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We all know that a healthy diet, exercise, time in nature, and proper sleep can improve our mental health and overall well-being, but did you know that reading can also have a positive effect on mood? I’m not talking about self-help books (though those can be great too!) but novels, fantasy, graphic storytelling, etc. What is it about fiction that improves mental health?

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Just like watching a show or movie, we get to take a break from our own lives and worries and enter into the lives of the characters. But reading is even better than a show because it gets us off our screens! It also demands more of your attention, so no more multitasking (you can’t read and doom scroll at the same time).

Sometimes when we read, we identify strongly with a character, which can help us to validate our own feelings and feel less alone. And when we don’t identify with the characters, we develop deeper understanding and empathy for those who are different from ourselves.

A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by over 60%. The study also found that reading is a more effective method of stress relief than listening to music, going for a walk, or having a cup of tea.


The only rule here is to read something you can escape into and enjoy, nothing work-related! Pick up something for pure pleasure. Need some ideas? NPR’s Book Concierge is a great place to start.

Courtney Grant, Intern

Courtney Grant is a Graduate Student Intern with the Mindly Group studying Mental Health Counseling.

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