of couples who are conflict avoidant and I can just tell you, their silence is doing nothing at all for their intimacy.
  4. “There is no good leader who is not a good person.” This is probably mostly true. But none? No one? Even good leaders can make bad mistakes.
  5. “With practice, humor, and willingness, you can improve if you just decide to.” and “If you really long for something, you’ll be able to manifest it.” I get that a lot of people believe in this kind of stuff. But I think it really discounts things like class systems, poverty and so on. There are a lot of people for whom just longing for something doesn’t do a damn thing.
  6. “Permanent anxiety opens the door to depression.” Maybe sometimes? But with most of my clients, they tend towards either depression or anxiety. I myself have struggled with depression most of my life, and I can tell you that anxiety has nothing to do with it.
  7. “Guilt demoralizes us; it allows no forward progress.” Hoo boy, I totally disagree with this one. I mean, we do carry toxic guilt that demoralizes. But regular guilt is good and does indeed allow forward progress. If I steal something and I feel guilty, that’s good; and forward progress comes from paying my dues/saying sorry/seeking forgiveness or reparations.
  8. “A person who hasn’t experienced a clinical depression doesn’t know the true nature of sadness.” What in the world? So my husband, who hasn’t been clinically depressed a day in his life, isn’t truly sad about his dad dying? I just don’t even get this one.
  9. “The only two things that really fulfill a human being completely are love and professional satisfaction.” I can certainly think of people for whom those two things do fulfill. But I hardly think those are the only two things that can really fulfill a person.

Overall, I found this book disorganized and pithy. The sequence of chapters did not make sense to me at all, and the kind of advice (like above) bordered on the ridiculous. If people could really make good things happen by “mind over matter” and so on, then no one would ever need medications or therapy. Seriously, I’ll put the Amazon link below, but I wouldn’t waste my money.

I received this book free from Net Galley for my review. The Amazon link above is an affiliate link.

Review: The Better Brain by Bonnie Kaplan & Julia Rucklidge

This is a book that argues that we can heal at least some mental health issues with better nutrition. Before you roll your eyes, know that this book is very scientific, and all of the claims these authors make are backed up by scientific studies which they go to great lengths to explain.

The reason why I feel like this book is important for therapists is because not every client will consider anti-depressants or other psychotropic medications, and not everyone is helped by these medications. When this happens, I try to brainstorm with my clients about non-medication options that might be helpful. It is well known that exercise helps greatly with depression and other mental health issues; but what about nutrition? On it’s face, it seems like a pipe dream. But the authors ask: why is it that we readily accept that better nutrition will improve our body, heart health and overall wellness – but we leave mental health out of it? Doesn’t it make sense that our brain also uses the nutrients we take in to do it’s job, and if we don’t feed it well, it won’t work as well?

Most of us think only about macronutrients (carbs, proteins & fats), but in this book the authors talk more about micronutrients – all of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to do their jobs. These micronutrients play a huge role in feeding the neurotransmitters in our brains (serotonin, dopamine, etc), and also keeping your telomeres longer, which is associated with healthy aging. For the most part, the authors recommend a Mediterranean diet in order to get all of the vitamins and minerals our body needs.

But they do realize that when depressed or in the throes of other mental health issues, diet changes might be impossible and supplements can be useful. 99% of supplements, though, have not been tested at all for nutrient value, so they recommend certain ones (which they do not get any money from). One thing to understand about supplements is that most scientific studies have focused on only one nutrient (like a B12 study for example); the authors believe this is why we haven’t been able to really see the effects of good micronutrients – the key is having a supplement with a breadth of vitamins and minerals (at least 30). The authors have done studies which show that these types of supplements can reduce aggression, ADHD and extreme stress.

They talk about how our soil (95% of North American soil) has been treated with Roundup or other glyphosate based herbicides, lowering the nutrient value in the soil. The problem is that glyphosate based herbicides increase inflammation, which has been positively associated with higher rates of depression. So eating organic food from healthy soil is really important.

This book would be a great recommendation for someone who is not getting as much benefit as they would like from their medications; or, for someone who is just really opposed to taking psychotropic medications. Although it seems too good to be true, if a client is suffering and not willing to take medications, why not try this as a way of feeling better? There are no negative side effects from getting better nutrition. Also, if you have a lot of clients who resist medication, it might be good to read this book for yourself so that you can make intelligent suggestions when it comes to nutrition and supplements. This book will be out April 20, 2021.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Net Galley for my review. The Amazon link above is an affiliate link. Summaries are not intended to replace the purchase of the book, but simply to save you time reading!

Review: A Cure for Darkness by Alex Riley

When I saw this book by Alex Riley, it looked like something that would be super interesting; and it was! I’m not sure exactly who the intended audience is for this book – it isn’t really solution based, but it is filled with a ton of very interesting information.

Riley begins the book by giving a lengthy history of depression treatments, mental health and psychotherapy (Freud, anyone?). I’m not sure if everyone will be as fascinated by this as me, but I’m a therapist so maybe not!

Riley talks about his own struggle with depression and the things that he has tried, but also goes into the myriad treatments that are out there for this disease. He talks about the differences between anti-depresssants (MAO inhibitors, SSRIs and tricyclics) and why some might work better for different people. He gives a history of ECT, which has gotten a bad name, but has been very effective historically for depression.

The most fascinating part of the book to me (and something that I really didn’t know, but should have!) is the connection between inflammation and depression. There is a clear connection between inflammation in the body and depression, so lowering your inflammation might help you more than anti-depressants will. Following a Mediterranean diet (which lowers inflammation) and not drinking alcohol (which raises inflammation) are places you can start. Also, intense exercise can raise inflammation, whereas moderate exercise 3 days a week might help.

Lastly, he talks about psychedelics and ketamine, and the new research about how it might be helpful. This is a really fascinating book and a must-read for anyone who wants to know more in general about depression.

Disclaimer: The Amazon link above is an affiliate link and I receive a small compensation for purchases made through this link. I received this book free from Net Galley for my review.