On mental health and reading

I recently got into therapy (Yey! Finally! 🙂 ) and, boy, am I being forced to confront all these uncomfortable thoughts head on. One interesting bit that came up is how my habit of reading is negatively affecting my mental health – and that’s what I wanted to discuss by writing this post. While I admit that this isn’t exactly a revelation, it was brought to my attention that maybe I am using ‘reading is my escape‘ excuse a little more than necessary? Apparently, from the looks of it, constantly being around books and reading all the time is doing more bad than good for my well-being lately.

WHEN IT BECAME TOO MUCH

I mean… I love books and I love reading. Even if I’m pretty slow at it, I’ve always felt like it is my lifeblood. I love words even though sometimes they don’t love me back. If people were to say “reader” is my brand, I won’t have any objection to it. I can’t honestly count all of the times that the gift of words literally saved me. So it made me sad that somehow, all these has a downside that I failed to acknowledge all this time.

These are the the moments where I got it wrong:

1. USING IT AS A DIVERSION – A LITTLE TOO MUCH

Reading is escape – it has always been. Any bookworm will agree and won’t say otherwise. But after weeks of pondering, I came to realize that, sometimes, I am using this as an excuse to not deal with life and whatever it threw at me. It felt like I came to a point where the automatic response to things not being okay is to pick up a book, read, and not think about it. While this is usual, as is with most distraction that we subscribe to, not doing it in moderation prevented me from doing something necessary for me to move on from certain things in my life: actually processing them. I kept putting everything off, again and again, that it hurt me in the long run.

2. NURTURING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS THROUGH BOOKS

I’ve always gravitated towards books that deal with depression, heartbreak, alienation, loneliness, etc. For a while, I’ve had this notion that negative emotions bring about the rawest part of ourselves – the part that makes us feel more than ever. That’s why I feel like I place more value to books that deal with this kind of things than cheesy and happy-go-lucky lit. Pretty one-dimensional, yeah – but now, I am realizing that this is me projecting my emotions to the materials that I consume. I mean, It’s always nice to find a book that understands, that you can relate to. I swear… that Kaz Brekker quote from Crooked Kingdom about coddling and nurturing his grudges keeps echoing in my head while my therapist was talking. And it made me laugh, almost – because that is exactly what I did, albeit unconsciously: I nurtured these negative emotions through the books that I read and now they are eating me whole.

SO… WHAT NOW?

Obviously, I wouldn’t go around and stop reading just because I realized a couple of things. Part of the reason why I am writing this in the first place is to force myself to make an action plan to counter these things and make myself accountable for it.

So here are the things that I hope I would do going forward:

1. ALWAYS CHECK MY INTENT

What I learned in this journey is that I always need to check my intent in doing things and, by extension, being mindful while I am doing them. That goes with reading as well. The next time I am picking that book, I hope I do it for the right reasons.

2. BEING CAREFUL OF WHAT I CONSUME

Now this – THIS is gonna be tricky. All the years of reading made me curate what I like and not like in my brain. While I will always be partial to quiet and introspective books, I will try to put my energy into exploring the sunnier part of literature. I am not saying I will stop reading ‘depressing’ books – but I need to be careful of what I consume at specific moments in my life. That saying, I hope to be more in tune with my emotions so that I won’t multiply any negative thought by consuming books with similar themes, and instead try to cancel them out with some positive light. That’s the only way I think I’ll be able to compromise – at least, for now.

TO WRAP IT UP…

While I know that this will not happen overnight, I am quite excited for the changes this plan will introduce to my reading life and my mental health. Reading is important and all… but when it’s starting to do a number on your well-being, that’s when you know you have to do something differently. As for me, I am just so proud of myself for finally taking active and concrete steps to take care of my mental health. One step at a time, one step at a time. 🙂

#ReadBetter


How about you? How has reading affected your mental health? Do you have similar experiences? Comment up and let’s discuss!

Posted by

Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I'm also a Sssslytherin 🐍. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

6 thoughts on “On mental health and reading

  1. First of all congratulations on getting help! Like you said that’s a huge, concrete step at getting better…a step that sadly many people never take.
    Like you I also tend to gravitate toward quieter, more introspective (and, usually because of that, more melancholy) books (curse you but also love you Ishiguro and Murakami). I can definitely understand reading as escape, but I wonder if these sad books *have* to affect you negatively? For my own self, I feel like I can find solace in the sadness of other characters and sometimes see my own problems in a new light; I see myself reflected in their lives and when I return to the real world I feel refreshed (most of the time). But, most of all, those sad books sometimes just feel like a friend. I’m reminded of the movie Inside Out and how sometimes accepting and releasing sadness is necessary.
    Although, I guess this is all with a grain of salt as I’m in the same boat of being depressed/anxious a lot and reading too much and sometimes to the point of not facing my problems and also everything I wrote previously might just be a desperate attempt at justifying my escapism.
    Anyways great blog post and wonderful to read about your discoveries about yourself and your plans moving forward! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have Murakami supplying me with this kind of books. LOL While I love him for it, through the years, I grew to understand that there are just certain moods in which I can appreciate his themes – even if it’s weird, he is one of my favorite authors.

      Also, I love your comment that “sad books sometimes just feel like a friend”. I totally get that. I also have this tendency to look for books that “understands” me so as to have solace that at least these feelings are normal and valid and I am not alone in this – but I grew to realize that I should keep it in moderation because I don’t really handle them well at a certain extent. But people respond to triggers differently so I guess to each our own. We just need to take in mind that mindfulness and some introspection could go a long way – so that we can make sure that we’re doing things for the right reasons. At least, that’s what I want for me. 🙂

      Thanks for your wonderful comment, Joshua! 🙂

      Like

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