Summer Reading and Mental Health

When I was younger, summer reading usually meant reading books from the school-issued list, then writing the mandatory book report or project. As the years passed though, reading became an activity that I did on my own. Summer provided the free time to read whenever. Nowadays, the “real world” doesn’t have a summer break, but reading is still a popular pastime for millions of Americans, and can benefit both mental and physical health.

The common belief is that the digital age has led to a decline in reading, but this is not the case. Statistics from Pew Research Center indicate that 74 percent of Americans have read a book over the past year, a figure that’s held steady since 2012. Print books are still popular, and the technology age has introduced e-books and audio books. In whatever form, they’re still books, and they don’t have to be read only during summer.

Reading can provide several benefits for mental health. Studies suggest that people who read are more likely to be creative and open minded. Both of these qualities can help navigate life situations and encourage us to try new experiences and meet new people.

Reading can also help with perspective. For example, reading about someone who is experiencing something similar to you can introduce a new way of approaching the situation that might not have been considered before. Or the story might be told through the eyes of someone who is the complete opposite of you. Getting their outlook on life can help develop better empathy and understanding of other people.

Literature can help build relationships for both families and friends. Family members often bond over reading together, whether it be during the day or at bedtime. Books provide connections for friendships through the sharing of favorite books or social groups such as book clubs. Online resources like Goodreads provide a platform for people to trade book ideas and meet other people who share their interest in certain genres.  In turn, social connections not only lead to a better state of mind, but a decreased chance of other health issues.

In a world where the constant stream of information can be overwhelming, books provide a source of relaxation. In one study, just six minutes of reading reduced stressed by up to two thirds. This helps both mental and physical health because of improved moods and better sleep.

When it comes to physical health, reading can also help in many different ways. One study linked reading with a lower chance of dementia and increased longevity. This is because reading stimulates the mind through cognitive activity.

Reading a book can also be done while exercising, depending on the activity. Most treadmills and other exercise machines have a shelf to prop up a book or e-reader on. For activities like running, audiobooks are a way to listen to a story without having to hold a physical book in your hands. Getting lost in another world can keep your mind off the difficulty of the workout at hand.

While summertime can be a great time to read and discover new books, reading is something that can be done any time of year. So go grab a good book!

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