Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
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168 of 173 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2009
The title of my review is actually a summary of how this book plans to make you feel better.

The book is authored by a someone who has had a lot of experience using cognitive therapy techniques to try and improve people's depression. Cognitive therapy's premise is that your thinking (messages that you are giving yourself all day long) directly inflences your moods and how you feel. Therefore, if you are thinking negatively, you're going to feel that way. Likewise, if you think positive and optimistically, well, you're going to feel good!

And that's what the book is about- getting you to get rid of negative thoughts and replacing them with good ones. Does it work? Well, the book has been around since 1980, and there's actually been some good solid research that has actually taken the book, given it to depressed patients.....and they've improved!

With its easy writing style and research-backed techniques, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy is definitely worth the read- just know you've got over 500+ pages ahead of you. If this seems too daunting, or this approach doesn't appeal to you, try something like Exercise Beats Depression - which has been shown to be just as effective as cognitive therapy or drugs in controlled trials. Good luck!
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446 of 476 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2010
It's now been a little over a year since I read this book. That seems like a good time to review it; better than in the first couple of weeks, when I had a tremendous boost of happiness and feeling at peace with myself and the world. (I felt as if I had just been at a 10 year Buddhist retreat!). And better than in the months after, when I was disappointed and discouraged that the initial empowerment had worn off and I was still indeed depressed, anxious and insecure much of the time.

To be clear: I absolutely don't believe there will ever be a book in this world that can "cure" long standing depression or anxiety. No matter what any studies show (though incidentally, the ones on this book are pretty encouraging.) Those wonderful newly gained insights and skills don't have the power to obliterate what the brain has had decades to learn and get good at. That's continuous work.
(To those who find the CBT attitude towards "dwelling" on childhood trauma too dismissive for their situation, I recommend the book "Reinventing Your Life", which is based on Schema Therapy.)

So where did Feeling Good fit in for me?

One thing I'm deeply grateful for is the tools it's given me to cope with each thing that drags me down - specifically, the 3 column writing exercise. More often than not, I just don't do it when I'm upset. I'll feel too discouraged to have faith in the process, or I'd rather distract myself with tv and self soothing than "deal". But when I do it, it's never once failed to make me feel a lot more balanced, a lot more in control, a lot less overwhelmed. It's as if as soon as I start working on my counter-points, I begin to step outside of the ring of fire of my own ruminations. Slowly but surely, my sense of humor and my perspective - the first traits depression banishes - return to me.

But the other, even more important side of this book is the core values and attitudes it presents as alternatives to the outlook we have on life when we're chronically unhappy: judgemental, or fearful, or self loathing, or self righteous, or all of the above.
Dr. Burns' writing style can sometimes feel (like every other successful self-help author, I suspect) too simplistic, or flippant, or self assured, or plain cheerful for the reader to recognize the pretty deep ideas it taps in to. I don't think anyone who was raised with other values will easily accept them - and the point isn't to uncritically swallow what the good doctor says, anyway. (At least my book is full of belligerent notes in the margins - "great, you just defined the meaning of life once and for all" and " exactly why is every example of paranoia a needy irrational girlfriend?!"). But it's been tremendously valuable to me to reflect and elaborate on ideas such as:

- The idea of a person's "worth" or "value" is a false mental construct, and thus your worth cannot fluctuate with how you perform or what others think of you.
- Self-obliterating notions of guilt and shame often stand in the way of taking true responsibility for your mistakes.
- Perfection is an abstraction as well. It quite literally does not exist anywhere in the real world - so the judgement of something as "flawed" will always be somewhat arbitrary.
- Furthermore, how close we perceive something to be to perfection has little to do with how much we enjoy or take from it. (Example: I can find at least thirty passages in this book I disagree with or dislike. Does that make it a bad book? Should Dr. Burns feel bad about his work, based on my opinion of it?)
And not least:
- It's not all about me.

