Anyone who has lost an hour or two to reading a book knows how magical it is to immerse yourself in a great story. Reading lets us to step into someone else’s shoes for a while, allowing us a short time-out from our own lives. Books can educate and nourish us and have long been a sought-out source of escapism from everyday life.
Today is World Mental Health Day and the team at LBF have been looking into the benefits of reading and how it can help to improve mental wellbeing.
Here are just some of the ways regular reading can help!
Reading can reduce stress
A 2009 study conducted by the University of Sussex found that reading a book can reduce stress by up to 68%, working better and faster than listening to music or going for a walk. It was found that study participants who read for just six minutes reported a slower heart rate and the easing of tension in their muscles. Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis said “by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world.”1
It can improve your memory and focus
With everyday distractions such as family, work and screens, spending time reading can often fall to the wayside. Hansa Pankhania from the BACP says “reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks get stronger and more sophisticated.” This means that while you’re flipping through the pages of the latest bestseller, your brain is strengthening existing memories which “assists in short-term memory recall”2.
It can help you develop empathy for others
As we mentioned earlier, reading another person’s perspective gives us the opportunity to exercise our empathy towards others. In recent research, a link was drawn between people who read fiction and their ability to understand someone else’s beliefs and thoughts. The study concluded that there was “evidence that the reading of fiction can have important consequences [for developing empathy]”3.
Reading groups and book clubs offer opportunities to socialise
Children benefit from regular socialising from a relatively young age, and one way to bring them together is by having them attend reading groups. Whether it be at your local library, an after-school club or even something arranged by parents, they’re a great way to encourage children to read and gain understanding of the feelings and attitudes of those around them.
But reading groups aren’t limited to just children, and neither are the benefits. Book clubs – either in person or virtually – are a great way to connect, meet new people, discuss stories, and promote local authors and events in your area.
So why not pick up a book or look at joining your local reading group this World Mental Health Day? Let us know what you’ve been reading, and join our #LBFBookClub to see our latest reviews and recommendations.
1 Dr. David Lewis “Galaxy Stress Research,” Mindlab International, Sussex University, UK (2009)
2 News from BACP, 3 March 2022
3 “Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy: Ruling out individual differences and examining outcomes”