The quality of your mental health affects your outlook on the world, the energy you have to achieve your goals, and even the quality of your connections with others. It’s an important but challenging process to look after your mental health, regardless of your age. However, teenagers can be particularly vulnerable to shifts in mental health. Sometimes, the best teen mental health treatment options include simple steps, covering everything from learning the right breathing techniques to getting enough sleep. For many teenagers, these small steps add up to make the biggest difference in general health and wellness.
One of the easiest ways to support your mental health is to find the time to do more reading. While this might seem like a simple, non-transformative change, it carries many health benefits, particularly for teenagers. Often, the most challenging part of incorporating this mental health strategy into your routine is simply finding some time. However, you might be surprised at the psychological, creative, and cognitive supports that reading can offer you. Here are a few of the primary benefits of spending just a few minutes each day with a book.
Reduce Stress & Escape from Reality
Reading offers us the ability to temporarily step outside of our own problems and into someone else’s world. This is particularly true for fiction novels and stories, though, of course, still applies to non-fiction works. For many people, reading is an important method for bringing the brain down to a more relaxed state, away from our current anxieties and struggles. Fantasy and science fiction stories, for example, transport us far from a stressful reality, with intricate world-building and constructions of mythological history.
Contrary to popular belief, the escapism that books offer their readers doesn’t negatively affect us by drawing us away from reality. They instead give us a new perspective for approaching our own reality and can put many of our problems in a larger perspective. By temporarily stepping into this other reality, we can reduce our stress levels, relax our brains, and set aside some of our everyday problems.
Develop Empathy for Others
When it comes to reading fiction, it’s often the characters that win us over and continue to hold our interest. Readers develop an interest in what happens to these characters, including how they will solve their problems and how they interact with the other characters around them. This engagement with characters can teach us empathy, thereby improving our real-world relationships and connections.
Improve Concentration and Memory
Allowing reading to become a habit supports healthy cognitive function and critical thinking. In fact, it isn’t just what we read that makes us smarter. The process of reading supports brain health and activity, which can in turn support our mental health. Many university studies discuss how the brain stimulation involved with this process can also reduce the likelihood of developing memory problems like dementia and Alzheimers later in life. While this might seem far off for teenagers, finding time to read is important for mental and cognitive health.
Improve Sleep Quality
It’s easy for many teenagers to get into the habit of looking at their cell phone right before going to bed, which can directly affect their ability to sleep. The blue light from the screen is the primary source of this disturbance in sleep patterns, though the content on the screen can also overstimulate cognitive functions when it should be relaxing rather than speeding up. It’s also tough to put down our phones, and for teenagers, apps like TikTok and Instagram are essentially addictive.
The poor sleep quality resulting from looking at screens right before bed almost always negatively affects our mental health. For this reason, it’s important to retrain the brain away from this habit. Replacing your cell phone with a good book before bed directly supports your mental health and improves your energy levels for the following day.
Meet Relatable Characters
Feelings of loneliness and isolation in teenagers are tough to handle and directly detract from both mental and physical health. Unfortunately, these feelings are swiftly becoming an epidemic, particularly as the effects of the Covid pandemic continue to unfold. Reading more often means you’re more likely to find a character that reflects the realities of your own situation.
Relatable characters can go a long way in making us feel less isolated or alone. They essentially let readers know that they aren’t alone in their problems and that someone else has experience with the problems they are going through. For teenagers, this can be a particualry important message. However, relatable characters cannot replace our normal friendships and connections with others. If you’re feeling isolated for an extended period of time, it may be time to reach out to a therapist.
Find Creative Inspiration
Writing is an essential creative outlet for many people and helps improve overall mental health. Reading on a regular basis often directly supports the quality and ease of this writing process. Books can help generate your creativity and get you thinking outside the box when trying to tell your own story. In fact, there are very few books and major works of fiction that don’t draw inspiration and storytelling elements from earlier works.
Join a Reading Group
One of the underrated benefits of reading is how it can connect you with other people who have similar interests or who have read the same book. It might sound cheesy, but reading groups and book clubs are a fantastic way to meet new people and make new friends, which always have the potential to support your mental health.
Conclusion- How Reading Can Improve Your Mental Health Benefits
Finding a few minutes each day to read a book carries many surprising mental health benefits for everyone, not just teenagers. Reading can help you connect and empathize with new people, help reduce stress, and even reduce the risk of memory-related complications later in life.