Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D Burns

When a renowned psychiatrist writes a book about emotions, you must expect something that you can apply in your own life. David Burns’ ‘Feeling Good’ emerged out of a very popular handbook of the same name which he had written for those who experience depression. As a practitioner of Cognitive behavior Therapy, Burns, who taught at Stanford, soon became the bestseller author of books on these topics.


Author : David Burns
Originally Published : 2008
Publication :Harper
Pages :736
Genre(s) :
Non-Fiction, Psychology, Mental Health, Self-Help

The books mentions that five control outcome studies in scientific journals published about how in the past decade, 70% of those who read this book improved within four weeks without any other treatment.

The book is divided into parts that deal with theory and approach, practical applications, realistic depressions, prevention and personal growth, defeating hopelessness and suicide, coping with stresses and strains of daily living and the chemistry of mood. The book, which reads at over 730 pages, is a massive work of research, to say the least. Burns has, for long, been a vocal opponent of medications to treat depression. His idea is that treating depression using psychotherapy is much fruitful in the long run. Reading a self-help book, also called as Bibliotherapy where a person reads and understand his problem and tries to overcome himself, is a much better way than medication which the patient can get addicted to. Understanding what disturbs oneself, or what causes one’s mood to differ and change from good to worse, is the key to change. By making use of charts that describe moods in detail, Burns helps one to identify what we feel at any given moment. Burns Depression checklist is a revelation of sorts. Burns says that every bad feeling you have is a result of your distorted negative thinking. He puts across a diagram that depicts the way you think and the resultant feeling. You must understand what is happening to you before you feel it.

How do we feel what we do

A lot of feelings that depressed people experience finds roots in the way they think and perceive people and circumstances to be. That is most of the times distorted. It results in ‘I feel it, therefore it must be true’. Whereas one must remember that feelings aren’t facts. During troubled depressive phases, a person loses some ability of putting things in perspective. Your internal dialogue matters a lot in all this. With enough examples, Burns show how to practically apply principles of escaping cognitive distortion.

A large part of the book goes on to show with practical examples, how a depressed person gets entangled in a vicious cycle of negative thinking and self -blame to lethargy that leads to isolation and further depression. Using simple techniques of self -instruction, Burns shows how one can come out of the Guilt Cycle. One would also benefit by understanding that there could be something like realistic depression arising out of reasons such as old age, losing a loved one, adolescence or mid-life crisis. Sadness is not depression, clarifies Burns, advising you not to confuse emotions with mental conditions. Burns goes on the positive track well in time to suggest ways of preventing oneself from going into depression. Understanding reasons why we feel bad, acquiring self -confidence and in general finding ways and means to solve your problems is what keeps it at bay. A lot of therapy goes through self-talk. Countering self-doubt and negative feelings with accurate positive answers often makes the negative chatter quiet.

Give life a chance

The best part of this book is the one that deals with suicidal tendencies. Burns has made use of real life examples to show how such thoughts arise from a sense of worthlessness and nothing else. It is in our hands to find meaning and to fill life with worthy causes.

Key takeaways

  1. Depression is often a result of our distorted understanding of the self and the world around us. What we feel is rarely the fact
  2. Seek professional help in extreme cases, but self-help works if one can understand the what and the why of their mental states
  3. Being objective about life and its ups and downs allows us to flow with the waters
  4. Burns shows that bibliotherapy is a far better method of treating depression than medication and you agree with this as you complete the book.

Why I recommend this book

At one point in my life, I have gone through a phase of being depressed. When I look back at that time, it still hurts. Perhaps that is the reason why this book was such a revelation to me.

Yes, it is a long read, it might take few days or in some cases, weeks. I certainly took my own time to complete this book. But, let me tell you this. It is worth it.

Like me, you would also have had experiences wherein people you know closely feel depressed. Therapy with a counselor or a psychiatrist may well be an option, but many times, a book like this also helps a lot. Read this book if you or anyone known to you is facing depression or showing signs of being low. In these difficult times, everyone is overwhelmed and not all are fortunate to have a support system like we do. You must refer this book to those who would benefit from it.

I also recommend this book for its practical and easy to understand approach.

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