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How Reading Can Help Your Mental Health

When we’re struggling to stay positive and the down days seem to last longer than the good days, a bit of escapism may be just what we need.  

When we’re struggling to stay positive and the down days seem to last longer than the good days, a bit of escapism may be just what we need.  

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 in a book, to the point where when it’s over you’re at a bit of loss for what to do next. But for others, they might not believe that studies have shown that reading can help improve 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 for relieving stress than music, video games, walking or cups 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. 

When leafing 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 being 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 the pattern of having nothing to do, other than scrolling mindlessly through Instagram every five minutes. It’s hard, but also important that when you are struggling you find ways to keep yourself occupied and your brain stimulated, as these things can really help boost your mood.   

Now we are allowed to re-enter the real world, why not consider joining a reading group? They help you socialise and keep your brain active; two things that are really effective at improving 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 us every day, and one of their great schemes is Reading Well, launched in 2013. This initiative offers books on prescription, a way of helping people understand and manage their mental health and well-being. 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 when you are 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. 

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