When I rounded up the best health books of 2018, I noticed a common theme emerging: Most of them were either directly about mental health or had a strong mental health or brain health component. There’s no doubt about it, this facet of wellness is becoming more and more of a top priority for people all over the world.
When you think about this rise in popularity, it makes sense; our lifestyle changes drastically affect the health of our minds, and in exchange, our mental health greatly affects our ability to make healthy lifestyle choices. Essentially, we need both to be truly healthy.
Knowing this, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that sales of books about mental health are soaring. What might surprise you, however, is that this year they surpassed sales of books about diet and exercise.
At first this is hard to believe; diet and exercise books have long dominated the health and wellness scene. I mean, who doesn’t want to learn how to burn more fat or get the body of an Olympian? But according to new data released by Barnes & Noble, mental health officially became priority No. 1 for American readers interested in bettering their health. The data was collected from retail store sales and online book sales that occurred between December 16 and January 5—typically prime time for book sales on self-improvement and weight loss.
You might be wondering what this all means. As Liz Harwell, Barnes & Noble’s senior director of merchandising, told the Los Angeles Times: “When it comes to preparing for New Year’s resolutions and goals, the data shows that across the chain more people are buying books about mental and emotional well-being as opposed to what were previously the more popular areas of exercise and dieting.” In other words, it points to the idea that people are more interested in reducing stress and increasing their confidence than losing weight this year. Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*#k: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life was No. 1 with more than 3 million copies sold over the last two years. No. 2 was You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero.
There are many contributing factors to this shift in thinking, but one could definitely be the increase in mental-health-related illnesses in America and all around the world. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States—affecting 18.1 percent of the population every year—and 322 million people worldwide live with depression. People want to be happier, more confident, and have greater self-esteem—and they’re willing to do the work to get there.