How Reading Helped My Mental Health

Posted on 26 November 2020,   0 Comments

When I was younger I read books like they were going out of style! My library card was my most treasured possession and I prided myself on the breadth of my literary taste. I loved being transported to different worlds, I loved reading by a little bedside light every night. I adored having a book with me everywhere I went- it was my armour that I could be safe behind. Especially when I was bullied in school and felt like I wanted to hide. I’d find a quiet corner in the school library and tuck myself away to retreat into pages where words took my mind off my troubles. Dickens, Shakespeare, The Babysitters Club series, Goosebumps… I read everything and I absolutely loved it. I even went to Uni to study a literature degree!

When my brother passed away unexpectedly that all stopped. My mental health took a massive dive and I couldn’t deal with the trauma I was experiencing. Everything changed. I couldn’t even leaf through a magazine and I felt like everything I used to love about reading now just felt pointless and empty. It makes me so sad to think that I lost something that was such a big part of my life during these times. 

For a few years I didn’t read anything. I didn’t read scripts or textbooks for my degree,  I didn’t read for pleasure nor to relax. I was just too numb. My own reality was terrifying and I could find no solace.

That is until (and please no judgement here haha!) my little sister encouraged me to read the Twilight books she had just started and was obsessed with. 

This was like an olive branch to me. Something silly and easy, but also engaging and devourable. It created a link between us that helped me rebuild my life and rekindle my relationship with her (after I’d withdrawn to grieve on my own- not a helpful move for either of us- please check out better ways for dealing with loss here.)

Suddenly we would be waiting for the books to come out, we’d be vigorously discussing the pros and cons of Edward and Jacob. And then the films came out and we got swept up in them too (again no judgement please!) We started reading other things that Stephanie Myer wrote about the Twilight universe and even beyond that. It was fun. A fun I so desperately needed to help me come to terms with what had happened to my family. 

Twilight was the stepping stone that reignited my love for reading. Finally I was able to switch off, zone out and delve into different stories and worlds again. It was amazing being able to get back into something I loved. It gave me hope that I’d be able to rebuild my life and move forward enjoying things I used to once more. And I did. Here I am using my experiences to help others through HATW but also dipping into books and living my life to the fullest as much as I can.

I still struggle, don’t get me wrong. But now I have podcasts and audiobooks that I find really easy to digest. I  listen to them when I don’t want to face the quietness of reading a physical book (sometimes my mind wanders too much.)

There’s lots of Science-y studies that show when you read a book your brain goes into a similar state as when you meditate. It makes you feel calm and puts you in a state of deep relaxation. Giving myself that zone out time helped me heal and process my trauma. It allowed me to order my thoughts and reflect in the same way meditation or yoga did, and it helped me with panic attacks. Reading will help you with:

  • Better sleep
  • Lower stress levels
  • An increase in self- esteem
  • Helps with feelings of depression
  • Increased empathy for others 
  • A healthier brain!

Reading is a coping technique that helps me so much and we’d love to hear from you if you feel the same.

What are you reading now or what have you read that changed your life? How does reading help you?

If you’re going through a tough time that makes you fall out of love with doing the things you normally enjoy, give yourself the time and space to create a pathway back to doing what you love. Try not to put pressure on yourself. It might be you just need a little break.

Take time to reflect and don’t force yourself to do things that don’t swerve you or aren’t where “you’re at” right now.  If your mental health isn’t great and you’re not enjoying your usual coping techniques or things that bring you joy, that’s totally OK. Find what does work for you right now, and what you can do to keep yourself safe. 

P.S Recently a very cool little indie bookshop opened next to our flagship store (in Cardiff) in The Castle Emporium! So many RAD books on diversity, race, sexuality and gender. And cycling! I bought 7 books and zines there the other day, a real mixture of non-fiction, fiction and self-help. And cycling.) I know this is going to be where I’m treating myself for the foreseeable future! 

Check out our lovely pals at The Shelf Life next time you pop in to see us. And thanks for reading! 

P.S.S I know Twilight is problematic and the films are downright cheesy but I’m grateful it helped me when it did. Also- Charlie 4 ever!

-Han HATW

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