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Why reading is the new therapy


In today’s fast-moving, often hectic world filled with overloaded schedules and demands, stress has become far too heavy a burden. The problem is that the type of stress we carry is often more than a temporary surge of adrenaline; it manifests as an ongoing, daily struggle. This continuous stress heavily impacts our mental health, evolving into chronic anxiety and depression. In fact, more than 40 million Americans currently suffer from a mental health condition, with stress as a likely culprit.

While eating right, exercising and in some cases, seeking professional counsel are all ways to help banish stress, consider this: reading a book can also offer an effective form of therapy.

Enter bibliotherapy, an actual term that literally means the use of literature as healing. How exactly does it work? When you read a book, you actively engage your mind and enter into new state of consciousness. This mental engrossment helps lead your mind into a state relaxation, lifting the worries and stressors deeply embedded into your body’s muscles. A study conducted by the University of Sussex even showed that reading helped decrease stress levels by 68 percent when compared to other forms of relaxation like walking or listening to music. The study also showed that reading worked faster than other methods to reduce stress.

So how can you make reading more of a priority to help keep stress at bay? Here are a few ideas.

1. Toss the tablet and reach for the hardcover.

Stack a few titles on your nightstand and carve out a few minutes from your evening routine to read before bed. Just be sure it’s a printed book. According to a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) study that compared book readers to tablet readers showed that the latter suffered from sleep issues like shorter REM sleep and less melatonin secretion. While both groups clocked in a full eight hours of sleep, tablet readers woke up feeling more tired. Not exactly helpful when you’re trying to alleviate stress.   

2. Join a book club.

Find a group of friends to join a monthly book club or create your own! Designate a person from the group to select a book each month for everyone to read on their own time, and then schedule a monthly get together to discuss the content of the book (preferably over healthy snacks and stimulating conversation!) There are many perks to joining a book club including the educational exposure to new and interesting titles, meeting new people and uplifting social interactions.

women sitting around a table reading books

3. Read to those in need.

Reading with others helps encourage personal growth, create life-long bonding experiences and can even relieve the pain of someone in need. Whether it’s reading to the children at your local library, starting a book club at an elderly home or taking used books to the nearest homeless shelter, a good book can serve your community for years to come.

a man reading to children

Reading a book might sound so simple, but in reality it is an incredibly engaging and therapeutic activity that stimulates and calms the mind. Whether you’re into mystery, romance, non-fiction or self-help titles, make it a point to read every day. While it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for professional intervention, stimulating your mind with a good book does make for a great form of complementary therapy.

What’s next on your reading list? Share your favorite titles below.