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Relationships = Your Health

From the time we're born, our brains capture data points based on our interactions with others. Based on these data points, our nervous system learns patterns of thinking, feeling, and responding that shape our health in endless ways. We are all parents, children, or partners; we all have relationships, past and present. Below are a list of books that will help you move towards health by reducing threats to your nervous system and increasing experiences of empathy, safety, and connection.



This book is so aptly named, it deserves a prize. The teenage brain is experiencing what can often seem like a natural disaster of activity and change, which can disrupt a household much like an earthquake might. Unfortunately, the changes that parents and family observe on the outside often lead to misunderstanding or discounting what's happening on the inside--at the cost of peace and connection at home. However, when parents come to know the underlying social and biological reasons for all the distancing that often comes with being a teenager, it can be a game-changer that creates increased connection and trust. This book addresses all of that. For parents of teens (or emerging teens), this is an indispensable guide that can shift the tone of your relationship and possibly the course of your teen's life.


Good Inside

Have you ever heard someone (maybe your own parents) say "There's no manual for parenting!" ? That is no longer true. This book by Dr. Becky, whose content @drbeckyatgoodinside I recommend to every single parent I come into contact with, is life changing (both for you AND your kids) if you're a parent. It teaches parents how to cultivate the things we REALLY want for our kids--resilience, confidence, flexibility, emotional problem solving, and everything else you can imagine. Despite being a psychologist myself, I've learned countless strategies and phrases from Dr. Becky's content that have changed the way I parent. I feel confident saying that if children are parented the way this book teaches, they would be at much lower risk for developing physical or mental health concerns later in life. It's that powerful. (See the book Attached and the other trauma-related books on this list for more about this concept).


Hold Me Tight

This book is an absolute MUST for anyone who wants to improve the quality of their partnership. In pop psychology, we hear so much about communication, "love languages," and strategies for cultivating a healthier relationship. Unfortunately, these myriad recommendations often lead us away from the scientific explanation for what is going "wrong" in intimate relationships--the science of attachment (see Attached book on the History list). Dr. Sue Johnson, the creator of what is arguably the most effective model of couples therapy (Emotionally Focused Therapy, or EFT), built a treatment model based on attachment and wrote this book to accompany that work. It turns out that when you look at each partner's attachment style in the context of their unique relationship, you are able to get down to what each person wants and needs from their significant other. This model has been known to help couples recover from the brink of divorce--it's that powerful and I can't recommend it enough.


Love Sense

I've noticed that many skeptics of therapy believe that emotions, love, and human connection are more akin to daydreams and stories than science and biology. This is an especially enticing idea when it comes to romantic relationships. Once you dive into this book however, it's hard to maintain that belief. Plainly said, the quality of our relationships dictate our human health and overall functioning. Once we're adults, romantic partnerships become our primary "attachment;" we know now through research that the patterns we engage in with our partners actually make or break the relationship itself. So what are we supposed to do with this information? As aware adults, our job is simply to make a choice: to learn how to love our partners in conscious, intentional ways that will nurture their biology, health, and sense of safety, or continue to pursue the relationship in a "figure-it-out-as-you-go" kind of way. I know which one I choose!


Mating in Captivity

Esther Perel is a renown couples therapist who is well known for her work in the domains of sex, desire, and erotic intelligence. Her stance, which she backs up with theory, years of practice, and clear concepts, is that couples can still have good (dare I say, GREAT) sex even in the context of long-term commitment and domestic responsibilities. While I don't work with couples, this book is a frequent recommendation whenever clients' relationships begin to feel dull, unfulfilling, or like they're running on autopilot. I would encourage just about everyone who is in a long-term, committed relationship to read this book.


Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents

This is one of the books I recommend most often to my clients. There is an interesting pattern in families that goes like this: Each new generation of children gets some mix of healthy and unhealthy parenting approaches. When those children become parents themselves, they often swear that they will do BETTER than their parents did. Those children have grown up with advanced science, higher education, more insight, increased cultural awareness of parenting as a job, and greater access to information than their parents did. They are, very often, more emotionally developed than their parents are. Think about it: if we do better raising our own children than our parents did, we will inherently cultivate humans that are more emotionally developed than WE ARE. While this means great things for the development of humanity, it often creates rifts, defensiveness, gaslighting, and struggle between adult children and their parents. How is all of this relevant to health? Parenting has EVERYTHING to do with attachment (see Attached book on the History list), which has EVERYTHING to do with how our nervous systems are tuned...Which has EVERYTHING to do with our health--even as adults. Learning how to understand our parents' patterns and healthy ways to deal with them can be an essential key to re-tuning our nervous systems and developing better physical and mental health.


The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

In a world where the only relationship training we get is what we saw growing up, a book like this is essential for bridging the gap between our inherently naive view of relationships and the actual skills required for our partnerships to be successful. John Gottman, one of the most recognized contributors to modern couples' psychology, has written this book after a lifetime of work on the subject. Here he distills complex theory and research down into basic principles and practices that work to develop and enhance partners' attachment and connection with each other. When implemented, these skills can truly change the quality of a relationship because of how they shift the "feel" of it for each partner. I highly encourage you to give them a try.

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