Library managers in Dover and Deal have teamed up with a leading mental health charity to promote the benefits of literacy to wellbeing.
Reading for just six minutes a day reduces stress levels by 60 per cent, helps brain functions and reduces anxiety and depression.
April is National Stress Awareness Month and so Kent Libraries and South Kent Mind have joined forces to bookmark the message that reading is good for your mental health.
Over April library staff will take part in mental health awareness training delivered by South Kent Mind and information displays promoting the benefits of reading and suggested books to borrow will be displayed in the district’s libraries.
The climax to the month-long campaign will be South Kent Mind’s Wellbeing staff delivering an information session on Understanding Stress and Anxiety at 10.30am on Friday, 29 April at Dover Library and Stress Busters for Mental Health at 1.30pm on Saturday, 30 April at Deal Library. Tickets must be pre-booking via the southkentmind.org.uk website.
Simon Dolby from South Kent Mind said: “There are multiple benefits to mental health and wellbeing through reading so our charity is absolutely delighted to be partnering with Kent Libraries to champion the message.”
Heidi da Costa, Customer Service Development Librarian, said: “We’re excited to be working with South Kent Mind to promote mental health awareness and the huge benefits reading can have on people’s wellbeing. As well as free books, our libraries offer community spaces for people to meet, take part in events, access free computers and WiFi, or simply take some time out from their busy lives. We also have a wealth of online resources such as e-books, e-audio books, e-magazines and much more. Membership is free and everyone is welcome.”
To find out more visit www.southkentmind.org.uk
Super seven fact-file
South Kent Mind has developed a Super seven fact-file to detail the benefits of reading:
- 1. Reading is pleasurable and makes you smarter
When you start to read a really good book it is often hard to put it down, the story captivates you and time disappears as you become absorbed. When you reach the end, you feel sad because it is over, or you are so eager to get the next book in the series you are emailing the author daily! It is a magical feeling and choosing to read a book can provide a number of other benefits. Reading makes you smarter. You learn new things, experience different cultures, understand yourself better and research has shown that reading does in fact make us smarter.
- 2. Reading can reduce stress
Losing yourself in a good book has been shown to reduce your levels of stress. Research by Dr David Lewis showed that reading as little as six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 60% by reducing your heart rate, easing muscle tension and altering your state of mind. That same study showed that reading was better at reducing stress than music, drinking a cup of tea, going for a walk and playing video games.
- 3. Reading can provide an escape from the ‘real world’
Closely linked to reducing stress levels when you read is the ability to escape from the real world. Becoming immersed in a fantasy world and helps you to forget your worries. Research has shown that escapism is more complex than just reading for light-hearted entertainment, but it did show that people found the process transformative changing the way people interact with the world and others.
- 4. Reading helps you develop empathy for others
People who read fiction have been shown to improve their level of empathy, the ability for you to understand someone else’s belief’s, feelings and thoughts. Known as the theory of mind. Research has shown that people exposed to fiction predicted the results of an empathy task and even positively correlated with social support (but remember correlation does not mean causation!). Further research into the impact of fiction on empathy showed that it was temporarily enhanced after reading fiction.
- 5. Reading works your brain and prevents memory loss
Participating in cognitive activities, such as reading over your life time (both early and later in life) was shown to slow down memory loss when compared to those who didn’t participate in mentally stimulating activities. The same study also found that the rate of mental decline was reduced by 32 per cent when people participated in reading, writing and other activities later on in life. While those with infrequent stimulating activity found that their decline was 48 per cent faster than those with average activity.
- 6. Reading groups help to treat mental health issues
My default for when I’m feeling low is to read but there is actually scientific research that shows that reading and then talking about what you have read could be beneficial to mental health and well-being. There is something called bibliotherapy and it has a profound effect on people suffering with depression. Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Institute examined a two weekly reading group program for people diagnosed with depression over a 12-month period and reported a significant improvement to mental health. Participants reported improved concentration, better emotional understanding, increased self-awareness, and the ability to discuss meaningful issues related to self and being.
- 7. Reading helps teenagers develop insights into being an adult
Becoming an adult can be tricky – a lot of things change during this time and exploring self-identity is crucial. Research has shown that reading for pleasure in teenagers has three key benefits, reading was shown to enhance academic performance, social engagement and personal development. Fiction helped teens by providing significant insights into mature relationships, personal values and cultural identity all of which are important in the transition from being a child to becoming an adult.