Becca Tapert / Unsplash
Becca Tapert / Unsplash

Reading for well-being

The benefits of reading for well-being are hugely supported by recent studies, concluding that the books on our shelves can offer alternative pathways to positive thinking.  Books can positively impact the health of the reader if they are considered not only as a source of entertainment, but as tools for looking after mental well-being.

According to the UPP 2017 Student Experience Survey, 87% of first year students find it difficult to cope with the social or academic aspects of university life. With high numbers of students facing instability when it comes to their well-being, it is important to realise the power of the resources available at our fingertips. Experiencing my own struggles with mental health, I was previously unaware that help could be delivered from something stored on my bookshelf. However, with the growing popularity among health professionals and sufferers of mental conditions for the prescription of books, it is clear that particular books can add to a better quality of life.

It is important to realise the power of the resources available at our fingertips

Front-running and raising awareness for this type of self-treatment is the “Reading Well” programme, which works with the NHS, the mental health charity Mind and public libraries, to provide books on prescription. This service can be accessed through your own GP, or you can visit any library and take out a book from Reading Well’s recommended list. These reading lists are carefully curated to help a range of conditions. Non-stigmatised reading spaces are also suggested in order to give people options – not just on what to read or where to read, but on how to tackle their lingering tribulations.  

Even more locally, staff and students here at Warwick have put together their own list of mood-enhancing books in aid of last year’s University Mental Health Awareness Day. This list is continually updated, with books ranging from Roald Dahl’s Matilda, to Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada. For many, convincing yourself to open a book and believing in the health benefits may be a challenge. At first glance, books like Matilda might seem to be simply a bedtime story for the younger generation. However, going back to these books and revisiting those well-turned pages can spark suppressed emotions, which in turn will boost your mood.

Books are a perfect catalyst for positivity and could significantly contribute to your health

From my own bookshelf, Susan Cain’s non-fiction book Quiet is an inspiring guide for introverts. Cain looks at the undervalued traits of people who would rather be quiet in a world full of extroverts. Reading Quiet injected me with a sense of confidence and empowerment, which in turn impacted my social well-being, as well as creating the time and space to become comfortable with my own sense of identity. For those more inclined to pick up a fictional book, immersing yourself into an alternate world can be up-lifting, as well as diverting your attention away from the low-spirited thoughts that may fog your daily life. Books, whatever their genre or desired purpose, can stimulate the mind and help to point you in the direction of a more positive outlook on life.

Although you shouldn’t expect the answers to your problems to be written on the pages of a book, if we start to consider books not as the solutions to our problems, but as an opportunity to process our emotions, reading can be considered as the starting point for improving mental well-being. Mental health is incredibly fragile and any condition will take time to mend. Meanwhile, books are a perfect catalyst for positivity, and could significantly contribute to your health.



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