The User's Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do about It
The User’s Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do about It by Shawn T. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shawn T. Smith’s “The User’s Guide to the Human Mind” delivers exactly what it promises: a guide to using your brain to work for you. It’s very much a help to overcoming one’s inner critic by employing a systematic method to understanding why our brains react the way they do to certain events, tendencies, and otherwise work against us in functional pursuits.

One of the things I like about this guide is that it does approach some of the human body’s natural “fight or flight” tendencies and explains that some of the inner fears that people have serve a purpose – being more of a protective response rather than simply a negative emotional reaction that should be sequestered immediately. Instead of ignoring the signs, Smith suggests being able to embrace and release them in a healthy way, and provides quite a bit of citations to support his statements. Smith approaches it in a light, sometimes humored/off-beat way, though at the same time, I think there were parts of it where he somewhat makes the same point a little too often, even for the point of emphasis. The information in itself is good though, and I appreciated it on the whole.

I approached this work on two levels – looking at the scientific part to satisfy my inner science nerd (because I Have an interest in research regarding the brain and maintaining health and wellness, including psychological), and to see if I could put some of these methods into practice for myself as well as a general sense of helping others. The information is presented in a concise format that’s easy to read and digest based on the headings and measures it covers. There’s some technicality, followed up with concrete advice and examples through the work. It clarifies the dangers in “all-or-none” thinking, attributions that we may make based on our experiences, and how to check oneself when these issues arise.

The only other constructive note I would make about the guide is that while the text is easy to read and sectioned in bits that are easy to move through, I don’t know if the organization is as easy to navigate as in other guides of this nature. In my ebook reference, it’s easy to jump from one chapter to another by the hyperlinks just in case a person wants to review a particular section for reference, but I imagine it would be a little more difficult for someone using the print version. I think in retrospect, the sections could’ve been organized a bit better so that the reader could follow the progression more in a linear building exercise.

This was well worth the read and I would recommend it, even considering its caveats.

Overall: 3.5/5

Note: I received this as an ARC under NetGalley from the publisher New Harbinger Publications.

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