Top 7 Benefits of Reading Books for Mental Health

Taking care of mental health is really important to be able to live a life full of colors. At the same time, our mental health tends to suffer from stress and anxiety that is caused by busy lifestyles. Every once in a while, it’s good to remember some really easy techniques that improve our mental health and keep us from falling deep into stress. It’s scientifically proven that reading nourishes our emotional and physical self. So let’s take a look at the top 7 benefits of reading books for good mental health.

Trains Your Brain

Just like the heart or any other organ, the brain is a muscle that needs to have modest stimulation to function at its fullest. Doctors and psychologists preach that reading has the same positive effect on our brain as doing regular exercise has on our body. Both reading and exercising is of key importance to maintaining a healthy body and mind throughout our lifetimes.

Reading is also great entertainment, opening doors to different cultures, new knowledge, or fascinating fictional worlds. There literally is a book for everyone, whether you’re a historical novel, science fiction, or poetry fan. In fact, a study conducted by neuroscientist Dr. David Lewis shows that reading as little as 6 minutes per day has a profound effect on reducing stress and tension.

Reading is like taking your brain to a gym. Other popular ways to keep the mind active are crosswords and different puzzles. A book will provide you with a fresh narrative every time and offer a stimulus to the brain. Reading is proven to prevent and slow down memory loss. So keep your brain active!

Makes You Smarter

Who would have guessed! There’s no need to look for scientific proof on the fact that indulging in a novel makes the reader smarter. The literature will let you experience different cultures without having to travel to a specific region. Travel stories are a great source of getting to know different religions and beliefs that different nations and tribes live by.

It’s also possible to acquire new skills from books. British doctors are prescribing certain self-help texts to patients with mental health problems. Reading through a narrative that describes similar problems that a patient is experiencing helps them to analyze their situation and look for solutions. Another example would be using handbooks to pick up a new hobby like cooking, or painting, or gardening.

Cognitive differences have been seen between people who love literature and those who don’t read that often. People who expose themselves to more written information have a larger vocabulary, better verbal skills, and overall general knowledge on different topics of life.

Reduces Stress

As mentioned above, reading is a clever way to reduce everyday stress and take the mind off daily topics. The literature industry has recently overgone a small revolution, where kindles and reading tablets offer a comfortable alternative to paper books. There are many free book reading apps available and countless e-books to be downloaded. Making time to read 10-30 minutes every day will effectively work towards reducing stress and anxiety.

Every book lover has a special corner with a comfy armchair to curl up in the company of the latest novel. So should you! Have a special little space for reading, where you can’t wait to unwind from the busy day. A lot of people read in bed, but having a reading spot outside of one’s bedroom reminds of this good habit at any time during the week. Reading has proven to reduce stress more effectively than having a cup of tea, going for a walk, listening to music, or playing a video game. Make room for reading in your daily routine and enjoy its benefits on your life!

Creates Empathy

As readers get into the swing of the storyline and different characters, they empathize with them and start to anticipate their motivations and behavior. A truly captivating story that explores the inner lives of characters increases the reader’s ability to sense others’ pain and empathize with them. Understanding the feelings of others is a skill that lets us put ourselves in another person’s shoes.

Empathy is important for building and maintaining social relationships, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Long-term fiction readers tend to have a better-developed theory of mind, which is exactly the skill of maintaining relationships. Living through a fictional character’s inner life is similar to engaging in the experience of a close one. Both of these interactions increase one’s ability to understand human behavior in everyday life. Empathy comes in handy with not only understanding people who are like-minded, but also people from diverse cultural settings.

Contributes to Child Development

Who doesn’t remember their first spelling book! Books are important sources of knowledge, and kids who enjoy reading from a young age are proven to have better abilities in almost every aspect of later life. Reading increases kids’ vocabulary and raises their ability in finding solutions to different questions. Reading age-appropriate literature builds kids’ communication skills and fuels their imagination to create a colorful life for themselves.

The love for literature starts from singing lullabies and telling fairy tales before bedtime. Parents who look at picture books and draw in coloring books with their kids promote the later interest of independent reading for their child. Not to mention that parents are the biggest role models for their offspring – looking at books together builds a warm and happy association with books, increasing the likelihood that the kids will enjoy reading in the future.

Teenagers who enjoy reading also benefit from several mental health benefits. Books offer an important method for exploring self-identity, providing insights into mature relationships that are important in the transitions of becoming an adult. Teenagers who indulge in books perform better in academic assignments, have a broader social engagement and a stronger personal development.

Builds up Vocabulary

We’ve talked about how reading makes one smarter, opening up new knowledge and know-how. It also works wonders with developing a large vocabulary. Every writer has their own style and choice of words, not to mention the endless topics that fiction novels or practical handbooks write about. There really is no better way in enhancing one’s terminology than reading books.

Other sources of learning new words would be from watching movies, listening to music, or communicating with others. According to an article in LumenLearning, it’s undeniable that reading is the most effective way in acquiring new vocabulary. Our brain needs to see words used in a context. That’s how reading a text works better in learning new words than memorizing a list of dictionaries.

Choose a book that interests you and is suitable for your level. If a book is too complicated, then the likelihood of actually learning new vocabulary from it is reduced. There is a library in every neighborhood. Thanks to people’s love for writing and reading there are also many used book stores around, where you can find older gems. For e-reader owners, it’s even easier to find captivating reading without leaving one’s home.

Provides Escape from Daily Life

Not to suggest that everyone needs an escape plan from the “real world”, but the whole point of literature, music, theater, and other forms of culture is to provide an extra dimension of aesthetics into our lives. Writers provide fictional worlds upon our reality that expand our imagination and social borders.

Some science fiction novels have proved to be almost perfectly predicting the future, leaving readers suspicious whether the author might own a personal time machine. Some examples of this would be “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov, where the Earth is ruled by master-machines ruled by humans. Or “Neuromancer” by William Gibson represents cyberspace before the Internet was commonly developed.

In fact, one of the reasons why reading is proven to reduce stress is exactly the opportunity to travel in an alternative world. Kids and teenagers often seek shelter from age-appropriate books to unwind from the difficulties that come with growing up. Grownups use reading in a similar way, as a good book can transform the way we look at the world. This is another proof that reading fiction novels have a beneficial effect on our mental health.

Stack of books background. a lot of books. A stack of books of different thicknesses in the library, a pile of old books, back to school reading books


Everyone probably has a few amazing literature experiences when they didn’t put down the book before it was finished. May this emotion fuel a simple yet far-reaching daily routine of picking up a book for 30 minutes. All the benefits we’ve talked about prove that this simple act can promote our mental health and have an overall great effect on our intellectual capacity.

We just feel smarter after reading books! And there is another twist on this clever hobby – discussing ideas that rise from reading enhance our intellectual capabilities even further. Reading trains the brain and reduces the risk of dementia in old age. Reading takes the mind off of daily chores and opens you up to new knowledge. Reading is a fun and developing pass-time activity for a parent and a child, creating good reading habits for a full lifetime.

About the Author

Bertha Graham is a blogger and an expert in education. She’s specialized in the meeting point of literature and psychology and works at PapersOwl as a writer. Bertha has published numerous articles on education and academic writing in specialty journals.

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