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!