Reading as Self-Care

Reading sometimes feels like a guilty pleasure or something I have to justify. It’s a one-person activity that doesn’t involve helping others, saving money for the future, or contributing to making the world a less awful place. It doesn’t help me build relationships or invest in my health. Or at least I thought it didn’t until I started researching what self-care is. Self-care is generally defined as practices done by a person to reduce stress and maintain and enhance a person’s health or well-being. Goodbye guilt and justification. Hello self-care reading. Here are some ways that reading can be considered beneficial for my health:

It recharges me. Reading for pleasure is a way for me to recharge my batteries. As an introvert, I need to spend time alone in order to feel fully rested and to not want to seriously maim my family members and co-workers. It’s beneficial to both me and my loved ones for me to pay attention to whether or not I’ve had any down time. Down time is different for different introverts. For some it means spending time completely alone and in silence, while for others it means spending quality time with people they are close to, or unwinding by doing an activity they find refreshing. Either way, restorative time is essential to feeling healthy and well-balanced. Since reading a book I picked out for my own pleasure is a solo activity, it helps me feel rejuvenated. I can do it while surrounded by others and still feed the introverted need for solo time. It allows me to unplug from work, family, social media, and stress, and focus my cluttered mind on one task rather than feeling pulled in all directions. Once I’ve spent some time reading, I have more energy and am able to tackle tasks with more focus.

It inspires me. Reading a great book makes my brain feel good. As a writer, it makes me want to create. On days when I feel like I’ve used up all my words and don’t think there’s an original way left to string them, reading a good book gives me hope that maybe there are still a few stories left that are worthy to be told, that people want to hear. Whether it’s a new twist on a classic or a candid memoir of someone’s bravery, I get inspired. This inspiration leads to more creativity, more work, and a stronger sense of purpose. When I’m being more creative, working more, and have a purpose, I am taking care of myself.
It encourages self-discovery. I’m an emotional dunce. I don’t usually know what I’m feeling about a situation until I hear myself express an opinion out loud. Then I think, “Huh, that explains a lot about me.” Reading someone else express an opinion that I agree with is another way I discover how I feel about things. If I find myself nodding along with an editorial or vehemently shaking my head in disagreement, then I realize where I stand on an issue. Knowing yourself and your beliefs helps you to become a stronger, more self-assured person. Removing doubt and insecurity is an excellent way to care for yourself.

It provides comfort. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, I turn to books I’ve already read. Rereading a book I enjoy is comforting in the same way routines are comforting. They don’t change. The words between these two particular covers haven’t changed since the last time I read them. There’s still going to be the same witty lines and the metaphors are still going to be just as true as the first time I read them. I’m going to dislike the villain and cheer for the hero. During seasons of upheaval, whether good or bad, I turn to beloved favorites to help me transition and to keep me grounded in a sense of steadfastnesss.

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