Cultivate the Wellness Benefits of Reading

Cultivate the Wellness Benefits of Reading

Reflection

Want to use books and reading as a springboard to better mental health? Here are some tips.

Mental health is health. Prioritize your mental well-being with the same care and attention you do for your physical well-being. That is sometimes easier said than done.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a gentle annual reminder to check in on the emotional well-being of ourselves and others as we navigate challenging times.

Take a mental health moment

Checking in with yourself is an important self-care skill. While this practice can look different for everyone, it typically involves intentionally pausing to assess your current feelings and experiences with compassion and curiosity. Sometimes checking in shows where you have difficult feelings that need extra care and attention.

Curate a mental health “toolbox” for those situations. The “tools” in your toolbox can help you ride the waves of strong emotion without getting overwhelmed by them.

Your tools can be as simple or extensive as you wish. Maybe you choose to journal about difficult feelings, or have a conversation with a trusted friend. Perhaps listening to music or getting active helps. Experiment with a variety of methods and models to see what works best for you so that whatever challenge comes your way, you’re ready.

Books and reading can definitely be part of a mental health toolkit. Read on for a few ways your reading practice can support optimal mental health.

Consider bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy refers to the healing power of books. You may be familiar with common forms of bibliotherapy, such as reading a self-help book or completing a workbook of guided exercises or prompts. However, bibliotherapy can be broader than this.

In fact, studies have shown that reading books that resonate with our experiences can provide solace, validation, and even therapeutic insights. Many find that reading a book with a character that overcomes a similar challenge can be motivating and hope-building. Additionally, others resonate with the immediacy, literary beauty, and depth of emotion in poetry.

Whether you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or simply seeking comfort and understanding, there’s a book out there for you.

Try a few different genres or formats, or ask for a recommendation from another reader. Pick up a book that speaks to your soul and let its words wrap around you like a warm embrace. Reading can be an excellent way to take a mental health moment.

Mental Health Awareness Month Free Printable Bookmarks May 2024Vertical

Make healthy bookish connections

Make healthy bookish connectionsForging healthy connections with others can help improve mental health. Books are an awesome way to initiate and deepen connections with others.

Whether it’s joining a book club, participating in a virtual discussion, or simply sharing your favorite reads with friends, fostering literary connections can significantly and positively impact mental well-being. Studies have shown that social support and engagement are vital for mental health, and what better way to connect than through a shared love of literature?

Read more fiction

Did you know that reading about different experiences and perspectives can increase empathy and compassion?

Research shows that reading fiction can even increase our ability to understand others’ mental states and emotions. We can use well-tuned empathy skills to better understand others, as well as deeper parts of ourselves.

You can use books to give your empathy-meter a tune-up. Make a conscious effort to read books that challenge your perspectives and broaden your understanding of others’ experiences. Try reading outside your character and setting comfort zone. By doing so, you can cultivate a more empathetic and supportive perspective, one book at a time.

Focus on books

Feeling anxious and stressed? Try reading!

Evidence suggests that reading can help reduce stress by up to 68% and works better and faster than other relaxation methods. Researchers believe the concentration of reading a good book helps distract the brain away from anxious and stressful thinking, which reduces heart rate and muscle tension caused by stress.

Reading also engages the imagination and stimulates creativity, which engage the brain’s prefrontal cortex areas that house the “anxiety brake,” an important part of the brain that shuts off the emergency response.

So carve out a mental health moment to take a deep breath and pick up a good book!

Cultivate the Wellness Benefits of Reading

Take the first step

None of this is medical advice. Always speak with your doctor or a trusted family member or friend before making any changes to your mental health strategies. If you are struggling, help is available. Visit nami.org/help.

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