Is Reading Good for Mental Health?
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In the new digital age, reading a physical book can seem like an old-fashioned pastime. There are a wide variety of benefits that we can get from reading. Reading can provide a sense of escape and give your brain some exercise. Whether you enjoy fiction or non-fiction, reading can improve your sense of self and your overall wellness.
Effects of Our Digital World
The use of technology and digital screens is becoming a big part of everyone’s daily lives. There are some studies that discuss how excessive technology use can have detrimental effects on the way our brains function. Technology use may increase the presence of attention-deficit symptoms, training your brain to require constant stimulation. It can also interrupt your sleep patterns and even lead to insomnia.
Excessive technology use can also have an impact on your mental health. It can lead to a decrease in your ability to interpret emotional and social cues from others. In some cases, it can lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness, especially with significant time spent interacting with social media platforms.
Benefits of Reading Go Beyond Education
Sometimes it is easy to associate reading with education and not consider the other wonderful benefits that it can provide. You may not even be aware that there are mental and physical benefits to reading. Let’s take a look at the effect that reading can have on your mind and body.
Physical Effects of Reading
When we read something that we enjoy, our body reacts physically to the break we are giving our minds. One study showed that reading for 30 minutes a day lowered stress levels, blood pressure, and heart rates as effectively as yoga. When we are experiencing a world completely in our minds, our bodies can relax and let go of any tension we’ve been storing in our muscles.
Mental Effects of Reading
Reading is good exercise for our brains. When we read, we train our brains to focus and concentrate, which can help reduce attention-deficit symptoms. We use many different areas of our brains while reading, many more than just the language processing areas. When we exercise our brains through activities like reading, it can help our brains function more efficiently and prevent cognitive decline as we age.
We spend a good majority of our time staring at one screen or another throughout the day. If we continue to do this at night, our brains may have a difficult time understanding when it is time to start shutting down for sleep. By incorporating reading an actual book into our bedtime routine, we can relax our bodies and give our brains a break from the screens. This can be a clear signal to your brain that it is time to rest, reducing insomnia and improving sleep quality.
Social-Emotional Effects of Reading
There is research that shows readers have a higher ability to empathize with other people’s thoughts and feelings and be compassionate. When we read, we are able to explore a full range of feelings and experiences that we may not otherwise be exposed to. We are then able to translate those experiences into our own lives. That’s why reading increases our ability to ability to function in relationships and other social situations.
When it comes to targeting more specific mental health disorders — such as depression and anxiety disorders — bibliotherapy can be helpful. It can be used as an alternate or complementary treatment to traditional treatment methods. Bibliotherapy was especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when there was an urgent need to find alternatives to traditional therapy that was unavailable.
Bibliotherapy generally involves the practice of an individual reading specific literature on their own and taking the time to reflect on what they have learned. They might also focus specifically on their own reactions to the information. They will then have a discussion about the literature with a mental health professional or in a group therapy session.
Early research shows that using bibliotherapy to help individuals make changes to their thought processes was effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Given all the different ways that literature can exercise our brains and open our eyes to new ways of thinking, it may prove to be useful in more ways than one.
Alter Wellness Care and Mental Health Support
At Alter Wellness Care, we understand that every person is unique, with their own interests and lifestyle. We strive to provide the best care to every person who needs it in a way that engages them and fits their needs. Our individualized treatment plans are developed with the client’s best interest and overall wellness in mind.
Alter Wellness Care provides structured clinical programs designed to help our clients meet their mental health goals. Our compassionate team offers services such as interpersonal process groups, cognitive behavioral therapies, and many other support services. We can help you develop the skills you need to strengthen positive mental health and manage any challenges you may face.
Whether you are looking for ways to help you unwind or you have specific concerns about your mental health, reading may be an effective tool that you can utilize. Reading a book exercises our brains, decreases stress levels, and can help us be the best versions of ourselves. If you are interested in more tools that increase your mental wellness or manage mental health challenges, Alter Wellness Care can help. We have a variety of evidence-based individual therapies and group resources that can support you in achieving any goals you have for yourself. Call our compassionate team today at (866) 311-3510 for more information on boosting mental health and wellness.
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