Reading: The Cure for What Ails You
Good news, fellow book lovers! The New York Times recently reported on a study that touts the health and relaxation benefits of reading. Reading can reduce stress levels by 67%; more than nearly any other activity. To this end, doctors in Great Britain have begun prescribing library and bookstore trips to patients suffering from anxiety and depression. Patients are encouraged to pick up self-help books, “uplifting” novels, and books of poetry. We at Open Books already knew that bookstores are the most relaxing place on the planet (if you’re not working at one, that is!) and we have found that books can be cures for far more ailments that anxiety and depression.
Loneliness: Feeling alone? Pick up a philosophy book and enter a conversation with the author, and by extension become part of the great human debate. Pick up a novel and enter the mind of someone completely unlike you. A relationship with a fictional character is no less real… and sometimes the longest lasting.
General malaise: No need for boredom with books around! Maybe it’s time for an edge-of-your-seat thriller, some improbable sci-fi, or something hilarious. (Try The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams if you want all three.)
Societal detachment: See: Loneliness. It’s hard to feel detached from society while reading a great book. Books are, in our opinion, the ultimate social media. Take your thoughts or an interesting bit of trivia and start a conversation on Facebook or Goodreads, on the train or at a bar, with your family and friends, and with your friendly bookstore shopkeepers. You can even e-mail the author; you just may get a response. When you read you enter a conversation with the author and everyone else who’s ever read that book. All you have to do is share your thoughts.
Chronological detachment: Time for history books! Exacerbate your problem by getting lost in the minutia of the middle-ages, or get up to speed on current events with some erudite takes on the facts of the day. Books are far more informative than the 24-hour news cycle, and are usually written with the advantage of a few extra months to reflect.
Trouble empathizing: Here’s a fact that might start a great conversation: according to a study done by the University of Buffalo, reading fiction improves the ability to empathize with others. Fiction puts the reader into someone else’s shoes, and constant readers can more easily translate that experience into their every-day interactions with others.
But beware, because books can cause some psychological disturbances too. The desperation I feel when I have to put down a book right at the good part; the lost hours of sleep when I can’t put a book down at the good part; the absolute devastation when something awful happens to a character I love; the horror of a bad ending; even more lost sleep from scary stories…. there’s no end to the effects that books have on my life. Even sad or difficult emotions brought up by reading connect me more closely to the world. I think doctors who prescribe books may be the best doctors of all.