It’s been well documented for many years that reading can be good for your mental health, but do you know how it is exactly? And more importantly, do you know how to make reading a habit so you can start feeling some of its benefits?
Reading reduces stress levels.
Studies have been carried out with student readers and reported findings of reduced stress levels and overall improvements in mental health. Reading provides a positive form of distraction from what can be the stress-inducing environment that we live in; it can be a much-needed escape into a whole other world. Helping your brain to focus on something different for just a short amount each day could help you manage your other real-life responsibilities with ease. Other studies have even suggested an improvement in suicide prevention too, stating readers with “low social belonging” see improvements to their overall wellbeing with reading.
Although it’s mostly students and children we see reported on in these studies, it’s obvious that this can be applied to all ages. We all have felt stressed or lonely at some point throughout our lives and books can be there to help with that. The above studies reference reading alone but as a continuation of that, book clubs and reading circles (in which a collective reads the same book together) can be hugely effective in helping individuals form connections with others. Finding like-minded individuals and being able to talk through something other than daily life can provide a welcome distraction for many.
Reading improves social skills.
Now you may read that title and think I’m still talking about young children who are still developing, but this applies to adults too. Reading can help people of all ages both express and understand our own emotions better and help us to become more empathetic with others too. Be it fictional characters or life memoirs, reading really puts us into someone’s literary shoes and mind, forcing us to listen and appreciate their story. You have no choice but to go through what they're going through, you take that journey with them and feel everything they do too.
All of the above are brilliant qualities for any relationship: parental, romantic partners, friends, colleagues.. the list is endless. Reading could help you to understand others more and as a result maybe that improves those relationships.
Reading aids memory retention.
Hear me out - when you put down and pick up a book, you need to remember where you left the story or you’d have to re-read the whole book up to that point each time. Every time you read, you’re using the same part of your brain that is dedicated to memory retention. Like a muscle, the more you use it and stretch, the more efficient it becomes. (I'm convinced this is the reason I have a better memory than my partner who is constantly forgetting where he puts things down).
Again, it’s not just young people that this affects. Studies have shown improvements can still be seen into old age and suggest it could even offset degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but more research is needed there.
Reading for pleasure.
Let’s not forget possibly the most important reason why reading is good for your mental health (yes, I saved the best for last!) – the sheer pleasure of reading and the happiness it brings.
It will be different for everyone but for me I’m a soppy romantic; I love an easy read, a contemporary romance (read: rom-com) and a happy ending. The joy I feel when the fictional couple finally get together at the end, or when the friends realise the feeling’s they’ve had all along or maybe the enemies turn to lovers is absolutely unrivalled. You can guarantee I will cry happy tears at my favourites. All the endorphins!
So what are you waiting for? Get stuck in! Head back to our blogs and reviews page for some inspiration.