In this blog post, we'll take a look at some of the benefits of reading for improving your mental health. We'll also provide some tips on how to get more reading into your life. So whether you're a lifelong reader or you're just starting to get into reading, read on to learn more about the benefits of reading to improve your mental health.
My grandmother, Johnnie Ketner, was one of the most well-read persons I have ever known. She loved reading just about any genre, but I remember her loving murder mysteries the best.
She would read Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Nero Wolfe just to name a few. She really enjoyed getting lost in the characters and attempting to discover the murderer before the famed detective would unveil who committed the crime and how they did it.
Improve Your Mental Health Through Reading
Her love for reading was infectious and I guess that is why I love reading also. She taught me early in life that if I didn’t know something, the best place to look for the answer was in a book. It was her initial encouragement that led me to begin writing stories and poems when I was in fourth grade.
I currently read a lot of nonfiction. In fact, I received the idea to write this article by reading nonfiction. I don’t however, read a lot of fiction, and I know I should.
This is why I have put together the following science-based reasons why I will read more fiction this year and why you should too.
1. Reading Makes You Happier
When we read, we are swept away from our current problems into a world that doesn’t judge or ask anything of us. The author creates a world separate from our own, where we are allowed to veer into the lives of others. Their challenges become our challenges and through the eyes of the hero, we are allowed to find solutions, take action and eventually become victorious. All without having to break a sweat.
Current research shows that people are happy when they use their money to purchase experiences such as dinner out with friends as well as materialistic items such as a lamp or a new shirt.
Books cross the line of both types of purchases. When you buy a book, you get the materialistic item, but you also get the experience the author provides. You are able to visit faraway lands with very little cost to you.
2. Reading Relieves Stress
Research shows that the physiological effects of reading are similar to meditation. Studies have shown that within six minutes of quiet reading, muscle tension is reduced up to 60% as your heartbeat slows down. In fact, reading reduces stress 68% more than listening to music and 300% more than going for a walk.
Well, the reason is quite simple. Reading, like meditation, serves as a “pit stop” for our brains. Engaging in a good book allows us to disengage for a short period of time allowing our brains to rest and revive.
3. Reading Before Bed Leads to Better Sleep
This is where I am going to add my fiction reading time to my day. Even if you are like me and you feel too mentally drained to read right before bed, it can still be beneficial to read just ten minutes before turning out the lights.
Taking your problems to bed with you is a guaranteed way of producing fitful sleep. Reading fiction allows you to disengage from the real world and the stress of your day. It creates a relaxing effect on your mind and body which can help you to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
And getting a good night's sleep is scientifically proven to improve mental health.
4. Reading Improves Mental Health by Teaching You to Have More Empathy
While reading, we are able to delve deep into the character's motives and emotions. We also achieve a deeper level of understanding of why people do what they do. As a result, this insight into another person’s point of view has been proven to lead to more empathy.
Research shows that our brains respond to our imagination in the same way and through the same neural pathways as we do to real-life experiences. This means that what the brain is experiencing while we are reading is being processed as if we are actually going through that experience. Because of this, we are able to feel what the characters are feeling which leads us to a deeper understanding of what it is like to be someone else.
Studies have also shown how reading about victims of discrimination leads to being more open-minded and accepting of people that are different from us.
Challenge yourself to read more books this year and let me know the mental health benefits you receive in the process.