From a child, right up until this moment, I have loved books. I have an enormous to read shelf, which in some places are actually piles, and a digital library full of titles I have yet to get to. I have read an incredible amount of books in my life and it is never enough! No matter the mood I enjoy reading, even when I don’t feel particularly great. So why is reading good for your mental health?
It was reported by the University of Sussex that readings for just 6 minutes each day can reduce stress up to an incredible 68%.
How does it Work?
Reading has a number of ways in which it helps reduce the stress in your mind and in your body, making it a perfect activity for self-care and helping to promote a more positive mental health.
State of Mind
Have you ever read a book and lost track of time? That is because when you read your consciousness is altered in such a way that you are transported somewhere else. There are a few books that I will write about in the future where I get lost and just can’t put it down, I lose track of time and the real world melts away.
Importantly this absorbent in to a fictional adventure is a distraction for your brain. It is so consumed with the events unfolding from page to page, that the worries and concerns in reality are placed in a quiet cupboard and left for the duration. Not having the constant overthinking of a situation, the unwavering back and forth of trying to resolve it and the draining emotional fallout gives your mind time and space. It gives you a place to escape and time to just be.
Settles the Body
Reading also helps your body to find some sense of ease, allowing the tension to slowly ooze out and leave you feeling more relaxed. Think about it, when you read you rest, you are stationary, because you are so engrossed in the story before you, your mind elsewhere, your body is no longer in that perpetual state of tension, it’s not stiff and achy, it just is. Well, until you need to move because the book became heavy in that hand, your arm went numb, or you’ve be in the same position for three hours and you might seize up if you don’t!
Soothes the Heart and Lowers Blood Pressure
Being still, being relaxed and just existing in a state of such absorption while reading has physical effects on you also. The inactivity of the body means your heart rate is lowered to a steady beat that is unaffected by movement, distress or any number of other factors. That is of course unless you are reading something that wants to make you jump, gasp, laugh, feel abject horror or shock, then perhaps your heart rate will be up a little, but in a good way.
Lowering the heart rate helps to reduce your blood pressure also, to an acceptable level. The works to ensure you have enough blood, when your heart rate increase or lowers, your blood pressure also alters. Reading can give you a kind of equilibrium.
Improves Your Brain
A slight umbrella term there, but it is true. Reading, in adults and children cultivates a sense of wonder and imagination. It promotes creativity and curiosity, whilst adding to your vocabulary and keeping your brain active. I get it, your brain is always active, but reading is a form of exercise for your brain, it not the usual mundane, day to day activity that it is used to. Reading is lifting weights for the mind.
I feel this is a powerful aspect of book and reading, I have always found reading before bed will send me off into a deep slumber, sometimes followed by a book landing in my face and waking me up, but slumber none the less.
Your brain is focused on the tale dancing across the pages, it isn’t overthinking all the problems you face, it isn’t worrying about a conversation you had earlier that day, it isn’t working out what to make for dinner tomorrow, or remembering that awfully embarrassing situation that happened when you were six and you haven’t thought about it in years but now’s a good time to let you feel mortified, right?
Instead the brain is calm and reading holding all of its attention, it allows you to feel sleepy, there’s no distractions, you can just drift away. Not now! Keep reading a little more.
The 168 Challenge
As the University of Sussex suggests, we need to read just 6 minutes each day for there to be a change in our stress levels. So, I thought perhaps we could do a challenge The 168 Challenge! Read for at least 6 minutes a day, 7 days a week for 4 weeks. Let’s reduce our stress, improve our mental health, get lost in some imaginary realm and reap all of those glorious benefits.
Don’t get too lost though, remember to let us know on our social media how you are getting on! You can share this snazzy stamp card we made for you to download for free (it is available here or in our Free Resources section), mark off each day you meet the challenge. I wonder how many books everyone will read! We are on TikTok now, as well as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to stitch our video for this challenge!