I hope you'll take as much as I did from this book. Feel better!
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104 of 109 people found the following review helpful
As a nearly lifelong sufferer of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, I had all but lost hope that there would be any cure. Before I go too far, I don’t consider Feeling Good to be a cure, per se. Even so, I still think it is a great treatment that has helped have considerably more positive days than I normally would have had. It’s very easy to get lost in your brain sometimes, and it’s also very easy to believe that there is no other possible reality. I thought being sad, gloomy, and disinterested was just a normal state of being for me. Fortunately, I found this book. It helped me root out the major causes of my mental illness. It also gave me a foundation for using my own cognition as a weapon against depression and anxiety.

Another book that I’ve found useful is 21 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. It doesn’t have the same kind of scientific basis as Feeling Good, but the authors (Chris D’Cruz and Alvin Huang) are just as sensitive to the needs of people in my situation. I think it’s a valuable book that covers the topic of negative thoughts and delusional thinking quite well. One of the most helpful chapters involved giving up caring about what people think of you. While this is certainly not easy, it has made me realize how much of negative self-image was reliant on people’s opinions of me. I realized that I was placing so much important on pleasing everyone that I was neglecting myself. The ability to recognize that has been an important step on my road to recovery.

Again, I don’t think these books are cures for depression and anxiety. I still suffer from the diseases to this day, but I have been able to manage my life better than when I was on antidepressants. Medication for mental illness often made me feel aloof and distant, but the power of my own brain has helped me make an encouraging turnaround. I owe my improvement largely to the precepts found in these two books.
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724 of 811 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2000
I have been dealing with anxiety and depression for many years and have read just about every type of book imaginable. The only reason I'm writing this review is that I found this book to be the best overall work I have ever read in the realm of self-help psychology.
One of the greatest parts about the book is that Dr. Burns' model of cognitive behavioral therapy is very thorough, yet it is easy to understand and incorporate into one's daily living. He recommends cognitive behavioral therapy as the first line defense in dealing with mood disorders. However, the beauty of the book lies in the fact that Dr. Burns does not simply dismiss psychotropic medications. He clearly states that medications in addition to his therapeutic techniques are wholly appropriate for many people. In fact, it this updated edition he goes into detail about the different classes and types of drug options available on the market today. This approach is refreshing for someone who is benefitting from the use of medication and wanting to incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy into their recovery without having to read a book which outright dismisses the role of medication in treatment.
Also of special significance is his list of 10 'Cognitive Distortions'. Here, he lays out a plan for recognizing faulty thinking, how these thoughts affect our moods, and how to correct these distortions.
In summation, Dr. Burns' book is a practical encapsulation of the ideas and theories of some of the great pioneers in the field of mental health such as Drs. Abraham Low, Albert Ellis, and Aaron Beck.
If you made it this far to decide whether or not to buy this book, read some of the other reviews then put it in your cart.
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320 of 358 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2002
This book explains CBT in a very simple an easy to read fashion. It was the first Burns book (he has several), and so doesn't contain all the exercises that he developed later. I own all the books and use them in my own therapy and also when dealing with clients. These techniques work. When incorporated correctly and dilligently followed, I believe anyone can benefit from these concepts. CBT is quite simple really. Your moods are created by your thoughts and how you view your world. Change the thoughts and your are on your way to managing your moods.
One important note: Burns makes it time and time again in this book and the other books he has written. YOU MUST DO THE WRITTEN EXERCISES!! Otherwise you probably won't get it. Intellectual internalization by reading is not enough. You may learn a little but probably not enough to change your behavior or your moods. CBT is the leading technique in treating depression today.
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72 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2012
My first bout with depression was when I was 23. It gradually became more severe, and over the following 15 years I was treated by neurologists, internists, psychologists and psychiatrists. They started with Elevil, went in turn to Wellbutrin, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Remeron... none of which made any difference. At age 40, I had just gone through a divorce, lost my job, had run out of money, and was living alone in a one-bedroom unfurnished apartment. Many days I could not even get up the enthusiasm to get out of bed, and when a friend came by to visit, she was shocked at how bad I looked. She came back the next day and gave me this book and said, "Read this or I'll have to call HHS and have you hospitalized. It worked for me."

