Can Waking Up Help Treat Anxiety and Depression?

Waking Up Book Cover


Waking Up is a 2014 book by renowned neuroscientist Sam Harris, a man widely known for his relentless skepticism.

Yet he has spent a majority of his adult life seeking spirituality

At first this might sound strange, but as Sam explains, there’s actually no contradiction.

Spirituality is not reserved for the religious and mystical. It can be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, even the most skeptical among us.

Waking Up is Sam’s attempt to demystify spirituality, and he does so successfully. Through gripping personal stories and scientific evidence, his work leaves little room for doubt…

Everyone is capable of spirituality, and it has powerful benefits to well-being and mental health.

Sam argues that there is important truth to be found in Eastern ideas of the mind, especially from the rituals of Buddhism.

Take for example his thoughts on the concept of enlightenment:

“In one sense, the Buddhist concept of enlightenment really is just the epitome of “stress reduction”—and depending on how much stress one reduces, the results of one’s practice can seem more or less profound.”

Some of these truths can be especially powerful when struggling with anxiety and depression disorders. Take a second to consider the importance of the following statement:

“Even just recognizing the impermanence of your mental states— deeply, not merely as an idea—can transform your life. Every mental state you have ever had has arisen and then passed away.”

Sam also goes into detail on how spirituality can be obtained. Being an avid meditator himself, much focus is given to mindfulness and meditation.

“In the broadest sense, however, meditation is simply the ability to stop suffering in many of the usual ways, if only for a few moments at a time. How could that not be a skill worth cultivating?”


Waking Up answers many questions you didn’t know you had about the mind, consciousness, and spirituality.

Although Sam doesn’t write for the anxious or depressed, this is one of the areas where his work ends up having the most importance.

When read closely, I find no better way to explain what this book offers than a radical perspective change.

Many mental disorders, including anxiety and depression, are characterized by a “stuck mindset”.

And if there is one thing Sam knows and teaches, it’s exactly how you can free your mind.

However, much of this work is also dedicated to challenging religion and religious doctrine.

If you pick up this book solely to learn about the mind and spirituality, you should at least be warned so it doesn’t catch you off guard.


As long as you’re not bothered by his critical views on religion, I see great potential for this book to help with mental health!

Anyone struggling with stress, anxiety, panic, or depression should consider giving it a read.

I highly recommend Waking Up.

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