How Can Reading Improve Mental Health?

As we all know, mental health is very important to maintain and keep an eye on in our everyday lives, especially being in school. According to an article from Bustle, schools in New York will now teach about mental health in health education classes. This is a huge start to helping combat and learn about mental health, as it is an ongoing issue that keeps growing. Hopefully, this movement will influence other schools across the nation to implement teaching mental health.

Many universities do offer their own health center (such as my school – Towson University), that provide a great team of counselors, peer mental health support groups, and other resources that will help students according to their needs. While my school and other schools do provide services as such, unfortunately not all do – yet. This may then lead students to having to find their own outlets to help with managing mental health issues.

That leads me to ask, how do you cope with mental health? In my previous blog posts, I’ve listed multiple options and ways that can help students and others in general that are dealing with mental health issues. One that I have not delved into thoroughly though, is reading books. While reading may be a hobby for some, it can actually help with mental health issues.

Yes, you may be surprised but reading books can be beneficial and improve your mental health. Articles from Reading Partners and Book Riot states how doctors have even prescribed using bibliotherapy (or reading books) for patients with mental health conditions. It is proven that reading has been an effective method in helping individuals cope with mental health issues.

These articles list and explain how reading can:

  • Reduce stress:  It is proven that reading can reduce stress and increase relaxation. A study from the University of Sussex conducted an experiment where the participants heart rates and stress levels were raised. They found that reading helped the best to de-stress them in this experiment. Reading helps us get lost in the imagination of the words and can stimulate our creativity while having us relaxed. Don’t feel afraid to set aside time to having a reading break.

 

  • Sleep better: It is said according to Mayo Clinic that reading before bed can help you sleep better. As a college student, I as well as many others can testify for having trouble with falling and staying asleep. Some nights, my anxiety will be so bad that I’ll end up only getting 2-3 hours of sleep. While it may be easy to just grab your phone and read, it is recommended to read your paper books instead. The screen on your phone or a tablet can have an effect on your brain, which may keep you up even longer. As I’ve mentioned before in my previous blogs, keeping up on your sleep hygiene is very important as it can effect your mental health. So if you can, find some time in your schedule before bed and read for a little.

 

  • Help prevent memory loss and dementia:  As some of us may not be worried about old age now, reading books will have you thanking yourself later. Studies have shown evidence of how reading can help prevent forms of dementia and memory loss, while keeping your brain strong over time. It is found that those who read regularly during their lifespan showed increased mental capacity as they aged, while those who didn’t read as much during their lifetime experienced a mental decline rate.

 

  • Increases empathy: Last but not least, reading can help increase empathy as well as self-awareness for an individual. As readers become attached to a storyline, they have to understand the characters feelings, emotions, and motives. This can then transcend to the reader being able to practice understanding others behaviors and emotions in real life, which can benefit and improve on the relationships around them. 

    Emma, a.k.a. “emmmabooks” on YouTube lists her book recommendations on mental health illness along with links to each of those books. Check it out! 

 

Do you have any book recommendations that you read that helps with your mental health? If so, I would love for you to comment down below. In the meantime, put down the phone, take a break, and pick up a book to read!

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The Importance of Self-love

What do you prioritize the most? Within the hustle of a struggling, young adult who is just trying to graduate, some may say their grades, jobs, deadlines, making time for friends and/or significant others is their main priorities – which can sometimes lead us to putting ourselves last. With everything piling up, where do we find the time to put ourselves first?

We try to make time for everything but ourselves, which can be daunting to our mental health.  An article from The Wittenberg Torch states how an Ohio State student had committed suicide by throwing themselves off of a parking garage, only several weeks into this year’s school semester. This would then initiate a movement and outrage of prioritizing mental health on campuses.

As we focus on what we should prioritize and focus on, that brings up the topic “self-love.” Why is it so important? As you may know self-love goes hand-in-hand with our self-esteem. The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses explains why self-esteem is so important for mental health. Low self-esteem can be linked to mental health issues and affect us in ways that we may not even recognize such as poor relationships, addiction, and depression and anxiety.

I (as well as I’m sure of many others) can testify that when I’m not feeling my best self or 100% confident, my whole world seems to slowly catch onto the negative energy, which then seems to bring everything else down around me. Like how J.Cole says,  “love yours,” it is important to do just that in reference to appreciating what you have, even when times are rough and you’re feeling down. Know that you are enough and worth it.

Talkspace as well as Heart and Moxies provides ways on improving body image, confidence,  and mental health. Here I list ways that help me practice self-love:

 

  • Remind yourself that you are enough: When you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and tell yourself what you love most about you. It may seem silly or weird to some, but it doesn’t hurt to try it. As much as we may focus on the negative and get wrapped around those thoughts, it’s also very important to focus on what you love – what makes you special. This exercise helped me build my confidence in high school. I would look at myself in the mirror everyday and give myself a pep talk around the lines of “you are beautiful, you got this, you can accomplish anything you want.” Saying these positive lines and putting it out into the universe actually can make a huge difference in your day, with improving your mood and creating a healthy mindset.

 

  • Take a break from social media: This is an important one for my generation. In this era, we are constantly comparing ourselves to the next person, especially from what we see on each others social media apps. We have the outlet to showcase our lives in a light that may seem perfect than what it really is. Seeing this constantly on a daily basis can sometimes put a dent on our self-esteem, whether we realize it or not. If you have to, take some time away from social media. Put the phone down for a couple hours and find a hobby that will benefit you. Sometimes even deleting certain apps that consume a large amount of our time (such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) can be beneficial and clear your mind out. This is what some may call taking a “social media cleanse”. In my own experience of deactivating Instagram for pretty much the whole year, I felt a significant relief within my life. I didn’t feel drained anymore and felt free from toxic influences.

 

  • Tell yourself what you’re thankful for: Everyday, name five things that you’re thankful or blessed for. It doesn’t matter how small it may seem. Appreciating and understanding the value of gratitude, can put a lighter touch on your heart. There are many things that we may overlook and take for granted.

 

  • Don’t compare yourself to others: This ties in with taking a break from social media. It’s hard for us to not compare ourselves to the next person, but it’s also important to remember that there is no one else like us and we should use that to our power. Learn to appreciate all of your attributes and characteristics that you offer. One’s life may seem great compared to yours, but we do not know what they may truly be going through behind closed doors. We only see so much and they only choose to expose happy and positive moments, but leave out everything else. Focus on you and do not let the lives or thoughts of others get in your way.

 

Here below is a video presented by Leo from Actualized.org on the concept of self-esteem and working on ourselves. I highly recommend to check it out.

*If you are having thoughts of suicide please contact 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.