As we navigate through an era of unprecedented stress and uncertainty, there’s a surprising, accessible, and proven remedy at our fingertips: books!
Literature can serve as a powerful balm for the mind, so much so that the University of Sussex found that reading helps to reduce feelings of stress by up to 68%.
How Reading Affects Your Mental Health
We spoke to Sophie Andrea, the founder of Dialogue Books, and asked her to comment on this phenomenon.
She said “Reading isn’t merely a pastime; it’s a journey into diverse minds, offering valuable insights and empathy. Immersing oneself in the right book can provide much-needed solace, understanding, and guidance, especially for those grappling with mental health issues like depression and anxiety.”
We then discussed the surveys and studies which prove this fact.
In the 2021 Public Perceptions Survey, the researchers found that 30 minutes of reading would lower the participant’s heart rate and blood pressure. It also released hormones of calmness or excitement similar to the activities such as yoga or watching a comedy show.
As you escape from your current world and jump into a new one, you can leave the stress and anxieties of your life behind. Of course, reading cannot cure depression but it can temporarily remove the symptoms and allow your mind to explore a different life.
Improves Memory And Focus
When you’re immersed in a book, you can recall aspects of the story from previous series. A couple decades ago this suggested a lack of interest in your own world, and so you’re absorbing more information in this other reality. However, studies have shown that this reflects a deeper memory bank.
The ability to create understanding, forethought, strategic memory, and focus is something that’s learned. Reading can help unlock these concepts as you hope to unveil the ending of the story or the villain’s plans before the final pages.
You can bring these skills into your life helping you remember little details that many forget.
This works due to the complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As you concentrate and actively work your memory banks, new synapses are created, strengthening your networks and creating quicker recall.
When reading becomes part of your bedtime routine, you activate the calming side of this activity. The lowering of blood pressure, the lowering of your heart rate.
Looking at a screen in the evening awakens your brain while reading a book brings it to a state of relaxation. This means reading can help you reach a peaceful sleep instead of a restless night.
Books On Literature And Mental Health
We have curated a list of five books that provide a unique perspective on mental health, delivering hope, resilience, and understanding. These books include:
“Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig
A moving exploration of depression and anxiety, this book offers personal insights and practical advice on how to navigate through dark times.
The true story follows Haig and his journey through illness and learning to live again.
“Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
Lawson’s humorous and candid portrayal of her struggles with mental health is both reassuring and uplifting.
As Jenny says “You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.”
Jenny’s book can help anyone struggling to find happiness in their pain.
“Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by David D Burns
A classic self-help book, it delves into cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to counteract negative thoughts and feelings.
It’s an active self-help book, perfect for people who prefer active learning to philosophical learning.
“Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?” by Julie Smith
Armed with Dr. Smith’s toolbox of techniques, readers can seek comfort and reassurance in the most difficult times of their lives. These proven strategies can help people to improve their mental health.
“The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel van der Kolk
A vital companion for anyone who has experienced trauma, this book demonstrates how this can shape our mind and body whilst offering hope about the available treatments and literature.
Reading has the power to teach us new things, take us to different places, and open up our minds to new experiences. Not only can reading improve our sleep which is a huge benefit to our mental health, but it also provides a form of escapism that many of us need from time to time.