Rama: Here’s Why Reading Works Wonders For Your Mental Health

Grad hat with diploma and books isolated on white

Reading. It’s good for you. It helps your vocabulary, makes you more knowledgeable, is entertaining and all of that great stuff that you have heard a million times. But there is one thing that people don’t talk about: The healing power of reading.

No, I am not talking about reading your Bible or Quran, even though that comes in handy for some. I mean, good old reading. Curling up with a nice cup of tea and reading a romance or fantasy or other kind of story.

It can be amazing for your mental health.

It is not some crazy new thing that millennials have come up with. The idea of books being therapeutic is not new at all. There is a reason book clubs have long featured in psychiatric institutions, prisons, facilities for elders and homes for at-risk youth. It’s called cognitive bibliotherapy. The research on it is far from conclusive, but there is a whole field of psychology dedicated to it, and I, for one, buy into what they’re selling. Here is why:

Books make us feel less alone
Do you guys remember Confessions Of A Shopaholic? Before the movie came the books, and I remember laughing really hard while reading them, because I thought Becky Bloomwood was the worst adult ever. She was a financial journalist but was in debt. She could barely make rent but had designer clothes. She was always helping friends and family but her love life was a different kind of disaster. It was all very silly to me. Then I became an adult and found out that there is no blueprint for adulting.

If you go on Instagram, you will swear that some people have found cheat codes, because they just stay winning. You start to feel like you are missing something, or like you’re doing something wrong, because you are just not there yet. The truth, though, is that many of us are dealing with financial difficulties, societal pressures, relationship issues and more. But we all show—or we try to show—the world a composed and put together exterior just like Becky did. So reading the inner thoughts of a character who just like you is trying to figure out life and not always succeeding feels like a breath of fresh air. It reminds you that there are others like you out there.

Books give you hope
That girl who is struggling at the beginning of the book? The Becky Bloomwood girl? At the end of the book, she has a stable job that she likes, money, friends who love her, and a potential love interest. The grief-struck girl in Love & Gelato learns to deal with the loss and actually ends up learning to be happy again. In other words, the other people out there who are like you? They figure out their stuff.

I know that books are fiction and that happy endings are one in a million, but a really good book will remind you that you could be that one. Beyond that, the truth is that no matter how creative an author is, art imitates life, so there is always some truth in there somewhere. Happy endings do happen. Someone actually wins the lotto everyday.

Books give you tools
There are some things that we just can’t figure out. Maybe because we are too close to it, or because we just don’t know where to begin. These are the instances where people usually recommend some kind of text book or self help book, but novels can do that too. This is especially true when it comes to emotional or mental issues like anxiety, delayed grief or depression. Reading about someone who has experienced what we are going through makes us feel a little less alone, but it also means that we can learn from them.

The sad truth is that our community doesn’t take these issues seriously, and we don’t always have access to the resources that we need in order to get out of those dark places. Sometimes, we don’t even have the knowledge to understand what it is that we are dealing with. Seeing it described by someone else can help you identify it, and in turn give you some idea as to how to deal with it.

Some argue that bibliotherapy is far fetched and I can’t really blame them. It is pretty crazy to think that something that was written to entertain can actually go as far as changing our perspective on things and/or making us feel more emotionally stable.

Then again, stories have been used to teach life lessons from the beginning of time. Is this really that different?

What do you think?


Written by How South Africa

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