5 Ways Reading Improves Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM). Some objectives of MHAM include educating the public about mental health issues, advocating for policies, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, helping individuals find appropriate resources, and prioritizing mental health.

Here are five ways that reading can positively influence your mental well-being:



1. Creates Empathy

Reading, especially fictional stories, can promote empathy in individuals. When people read fiction, they are likely to imagine themselves in the situations of the characters they read about. Readers also may feel similar emotions to those described in the story. Readers can also form different perspectives about various situations and obtain an understanding of others’ motives and beliefs.


2. Reduces Anxiety

Although anxiety is classified as a mental illness, it often produces many physical symptoms. Reading helps combat those symptoms by causing the reader to shift their focus from their anxiety to the book they are reading.




3. Strengthens Relationships with Others

Some readers love the solace of reading by themselves. On the other hand, reading can also be a very social activity.  Books help establish a common interest between you and someone else or serve as a conversation starter. Reading the same books as family members or friends could help you bond with those individuals by discussing your favorite stories. Book clubs, BookTok, BookTube, Twitter, etc. are also areas where avid readers can communicate with one another about everything book-related.



4. EVOKES A Sense of Calmness

Reading helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, while also reducing muscle tension and psychological distress. The “sense of escape” into another world one often experiences while reading also has benefits. This “escapism” can alter the way people perceive their world and surroundings.




5. HELPS WITH Understanding Emotions

In addition to promoting empathy towards others, reading may also help individuals understand their own emotions. Characters in stories often portray wide ranges of emotions. Observing how characters handle their emotions may help readers become more self-aware of their own feelings and the reasons for why they feel those ways.