(Disclaimer: I am not a psychological professional.)
Last week, I plunged into the many fascinating ways being an avid reader can benefit your brain. As I was writing the post, I noticed that the wordcount was spiraling beyond the 500-600 I try to make each of my additions to this blog—as a result, I decided to split it up. Hence, this post known as “Part 2.”
Part 1 saw me discuss what reading does for your empathy and imagination, and it can also thankfully slow down the pace of life. Today, I want to dive into even more benefits reading can deliver for your mind and mental health.
There is a common stereotype that bookworms are quiet and shy and don’t like interacting with people. Plenty of book lovers I know are outgoing—even, dare I say, extroverted? That said, books still provide a great way to learn about and even get to know people without, of course, really having to be chatty or an extrovert.
Unforgettable characters I’ve come across in literature, including Holden Caulfield, Scarlett O’Hara, and the entire tragically dysfunctional bunch of Compsons (in The Sound and the Fury), have been just as interesting and fascinating as a lot of people I’ve gotten to know in real life. By reading, it’s as if these characters are in conversation with you—especially in first-person works—without any burden on you to reply or talk about yourself, which is a relief if you’re pretty introverted. Who knows? By cracking open a book, you might just make a new best friend.
Another awesome aspect about reading that I’ve discovered: de-stressing. I already mentioned in the previous post how reading slows down your sense of time, which in and of itself is great.
But reading further benefits you because by getting lost in a different world—no matter for how long, although I prefer extended periods—you can get away from the hectic craziness of your own world. By choice, I have a days clogged with things I need to do (writing blog posts like this is one of them), and when I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the piling up to-dos, I know the best thing I can do for myself is to jump into a novel. Yes, you might label this as “escapist,” but I think of reading less as an escape and more of an alternative to temporarily put the rest of the world on pause.
On a related note, literature lends some direction in life. By that, I mean sometimes it feels as if everything happening to me and around me is random, and that events are spiraling out of my control. While reading isn’t going to really give you that control, stories—even the most disjointed and funkily structured ones—do show a world that makes sense, with A causing B and so on, and a clear beginning, middle, and end. I find that reassuring because I can apply that feeling from reading to my life outside of the pages.
Finally, reading a lot just might get you to take another step and become a creative writer. Obviously, I’m biased towards this because I have been dedicated to writing fiction since 2015. Writing and reading go hand-in-hand, and the inspiration your mind gets from reading all those words, chapters, and stories can have the incredible flip side of creativity, which will get a bajillion gears in your brain working and spill over into all sorts of areas of your life (such as work!) that are outside of the writing itself. Plus, all that writing will make your mind hungry for reading, and a positive cycle begins.
Follow me on Twitter at @ethan_nelsonwrt for takes on writing and reading, all under 280 characters!