Long story short, I read the book and was amazed at how accurate the simple self-tests were and how often my negative thoughts had crowded out anything joyful. About halfway through the book I realized I wasn't dreading getting out and doing things, and by the time I finished I felt like I was almost back to being my enthusiastic self.

After years of taking the latest and greatest anti-depressant and wasting thousands of dollars listening to Psychiatrists say things like, "And how did that make you feel?", something finally worked! This book isn't for narcissists or anyone who can't admit they're...what's the medical term...oh yeah, Screwed Up. But if you can be honest with yourself and are willing to take a little time doing the exercises and taking the tests, this book may be your salvation. It was mine.
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2007
This book was recommended by my therapist as something I could work on while out of the office, I bring the assignments from the book into to him and then we discuss the discoveries. There is a depression assessment chart in the book, when I started it a month ago I had a 39 which is moderate depression (39 out of a possible 100) and today when I took the test again I am down to an 11!! Many of my friends have been noticing that I am becoming free from this long term depression, and I am so thankful for Dr. Burns for putting this book together. Cognitive therapy is all about the truth, about discovering what is real and then remembering what is real when emotional outbreak would have otherwise conquered the moment. Now when I feel emotional, I think about the situation, identify the distortion and then confront it with the truth. It's AMAZING.

Also I highly recommend the section on perfectionism, it certainly helps take off the chafing yoke of trying to do everything perfectly and accept yourself for who you are, a person, and usually a pretty incredible one at that.

Update: August 21,2012

I have still used the tools in this book to maintain my peace and equilibrium. Through the last 5 years I have experienced many ups and downs in my life, but have maintained a positive perspective. The help from this book has greatly improved my marriage and my parenting! Thank you Dr. Burns!
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82 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2014
I have begun using many of the techniques discussed in this book to help deal with my anxiety and panic attacks. It has been a huge help! I have also begun doing some meditation, and am slowly working on replacing my Xanax with an OTC supplement. Between these three things, my life has improved 100%. Anyone out there looking for an OTC supplement for anxiety should give Relaxyn a try. Really helpful in conjunction with this book Relaxyn - Mood Enhancing and Stress Relief Supplement
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137 of 162 people found the following review helpful
As a counsellor, I am quite familiar with the use of Cognitive Therapy, not only in treating depression, but as a means of bringing balance and harmony to one's life, depressed or not. Cognitive Therapy is based on mood modification - a principle one can use on their own to eliminate symptoms and achieve personal growth. "Feeling Good" is aimed at ridding ourselves of negative thinking, that which holds us stagnant and inhibits personal growth. Even if you are on medication for depression, you can still use the principles outlined in this book as a form of self-help. Through these pages, the author will help the reader to understand why you feel as you do, the power of positive thinking, how to develop self-control and how you can change through mood modification. The book is quite lengthy and certainly not a book one should speed read. To maximum its use, one should read, digest and absorb the material slowly and attentively. It is an excellent self-help book written in a style that is easily understood by the layperson; you do not need a course in psychology to understand its meaning.
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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2000
I found this book to be a wonderful addition to antidepressants and psychotherapy. After about a year of being on antidepressants and dealing with some deep lifelong issues, my therapist recommended this book to me. It is _not_ a substitute for professional help for people who are suffering from a clinical depression. I wouldn't have been able to make use of it totally on my own without the help of therapy and medication to deal with the bleakest parts of my depression.
But once I was on the road to being emotionally healthier, this book was an additional guide, and I would count it among the most influential books I have ever read. I can say that it changed my life, my outlook on life, and my ability to enjoy life.
I recommend this book highly for anyone who is at a point where they are ready (and able) to seriously look at their own thought processes and how they contribute to their moods and attitudes.
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