The Amazing Mental Health Benefits of Books

literature-DustinGaffke-flickr.jpg

Reading is a proven way to relax the mind, and reading literature can be effective therapy for some of the issues that ail us.

Although reading is often thought of as a spare time activity, maybe we would benefit from enjoying books the way we enjoy food. Food is pleasurable and energizes our body. Literature is pleasurable and energizes our self or soul.

Four Mental-Emotional Health Reasons To Read

Books can serve as teachers, validating and illuminating our inner lives, preparing us for obstacles and failures, and widening our reach of empathy.

  1. Reading helps us feel connected. Writers often seem to understand us more than we understand our self. We might struggle to describe our inner stew of ideas and feelings for weeks or months, only to find a story character has described it perfectly in a book. It is as if the writer knows us, but what they really know is the human condition. When we see our self perfectly presented on the written (or digital) page, we understand our inner workings better, and realize that individual human experience is part of the universal human experience.
  2. Literature explores life’s vast gray areas. The heroes and heroines of stories are flawed, frequently fail, and struggle. Instead of judging human weakness, authors explore the inner complexities triggered by temptation and failure. As we read their tales, a character’s outer and inner difficulties endear them to us. Even the most disreputable characters are never without hope when you see the inner conflicts they are dealing with. This prepares us for our own experience of failure and inspires the courage to face it.
  3. Stories help us see through other’s eyes. Story characters think, do, and say things differently than ourselves because they look from the perspective of their own experience and temperament. In books, we get involved with devious people and those who move through life with kindness and respect. There is an examination of feeling and thought that is lacking in our busy work and media-filled lives, and the examination waters our empathy.
  4. A few hours of reading grants us years of experience. Though it takes time to read a book, the wisdom and experience we take away from witnessing other’s lives in stories can save us years of learning by trial and error. Humans do not, as a rule, like taking advice, but when we glean understanding through literature we are making up our own heart and mind about what we value. Stories resonate with our natural humanity and so we often respond by learning—with pleasure.

Source: Brain Pickings
Photo credit: Dustin Gaffke / flickr

 
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