11 Feel-Good Books That Will Warm Your Heart

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

When I think about the times in my life when my anxiety & depression were at their worst, I spot something else those periods of time have in common: I was not reading any books. These days, reading is my favorite go-to for an escape from the real world, & it's probably no coincidence that my anxiety has been much more well-controlled than usual in the time since I recommitted to regular reading.

Studies have shown that reading does, in fact, reduce anxiety.

Reducing anxiety is good for your health.

What's good for your health is good for your body.

And what's good for your body is good for you!

February 2nd is National Wear Red Day in the U.S., a day devoted to women's heart health & to overall wellness. In anticipation of this educational day, I'm one of a few Cleveland bloggers partnering with the American Heart Associationto talk about preventing heart disease, the number-one killer of American women. The AHA's Go Red For Women® movement aims to provide women with the tools & resources to reduce their risk for heart disease & stroke.

Anxiety & stress can cause high blood pressure, asthma, ulcers, bowel issues, & migraines, & can have other negative effects on the body. Stress can also lead us to seek unhealthy ways of coping, including drinking, smoking, & doing drugs - all of which are, of course, not good for the heart or body. In short, reducing stress can reduce your risk of heart disease & other ailments, contributing to your overall health & wellness.

So let's talk about my favorite healthy way to relax my mind & body: reading!

In partnership with the Cleveland American Heart Association, I've curated a list of some of my favorite feel-good reads that will warm your heart (in the proverbial way, of course) & help you chill out. So go read a book - it's good for your heart!


To Motivate a Positive Outlook...

Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
Sure, "No" is a complete sentence - but are you saying "no" to too many things? Are you saying "yes" enough? Grey's Anatomy creator & all-around media powerhouse Shonda Rimes (a perpetual naysayer, apparently) shares her experiences in saying yes to all manner of experiences, an effort to push her b oundaries & test her comfort zone. Exhausting? Sure - but the results are worth it, & they may just inspire you to a few more yeses, too.

To Make You Feel Nostalgic for the Past...

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
When Ava interviews her 85-year-old Grandma Addie for a school project, she's enraptured by the detailed & fascinating stories her grandmother tells of growing up in Boston as a Jewish immigrant during the turn of the century. With humor & grace, Addie weaves lifetime of tales of friendship, family, feminism, & more, stories so engaging you'll feel like she's your own grandmother.

To Remind You to Cherish Friendships...

A Man Called Ove by Frederick Bachman
This book snuck up on me! I didn't initially like it, but the further I got into the story, the more I found myself enamored of it. Curmudgeonly Ove, widowed & newly unemployed, is planning to take his own life - until his meets neighbors who, despite his best efforts, become friends - & eventually begin to feel like family - who make his life worth living.

To Escape into Another World...

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I would've thought them too obvious to include in such a list, but when I learned that a coworker of mine has never read any of these classic books, I realized that I need to preach the gospel. When you want to get your mind off the real world, there's no better way to do it than by visiting the wizarding world. Just reading about Hogwarts is enough to make you feel warm & cozy, & there's nothing more soothing than getting lost in the literal magic of this beloved series. It gets better with every reread!

To Tap Into the Feeling of Young Love...

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Try to remember your teenage days: Was there any feeling more wonderful (&, OK, more agonizing) than that feeling of first love? Blitt's YA romance novel is so much more than that, delving deep into the personalities & personal struggles of teens Abby & Zeke, who meet during a summer French class & fall for one another, despite the fact that they couldn't be more different. This is a light-hearted but well-written read that will have you feeling nostalgic about those feelings of first love.

To Feel Inspired to Fight for a Life You Adore...

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
This is the second memoir from bestselling author & activist Melton, who created the online community Momastery. It tackles difficult topics like self-esteem, eating disorders, mental illness, & marital strife (she has since divorced from her longtime husband & remarried soccer star Abby Wambach). I promise, the book is not nearly as touchy-feely as the title makes it sound like it should be - & by the time you finish it, you'll feel ready to take on the world, warts & all.

To Welcome Old Age with Grace...

I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
This collection of short stories from the late, great Nora Ephron doesn't sound like it ought to be uplifting - & it isn't always, because life isn't, either. Overall, though, it's an honest, hilarious, & heart-warming look at what it's like to grow old as a woman in today's world, & if you've ever worried about aging (who among us hasn't?), this is the perfect book to help you approach it with a healthy sense of humor & readiness.

To Get You Laughing Out Loud....

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
Indian-American Buzzfeed writer Scaachi Koul is a twentysomething with stories to tell & the perfect voice for telling them. Her collection of personal essays are deep & powerful, but she manages to tell them with a cleverness & wit that keep the book from feeling too painfully heavy, even when she's addressing subjects that are. Bonus: The bright pink & yellow cover art is of the feel-good variety, especially on dreary days.

To Inspire You to Fight for Your Life...

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Even if you've seen the movies & think you know this story, Collin's YA trilogy will suck you into the world of Panem, a dystopian world consisting of 12 struggling districts under the thumb of an opulent - & oppressive - Capitol. When teenage archer & survivalist Katniss Everdeen is chosen to fight in the annual Hunger Games, a death-match Olympics from which only one competitor emerges alive, she starts a revolution no one expected - least of all the Capitol.

To Activate Your Imagination...

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Even if you're not a person who considers fantasy your genre jam, Mafi tells a story so beautiful & so imaginative that you can't help but fall in love with the world she creates & the characters she introduces. Alice, marked with milk-white skin & hair in a world of brilliant color, embarks on a journey through the made-up land of magical Ferenwood in an attempt to rescue her long-lost father - & what a colorful, magical, marvelous journey it is.

To Encourage You to Be Yourself...

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Soon to become a full-length film, this YA novel tells the story of Simon, a very closeted gay teenager who has only told one person about his sexuality - his anonymous pen pal, also closeted, whose identity he does not know. As Simon determines just how to share his secret, he wonders: Will his pen pal like him when he does? What about his family & friends? Simon's courage & humor will have you thinking about your own identities & how to better live as your authentic self.

To learn about more about heart health & healthy living, join me & other Cleveland-area bloggers on Friday, Feb. 2nd, at the 2018 Go Red for Women Expo & Luncheon, hosted by the American Heart Association. 

Can't attend? Follow the Cleveland American Heart Association on FacebookTwitter, & Instagram for ongoing tips about healthy living in 2018. Cheers to that!

Disclosure: The Cleveland American Heart Association invited me to write about heart health & to promote the Cleveland Go Red for Women Expo and Luncheon in exchange for a ticket to attend the event. All opinions - & book reviews! - are my own.

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