Woman reading to better mental health

Read Yourself to Better Mental Health

How Books and Reading Can Help Your Mental Health

Early in our childhood and in school, parents and teachers praise reading for its ability to lead us on adventures around the world (and in other worlds, too). Reading offers us an escape while also fostering empathy for people from all walks of life. Unfortunately, school finishes, and with it, our reading assignments disappear, and soon enough, we quit reading altogether. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Approximately 23% of American adults haven’t read a book in an entire year, and reading in our free time has decreased in all ages. Could that explain why our country has such high levels of depression and anxiety? Can reading books help better your mental health?

Today, our blog takes a look at many of the mental health benefits gained by reading a good book, and what you might be missing out on! 

How Does Reading Help Mental Health?

Your mental health is greatly affected by the way you choose to spend your time. When that time is spent reading, you are not only filling your substance-free schedule; you are participating in an activity that relaxes you, increases your empathy, inspires you, provides a healthy escape and benefits your sleep and nighttime routine. 

Relax and Relieve for Better Mental Health

Reading possesses meditative qualities, which can be incredibly helpful in reducing stress and increasing relaxation. In addition to giving your brain the space it needs to recharge, reading also combats withdrawal-related symptoms. Here’s how it works: withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can cause high blood pressure, high heart rate and tense muscles. Alternatively, reading relaxes the body, lowers your heart rate and relieves muscle tension. 

Dive Into Someone Else’s World

Fiction is associated with the acquisition of social skills and increased self-awareness. Research suggests that fiction improves our understanding of humanity, strengthens our relationships and raises our awareness of common life struggles. Not only can reading make you feel not alone, but it also increases your empathy for others.

Autobiographies, recovery narratives, and memoirs, in particular, can enhance feelings of connectedness through sharing of experiences by authors, which validates our personal experiences and reduces internalized stigma.

Escape in a Healthy Way

When you learned to turn to drugs or alcohol (or exercise, or food) to deal with depression, anxiety or trauma, what you were really looking for was an escape. Reading provides a similar pause from reality and temporarily allows you to step into another life. 

Stick to the Routine that Works

Reading before bed or making sure you incorporate reading into your bedtime routine can support sound sleep. Ensuring that you include reading in your nightly routine is an important step away from electronics and the blue light they emit that messes with our sleep cycles. Those in recovery may already have enough to deal with when it comes to their ability to attain quality sleep, and keeping to the same routine is known to help!

Given these benefits, we strongly recommend you take up reading to improve your mental health today! Do you feel stuck and uncertain about how to find the motivation to regenerate a healthy reading habit? Continue reading for practical tips!

Quick Tips to Start Reading Today

  • Define your purpose for reading 
    • Are you reading because you want to learn something, have fun or boost your mental health? A combination of the three? Knowing exactly why you want to read will remind you to continue reading if you’re tempted to stop.
  • Set realistic reading targets (how many pages, chapters, books, etc.) to determine how much you should be reading per week and to help keep you on track. 
  • Intentionally make time in your day for reading, rather than leaving it up to chance.
  • Read with others.
    • Starting a book club with friends is fun and it will hold you accountable for reading!
  • Listen to audiobooks while traveling, exercising, in bed, during meal breaks, waiting in line, or while doing household chores.

At Promises Behavioral Health, we offer comprehensive services to treat addiction and mental health. We promote customized treatment options to achieve your goals, which, may include more reading for some. If you or someone you love would like to learn more about our services or treatment options, please contact us today at 844-970-4313. 

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