New Year, New You: 11 Books to Inspire Renewal
Wednesday Jan 10th, 2024
Whether you're trying to curb distractions or awaken awe, these new health and wellness books will feed your body, mind, and spirit.
As surely as the ball drops at midnight, January ushers in thoughts of renewal. These latest titles in health, self-help and wellness offer moments of introspection, lessons on how to make a fresh start and thought-provoking new perspectives on what it means to live and age well.
1. 12 WEEKS TO A SHARPER YOU by Sanjay Gupta
Two years ago, CNN’s chief medical correspondent wrote about staving off brain decline in Keep Sharp. Since then, he says it has become clearer that preventing and even treating dementia is influenced by lifestyle and other daily choices. This is the hands-on, actionable follow up, full of specific and practical tools around better sleep, nutrition, movement and more. Likewise, NutritionFacts.org founder Michael Greger dives into peer-reviewed anti-aging medical research and supplies methods on how to grow healthier as one grows older with How Not to Age.
2. ATTENTION SPAN by Gloria Mark
As a California-based expert on the social impact of digital media and a professor of human-computer interaction, Mark studies interruption for a living. Here she identifies four types of attention – including kinetic attention, a new kind of brain function arising from our relationship to the digital world – with strategies for regaining control over our fractured relationships with focus, time, and tech.
3. AWE by Dacher Keltner
Keltner, the psychologist who consulted on Pixar’s Inside Out, a nuanced crowd-pleaser about emotional intelligence, explores the little-understood emotion of awe in light of new science. He convincingly argues the effects of experiencing everyday wonder – from planning for awe and engaging with it via dance, for example, to looking up at the incomprehensibly vast night sky – can be transformative. Mike Rucker’s The Fun Habit similarly considers the benefits emotional intelligence, so we’re calling it now: pleasure is officially a 2023 wellness trend.
4. THE KEYS TO KINDNESS by Claudia Hammond
The BBC presenter’s previous hit, The Art of Rest, posited that leisure is essential to living well. Structured around seven tenets, her latest book draws on new psychological and neuro-scientific research that defines kindness and its effects and is a revitalizing prescription for leading a kinder life.
5. HAPPIER HOUR by Cassie Holmes
Holmes, a social psychologist at UCLA, combines her research into behavioural economics and marketing with compelling arguments (and accessible lessons) about prioritizing what matters and optimizing one’s time, to make the absolute most of the hours, days, and years that we have.
6. HOW TO CALM YOUR MIND by Chris Bailey
The Ottawa-based productivity expert offers explanations, techniques, and tips to resist the dopamine rush and stave off anxiety. He’s clear that the premise of the book stems from his own struggle with the hyper-stimulus and burnout of productivity, which was particularly challenging during the pandemic’s shifting work and life expectations. He suggests ways to think about the effects of efficiency and be more present (both for companies assessing their culture and individuals themselves), and how to resist the dopamine rush, quiet the mind and ultimately thrive.
7. ON BELONGING by Kim Samuel
A path to emotional and spiritual connectedness in the ongoing social-isolation crisis is at the heart of this book by a globe-trotting Montreal-based activist and educator. Like Feeling Seen, Jody Carrington’s new roadmap to reconnection, Samuel has studied the human need to belong and her how-to grows out of stories, conversations, and research. Plus, it’s endorsed by both Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mary Jordan and the author’s godfather, legendary producer Quincy Jones.
8. THE GOOD LIFE by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz
The Harvard Study of Adult Development, begun in 1938, is the world’s longest scientific study of happiness. Covering two generations from the same families, the original 724 participants and more than 1,300 of their descendants yielded meaningful data for the authors (the project’s director and associate director, respectively), and their distilled insights illuminate which aspects of our lives and relationships – career, romance and family – are the most beneficial to develop.
9. THE SWEDISH ART OF AGING EXUBERANTLY
by Margareta Magnusson
In this follow-up to her delightful 2017 debut (and international bestseller) about “death cleaning” (think: Marie Kondo, but make it Nordic), Swedish author Magnusson, 86, dispenses entertaining, blunt, and humorous personal anecdotes. Her memories inform her advice and illustrate how to age gracefully, deal with loss and live your best life (whatever your age); as a bonus, she includes an appendix of helpful conversational prompts for discussing difficult but important topics with loved ones.
10. WHAT DO YOU WANT OUT OF LIFE? by Valerie Tiberius
Tiberius, a philosophy professor at the University of Minnesota, is preoccupied by short-term goals, resolutions and the fundamental values that drive them. According to the book’s editor, understanding the meaning of these deeper motivators will enable readers “to choose the right goals and resolutions for ourselves; we’ll stand a better chance of achieving them – or scrapping some altogether.”
11. WINTER SWIMMING by Susanna Søberg
Interest in cold swimming surged during the pandemic (see also: Growing Old, Growing Cold, the recent memoir by Canadian playwright Kathleen McDonnell, 75). This guide by a Danish metabolic scientist has both gorgeous visuals to inspire and tips to get started that cover the essential safety aspects (like cold acclimatization), science (the shock response) and studied mental health benefits, like how the practice instills an overall sense of wellbeing. Whether you take a dip al fresco or opt for a thermal wetsuit, this ode to the joys of cold-water swimming will make you want to take the plunge.
BY NATHALIE ATKINSON