reading for mental health

6 reasons why reading is good for your mental health

A reading habit not only makes you a critical thinker and expands your knowledge, but can also be an effective tool to improve your mental health.
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We have all heard that reading is a good habit. But how exactly do humans benefit from reading? Is it just a means to escape the routine drudgery of life, a medium of entertainment, or a way of expanding our language skills? Turns out, a reading habit can have far-reaching effects on our mental health as well. So, it comes as no surprise that even the ancient Greeks turned to poetry as a form of therapy.

Reading can be one of the best forms of mental exercise for your brain and your overall mental health. When you read, you not only improve your critical thinking and expand your knowledge but also relax and de-stress. According to a study by The New School for Social Research, reading fiction improves the ability to empathise with others and understand beliefs different from your own. Another research by the Oxford University Press, published in The Times, reveals that classic works of literature can benefit your mental health by relieving depression, chronic pain and dementia.

So whether you are an avid reader or have lost touch with books over time, here’s another reason to stock up your bookshelf and make reading a habit. Your mental health will thank you for this!

Lowers stress

Even when you are not working or focussing on anything specific, it can be difficult to completely relax and unwind at times. Your attention may be constantly diverted by work emails, pending chores and barrage of notifications from social media apps. This, in turn, leads to a cluttered mind, causing anxiety and stress. At a time when it’s extremely difficult to clear your brain, try turning to books to de-stress. Whether it’s just one chapter a day or more, reading regularly can help you escape your worries so that you can relax and lower your stress.

Makes you more empathetic

Remember the countless times you shed a tear when your favourite fictional character suffered a loss or when you cheered them on after they revelled in victory? Losing yourself in a plot can broaden your worldview and open varied and unique perspectives for you. When you read, you start identifying with the characters and their culture while embracing every aspect of their life—their relationships, experiences and feelings. This exploration of human behaviour can help you become more empathetic and open-minded. Slipping into a character’s shoes not only arms you with different perspectives but also helps you build deeper connections with others.

Promotes mindfulness

Practising mindfulness essentially means letting go of thoughts about the past and the future, and living fully in the moment. Although meditation and yoga are the more popular techniques, reading can offer a great opportunity for practising mindfulness. When you are reading, your mind pays undivided attention to the story and the words in front of you. Your concentration anchors you to the present moment, which is one of the essential characteristics of mindfulness.

Enhances problem-solving skills

Although reading a book can’t solve your problems, it can flex your imagination and enable your brain to evaluate a situation critically and logically. Books have the power to help you overcome hard times. They are a storehouse of endless knowledge and information, and you never know when they might come in handy. Author Roald Dahl aptly said, “If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.”

Helps you sleep better

Reading before bedtime has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, enabling you to relax and unwind. When you read, your attention is focussed on your book, which allows you to disconnect from your digital devices and prevents your mind from being pulled into different directions. Reading before bedtime calms your body and mind and gives you a much-needed break, especially after a long and stressful day. Even a few pages before bedtime can induce your body into a deep and restful night’s sleep.

Keeps depression at bay

Depression can often force people to isolate themselves and refrain from social interactions. This is where books can step in as the perfect companion and provide therapeutic relief. Reading fiction allows you to temporarily escape your sadness and immerse yourself in the lives of the characters. This escape can have a great impact on managing toxic thoughts. On the other hand, self-help books can provide valuable strategies to deal with symptoms of depression. Overall, books serve as a warm reminder that you are not alone in your condition, thus reducing feelings of alienation, loneliness and depression.

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