Reading Well for Mental Health
Hannah's Blog Post on the Benefits of Reading for your Mental Health
CLOSE YOUR EYES, TAKE A BREATH, INHALE CALMNESS, EXHALE STRESS. MAKE A CUPPA, SINK INTO A CHAIR, PICK UP A BOOK AND DISAPPEAR.
Mental health awareness week is nearly over, and it has prompted an incredible level of discussion across the board, with social media playing an integral part in that. The focus of the week has been stress and has encouraged many of us, including myself to really look into our lives, taking time to really consider how we are taking care of ourselves, our wellbeing and of course our mental health.
Unfortunately stress is one of those things that we simply cannot avoid. From burning toast to loosing a loved one, stressful situations hit us in a variety of forms and are largely unavoidable and out of our control (Although I definitely could have checked the setting of the toaster...) How we deal with these situations however remains in our control and without doubt we can make choices that may guide us through a difficult time with more ease and clarity.
My own experiences have taught me that in the past my go to coping mechanism has been found in my eating dIsorder. Whether that be in the restriction of my food intake or in the form of some other compensatory behaviour. We are all different, we all find our own ways of easing the pressure but unfortunately for many, these coping methods are intrinsically and inherently part of a deeper mental illness.
Stress and mental illness is kind of like the chicken and egg debate- does the stress cause the mental illness, or do we feel more stressed and react badly to stressful stations because of our mental illness. Quite frankly that is a debate which I have no need to get lost in, but I know for a fact that there are alternative ways that we can deal with life that are so much more powerful than not eating dinner (I am severely oversimplifying an Eating Disorder- anorexia is not simply skipping a meal!) There are alternative ways to manage and gain a sense of being able to cope that are not found within the realms of mental illness and one of the most beautiful examples of this is that ancient art of reading.
For a moment in time, as we turn the pages of a book we get lost in the translation of the words to imagination. We are no longer present in the storm but are almost
calm in the eye of the tornado. Around us, life and all it’s intricacies continue but with each word, page and chapter that we turn, our minds are freed for just a minute
longer, allowed to dance through tales and stories that can evoke so much.
Some may scoff, an actual book- does anyone actually read a book anymore!?! Well yes they do and actually far more of us should invest time into reading. It provides a shut off, the mind engaged in an active task and preoccupied with concentrating on the story unfolding before us.
Of course, minds wander, the phone rings (Or in my case, twitter alerts me of a new follower- @aneartohearhlb- just in case you wanted to join the fun!) and at first it may take a few attempts to fully emerself yourself into the words of the author.
But give it a go...
Try a page, try 2. I promise, once you find the right book, the cosiest seat and the comfort of a still mind, reading won't seem such a bore. It could be your prescription and your vacation in one act.
Go on- grab a cuppa and disappear into the pages of story telling.
Discover the Reading Well for Mental Health list here; you can borrow them from all Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Libraries.
Page last updated: 6th June 2018