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5 tips for getting the most mental health benefit out of reading


Image of hands holding books
Thought Catalog | Unsplash

Tips & tricks by Sukhpreet Chana


Reading has long been touted as a method of relaxation for body and mind. But few of us can find the time to do it. Sukhpreet Chana provides their tips for reaping the mental health benefits of reading.


Whether it’s your favourite novel or a self-help book, reading provides us with a door into another realm, another reality. It is the ultimate method of escapism from our current lives and into a world of imagination and endless possibility.


As such, reading can work wonders for our mental health and is proven to help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and many other psychological stresses.


It is something I can personally vouch for. For me, reading is an escape mechanism that gives me pleasure, enjoyment, a hunger for knowledge, contentment, and purpose. It keeps my attention from being captured by other sources of information that can have a negative effect on my mental health. It helps me break free of physiological factors that may otherwise be affecting me. And it calms my thinking, helping me slow down and build a greater connection with the present.


But even with my own positive experience of how reading can affect my mental health, I know that reading isn’t always easy for others, meaning they struggle to gain the same benefits.


If this sounds like you, then you’re in luck! In this article, I will provide some of my top tips for how you can make the most of the beneficial effects reading can have on your mental health.






1) Try different genres

What type of literature do you like to read? Fiction? Non-fiction? Self help? Poetry?


Many of us will answer with one genre that they read most of, and maybe a couple of other genres that we dabble in every now and then.


But this is a very limited way of maximising the impact reading can have on our mental health. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you completely overhaul your reading behaviours, but I am suggesting you give other genres a shot.


When we broaden our horizons and begin to explore different ways of writing, we give ourselves the chance to discover new ideas and new sources of inspiration. It gives us a chance to see things from different perspectives and develop different ways of thinking that we can carry across into our everyday lives.


We may even uncover a love for something we never knew we had. After all, how can you know you like a genre if you never give it a shot?






2) Read every day

Even with the greatest of intentions to read, for many of us, something will get in the way. We woke up for work too late so now we have to shoot out the door, or we went to bed too late and now we’re too tired to read. And this is where many of us fall down: we simply don’t read often enough.


To gain the most benefit from reading, we need to set the time aside to do so, and preferably to do so every day.


I treat reading like an actual event in my day – just like how someone might block out 30 minutes for a meeting at work, I block out 30 minutes for reading. No matter what, I will read during that time.


Of course, life can be unpredictable, and things can quickly change. But by blocking out the time to read, I give myself a good chance of actually doing so, even if it turns out to just be 10 minutes. Taking the same approach could help you too.



 

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3) If you can’t read a lot, then read a little

Now, reading every day doesn’t mean reading a lot every day. One of the most influential ideas I’ve ever come across is the 1% rule – by just doing something and doing it consistently, we will eventually achieve our objective, even if it’s by progressing by a tiny amount every day.


Apply the same rule to reading. If you only have 5 minutes, then just read a few pages. Over time, these small amounts build into something much greater, ensuring you reap the rewards that you otherwise would have missed out on if you chose to read nothing.



4) Try different types of reading

In this day and age, a hard copy of a book is just one of several options. Now, we can carry a whole library around on our phones, or a nice thin tablet that we can slip into our already-very-full work bag. We can even have someone read us a book instead of actually needing to use our eyes to read it ourselves.


The latter has been particularly helpful for a friend of mine who freely admits that her very short attention span makes reading anything longer than a short story an almost impossible task. Since adopting audiobooks, she’s finally getting to experience the titles she’s always wanted to.


The great thing about this more passive way of experiencing a book is that we don’t need to 100% focus on a book in front of us – we can simply press play and listen to it while we’re travelling, gymming, or pottering around at home.






5) Become a member of a library

Although they are arguably less popular than they used to be thanks to technology making accessing books from the comfort of our homes so easy, libraries still provide an important service for those who cannot afford to regularly buy books.


If this sounds like you, try to track down your nearest library and sign up. It’s free and very simple to do, and you get access to as many books as you like (for limited periods of time, of course).



Get reading and reap the mental health benefits!

Reading really can work wonders for our mental health, from calming our nerves, to distracting us from harmful emotions, and even to improving our sleep.


Hopefully with the five tips above in mind, you can tap into the positive changes reading can provide – and they might even help you finish that best-seller that’s been sat on your bedside table for months!



 

My recommended reading list of self-help and spiritual books that can benefit your mental health:

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