It seems like a lot of creative types have written about mental health over the last year or two, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences.
This is by no means an advice post and I’m not sharing heavy details about my mental health history, but reading has helped me to cheer up and I wondered if there was any science to this.
Books and bibliotherapy
There was a study at the University of Sussex a few years ago which aimed to find out if leisure activities could improve mental health. Of all the activities tested, reading ended up being the most effective, reducing stress levels by 68%.
Apparently, reading for just six minutes can help lower your heart rate and relax your muscles. There’s something soothing about being taken into a literary world and someone else’s imagination. This was called the ‘altered state of consciousness’.
There are self-help books that are written to help get you through this kind of thing, but apparently you can read whatever you like and it’s called ‘bibliotherapy’.
Less grogginess and no plugs
I definitely understand what this study is going on about. I’ve found that reading for a few minutes in the morning, just a page or two, has helped take away that initial grogginess that comes with waking up. It helps me feel more relaxed.
Reading outdoors has helped feel me better in myself, too. When I’m tired of being cooped up indoors, I’ll take myself to the beach or a park and read for around 45 minutes. It’s a bit cliché, but it gets me feeling relaxed.
This is by no means a plug, but I would like to mention the work of InterAct Reading Service. They’re an awesome charity who hire actors to read stories to people recovering from a stroke, which can be a lonely and un-stimulating process.
Not only does their work make the stroke recovery process a little better, but being read to can help re-stimulate a stroke patient’s brain and improve their wellbeing.
Those were a couple of tidbits on reading and metal health. I know it’s definitely helped me with mine. It seems there is some science to the good feelings, which is also cool.