Ensuring you’re taking care of your mental health is more important now than ever and one of the easiest ways to take charge of your wellness can be done by picking up a book.

Not only is reading a great way to stay entertained while you are socially distancing, but it has been shown to improve overall mental health. From autobiographies to romantic fiction, there is a book for everyone out there to enjoy.

Here are just a few of the benefits of reading:

Reading Reduces Stress
The world could use a little stress reduction and one of the best ways to do it is through reading. Picking up a book can take us out of the moment and help our minds escape. A study from 2009 found that reading reduced stress in participants by nearly 70 per cent and was more effective than things like having a cup of tea or listening to music. They even found that reading for as little as six minutes can have a huge impact on stress. Another study found that 30 minutes of reading could reduce stress as much as a yoga session of the same duration.

Bedtime Reading to Wind Down
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for maintaining good overall health. It helps our bodies recharge and reset for the next day. But it isn’t always that easy. Your mind can race, and before you know it that alarm is going off. Having a bedtime routine that includes reading can help you get some good shut-eye. Putting down that phone and picking up a book can help you wind down and relax before bed. And we mean an actual book with pages – not an e-reader or tablet, those can actually prevent sleep due to the brightness of their screens. 

Builds Up Your Brain
Reading is really like taking your brain to the gym. It works out all of those important muscles that are needed to help you be at your best mentally. Keeping your mind active with reading makes your brain stronger.

Having to follow words and pay attention helps our memory skills improve and get better over time. It can also build up your vocabulary. This can lead to better conversational skills and in turn lead to much improved communication. This means better grades in school and even better job interviews or opportunities as you get older.

Helps Improve Your Ability to Empathize
It may not be the first thing you think of when you’re about to pick up a book but studies have shown that reading can help you better understand other people’s feelings. This is especially true with reading fiction over a longer period of time. Research found that fiction novels can help with something called ‘Theory of Mind’ that helps people understand other people’s ‘desires and beliefs.’

Can Help Deal with Mental Illness
Reading can be used as therapy. This has become so popular they have a term for it – bibliotherapy. There are actually bibliotherapists who can prescribe books to specifically help with things like anxiety, grief or depression. These self-help books can be a big help to people with mental health issues, either on their own or in addition to in-person therapy.

But it isn’t just ‘self-help’ books that are recommended. Reading fiction can help you feel more connected and can help people who may be dealing with depression or anxiety. It allows your imagination to become more engaged and you connect emotionally to characters and reflect your own feelings, problems and desires as you read. 

Reduces Symptoms of Dementia
Reading can help with diseases such as Alzheimer’s by keeping the brain active. Inactivity in the brain can increase the chance of getting the disease. A study found that older people who read regularly were 2.5 times less likely to get Alzheimer’s. But don’t wait until you’re older to get reading! The earlier you start the better for your brain, it’s been shown to prevent many symptoms of dementia especially if you start young.

International Literacy Day is September 8, so why not celebrate by picking up a good book? It doesn’t have to be an individual activity either. Try starting a book club with your friends or family. It can even be done over video chat to maintain social distancing.

No matter where you do it or what genre you choose, consider reading more to improve and maintain good mental health this year!