I've loved reading for as long as I've been able to do it. The escape to another world; exploring the lives of others (real and fictitious); the excitement of wondering what will happen next; the knowledge and ideas tumbling out of pages - these have been a lifelong joy. I always have a book on the go and a pile of 'next reads'. I read because I love it!
In a world where everything moves so quickly, it can feel like picking up something to read just adds to an already packed to-do list. However, research has revealed that reading just a little a day can reap enormous mental health rewards. Research by Dr David Lewis showed that reading for only 6 minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 60%. This was shown to reduce your heart rate, ease muscle tension and encourage a more positive state of mind. How awesome is that?
Reading is now a primarily solitary activity for adults. Gone are the days were families sit round and read to each other. It might have been a very long time since you read to another person. However, reading still helps to connect communities. You only have to look at the popularity of book groups to see how much people enjoy, and benefit from, the opportunity to chat about what they have read, often accompanied by refreshments. I've recently started facilitating a new book group for a lovely local café and have loved the way the group brings together people from all walks of life and ages. It is early days and we have already had some fascinating discussions.
There can be a real social engagement dimension to reading. This type of engagement can be beneficial to mental health and well-being. Something called bibliotherapy has been found to have a profound effect on people suffering with depression, improving concentration, emotional understanding and self-awareness. Reading carefully chosen books and then discussing them is a really interesting and effective therapeutic tool. Generally, reading a little of what you fancy does you a lot of good!
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed/stressed/anxious/depressed, why not try picking up a book.
Looking for ideas of what to read. Here are a few of my favourites from this year:
How to Stop Time - Matt Haig
Lessons in Chemistry - Bonnie Garmus
Bewilderment - Richard Powers
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Taylor Jenkins Reid
Young Mungo - Douglas Stewart
Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow - Gabrielle Zavin
The Mountains Sing - Nguyen Phan Que Mai
Before the Coffee Gets Cold - Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Cloud Cuckoo Land - Anthony Doerr