On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Why Reading Books is Good for Mental Health

As many Oklahomans are already aware, Oklahoma is home to many struggling with mental health issues.  Nearly four million people live in Oklahoma and approximately one in five adult residents is dealing with a form of mental illness.

In 2016, 196,216 individuals were treated by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. This means it’s possible that up to 600,000 Oklahomans went without the mental health care they so badly need.

Changing the way Oklahomans view mental health issues in themselves and others is incredibly important. Creating communities where open discussions about mental health struggles are safe and accepted can lead to better personal understanding as well as coping mechanisms for those awaiting help.

Effects of Reading on Mental Health

When your mind gets absorbed in a good book, experts say it only takes six minutes for your body to begin to relax. In fact, when reading was tested against many traditional forms of relaxation, it reduced stress by 68 percent and was the highest ranked method among those tested.

Many people working to improve their mental health are looking for ways to create a life with reduced stress. In fact, while stress is both necessary and normal -- it helps you function by keeping you focused and alert in challenging times -- prolonged stress can lead to depression. Finding books which will draw you in and keep you intrigued, no matter the subject material, can help mitigate the effects of stressful situations.

Another way reading helps your mental health is by helping you sleep. Creating a bedtime routine helps people with trouble sleeping find a pathway to restfulness more easily. This is good news for those susceptible to mental health issues, since people who have trouble sleeping are more likely to wind up with depression.

Keeping your brain active later in life with activities like reading can also help slow memory decline. Studies have suggested reading and mentally engaging activities can reduce the likelihood of an Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis.

Suggested Reads

Go online and visit Amazon’s bookstore, search for mental health books, and what do you find? Almost 225,000 results for titles. The good thing about reading for better mental health is that you can read anything that interests you.

However, U.S. News and World Report asked several mental health experts which books they would recommend for learning more about depression and these are a few of the suggestions they shared.

Hacks to Help Reading Happen

There is no doubt that your day-to-day life is already packed full of activities. You have work obligations and demands from family, friends, civic groups and dozens of other tasks devouring your time.

Since mental health is an important part of your overall health, finding time to fit a reading session into your routine can be beneficial. Here are a few ideas to help motivate you to pick up your book.

  • Set a page goal before you start, because it is easy to get distracted by the needs of your household when you sit down to read. Set a goal for how many pages you will complete before you start and only end your session early for emergencies.
  • Set up online tracking. Start a list on Goodreads, or a site like it, and share your reading goals with your friends. As you progress, keep in touch with your circle of peers and let them know how you are doing. Accountability is often a great motivator.
  • Join a reading challenge. Across the country, libraries and literacy-minded groups organize reading challenges to get people excited about reading. Sign up for one of the challenges and get swept away with the tide of competition and fun.
  • Read across devices. Apps on your phone, computer and tablet (like the Kindle app from Amazon) will all sync, allowing you to have your reading material always accessible. Whenever you have a spare moment, read a few pages. You’ll be looking for new books before you know it.

INTEGRIS has services to help in all kinds of areas of your life. If you or someone you know is suffering with mental health issues, or any kind of health issue, let us help you find the right area of care.

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