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17 Jul

How Reading Can Help Your Mental Health

In a time where we all may be struggling to stay as positive as normal and the down days seem to last longer (and may even be taking over) the good days. It could be that escapism is something we are all craving. 

It may seem obvious to some, that reading can be the ultimate escape – the plot, the storyline, the setting and the characters can cause you to really immerse yourself into a book, to the point where when it’s over you’re at a bit of loss with what to do next. But for others, they might not believe that studies have shown that reading can help with mental health and has the ability to bring you out of the dark times. 

And how, I hear you ask, can it do this? 

Studies show that reading as little as six minutes per day can reduce stress levels by up to 60%. It does this through reducing your heart rate, easing muscle tension and altering your state of mind. It has been argued that reading is better at relieving stress than music, video games, walking and a cup of tea. 

 As I said before, reading can be the ultimate escape – it gives you the opportunity to withdraw from the real world and all of its problems (of which there seems to be so many of lately.) 

When leafing your way through a fiction book, you begin to learn more about the characters and learn to understand how they feel. Being able to develop empathy for fictional characters is something you can then transfer to real-life when needed.  

By carrying out cognitive activity and working your brain, you are preventing memory loss as your brain is constantly stimulated. A study showed the rate of mental decline reduced by 30% when people participated in reading and writing. Feeling stimulated and knowing you are working your brain will help to keep you out of a routine of having nothing to do, other than scroll through Instagram every five minutes. 

The struggle of not being able to go out and socialise is something we have all had to adjust to. Therefore, it is important that you are finding ways to keep yourself occupied and your brain stimulated, which is something that can really help boost your mood.  

When we are allowed to re-enter the real world, something that can help you socialise and keep your brain active is a reading group; something that is really effective at treating your mental health. The Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Institute examined a reading group of people with depression for 12 months and reported that ‘bibliotherapy’ (therapy from reading books); had significant improvement on their condition. They noted that the group members had improved concentration, better emotional understanding and increased self-awareness.  

As we know, the NHS does amazing things for our country and its people, and something they introduced recently was Reading Well. This initiative offers a books-on-prescription scheme that helps people understand and manage their mental health. It provides a range of non-fiction and self-help style books that are all endorsed by health professionals, but also lists a range of mood-boosting fiction books that are recommended by the readers. 

These are just a few ways and different tips on what you can do to help manage and maintain good mental health during a time where we are all struggling. Picking up a book will help enable your mind to find a safe space where there are no distractions as you get lost in a whole new world.  

Sophie Cain

I am a 24-year-old journalism graduate from the University of Huddersfield, currently completing a business administration apprenticeship within the NHS. I currently write a monthly fashion article for a local lifestyle magazine, Excelle and have done for the last three years. I also currently manage the social media accounts for Ragdoll Nails and love to keep up with friends, brands and celebrities through social media. In my free time I do a lot of shopping, but I also love to read - true crime mainly - and have a slight obsession with gin and tonics.

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