Marking World Book Day 2023, My Mind News explores how reading regularly can improve our mental health while providing other benefits!
Reading is on the rise
According to research by the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP), reading was among the most popular ways people managed their stress levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s 2021 Public Perceptions Survey found that 43% of people in the UK found reading helped ease their stress levels during the lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021.
However, not to be limited to periods of international crises or global health pandemics, there are several reasons why reading can be good for the mind, body and soul.
According to the BACP member Hansa Pankhania, who has written ten wellbeing books for adults and children,
“You may underestimate the benefits of reading. It can enrich and change your life in ways you’d never imagine. Reading benefits your physical, mental and spiritual health, and those benefits can last a lifetime. They begin in early childhood and continue through our senior years. That’s why it’s never too late to begin taking advantage of the benefits waiting for you in the pages of a good book.”
Reading reduces stress
The results of the BACP 2021 Public Perceptions Survey illustrate that people often use reading to manage their stress levels. In fact, research carried out in 2009 measured the effects of yoga, humour, and reading on students’ stress levels in health science programs in America.
The study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humour did.
Improves mental health
One of the key benefits of reading, according to the BACP, is that it can improve our mental health. According to the organisation, just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy.
As well as helping you relax, reading can bring about inner peace and tranquillity. Ms Pankhania continues,
“Reading books on spiritual topics can lower blood pressure and bring about a sense of calm,” she adds. “Reading self-help books has been shown to help people suffering from certain mood disorders and mild mental illnesses.”
Reading can ease symptoms of depression
People with depression often feel isolated and estranged. But according to Ms Panhania, these are feeling and emotions that reading books can sometimes lessen.
She says that reading fiction can allow you to temporarily escape your own world and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters. Meanwhile, non-fiction self-help books can teach strategies that may help those with depression manage symptoms.
Other benefits of reading
There is significant evidence that reading can improve our memories and our ability to focus. We can be easily distracted by work, family and screens, which can cause stress levels to rise and affect our ability to focus. However, when you read a book, you focus on the story, and you can immerse yourself in the fine details.
Reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks get stronger and more sophisticated. Every new memory you create through reading (or otherwise) forges new synapses or brain pathways and strengthens existing ones. This, in turn, assists in short-term memory recall as well as stabilising moods.
Build reading time into your routine
Reading as part of a night-time routine can help with sleep and helps people who lead busy lives make reading part of their day. And remember, audiobooks can also be helpful, too.
According to the BACP, for the best results, you may want to choose a print book rather than reading on a screen since the light emitted by your device could keep you awake and lead to other unwanted health outcomes.
Other known benefits of reading include better writing skills, strengthened analytical skills, and increased knowledge.
What are you waiting for?
With the numerous benefits of reading widely published, on World Book Day 2023, why not pick up that book that’s been lying on your shelf gathering dust, settle down, get comfortable, open it, and start reading? Doing so might begin your journey to a more enriched and rewarding lifestyle.
Do you find reading a relaxing pastime? How do you find it helps your mental health and wellbeing? Tell us more in the comments.