How Books Can Affect Your Mental Health

By Char Shields - September 06, 2020



Lately I've been in quite the mental health slump which means I haven't been doing much that doesn't involve laying on the sofa eating junk food. It also means I haven't been doing much reading as I don't have the motivation or levels of concentration to actually commit to sitting down and reading a book. When your mental health is bad, the most simple things in life become hard work.

However, I have just started re-reading a book which I'm sure will be met with a lot of judgement. I'm re-reading Twilight... and I'm really enjoying it.

I haven't read Twilight since I was a teenager and I thought my opinion of it would have changed as I've grown up. Instead, I'm enjoying it just as much. It's a comfort for me, like my favourite soft blanket or a nice mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day. This made me realise what power a book can have over you and your mental health.

Back in January (which feels like a million years ago now), I read the first prequel to the Maze Runner, The Kill Order. As much as I enjoyed this book, it was not good for my mental health. In fact, it spun me into one hell of an existential crisis and I found myself predicting the near future: what if a deadly virus hits us? What if something terrible happens that we can't control?

After reading The Kill Order, I was convinced something bad was going to happen. The book itself was extremely gory, focusing on a lot of bloody deaths and the effects of a deadly virus that clawed its way through what was left of humanity after a series of sun flares hit the earth. Not exactly your relaxing Sunday evening read. Although I do recommend the series as a whole, maybe just not until we're out of a terrifying pandemic.

That one book left me feeling out of control and scared for the future. And I guess, I should have been scared for the future... I had no idea what was about to hit. The point is, books can have a lot of impact on your mood.

If we look at a more light-hearted book, I read a novel called Summer on a Sunny Island back in the Spring and with this book I got to escape to Malta. This was a romance novel, something I've recently got in to because it's such a great distraction from the real world. You can just lose yourself in the story and the character's lives.

What attracted me to this book was the location. I've always wanted to visit Malta in real life but I settled for visiting it in my mind. Still, I felt the warmth on my skin and heard the crashing of the waves in my ears. Okay, so I read it during a heatwave in Cornwall but I swear I actually felt like I was in the Mediterranean.

Moving back to Twilight, the book and film series that everyone loves to hate. I'm finding that I'm easily relaxing and reading almost a hundred pages in one sitting. Usually, I struggle to get past a chapter at a time so this is great for me. I already know the characters and the story, but I'm finding that I'm excited with each turn of the page.

Comfort reading can take us back to our teenage or childhood years. The good parts of them, not the bad. And feeling young and naive all over again can make us forget our troubles. For a small amount of time, I can forget that I'm struggling to find a job during a pandemic, I'm almost out of money and I feel like I'm losing my grip on reality. No, instead I can focus on some clumsy human falling in love with an irresistible vampire. It may seem silly, but it's much better than real life.

All I'm trying to say is that literature is powerful. Reading is powerful. And you should spend as much time reading as possible because there's nothing like getting lost in a good story. When your mental health is bad, you can always focus on a young boy being accepted into a wizard school, a teenager winning their battle with an eating disorder or even a woman falling in love with a blood-sucking demon. Anything is possible in the world of literature.

Until the next time,

Char.

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