Can Reading Make You Happier? Probably!

book_of_rose_flower_pink_soft_nature_hd-wallpaper-1562660 Read a book for what ails you…

We’ve all had that experience – when the exact book we need just happens to come along at the right time.  Maybe it’s a break-up, or a health issue, or just feeling ‘stuck’ in  your life, when a book that seems to speak to you and your life situation directly, magically finds its way to your lap.  Perhaps it was a friend who insisted, ‘Oh you have to read this book, it really helped me through x, y or z’, or it could have been a chance discovery in a library or a review you read in a magazine.  But for all this glorious happenstance, what if there was someone who could prescribe the perfect book for you?  Say hello to the bibliotherapist!  For some time now, bibliotherapy has been used by the health service to recommend various self-help books as a means of providing psychological therapy for people experiencing emotional difficulties.  However, is it possible that fiction can hold similarly helpful insights, while telling a story and reaching our subconscious in a more subtle and entertaining way?

Ceridwen Dovey’s article in The New Yorker, is written around her experience with a bibliotherapist at the London headquarters of the School of Life, which offers innovative courses to help people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence.  Following her session with the bibliotherapist, she was ‘prescribed’ certain books that were relevant to her life situation.  After a year of working her way through the reading list, she commented:

‘In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence…’

What’s more, reading has been shown to be very good for our health and well-being.  According to the article, studies have shown that readers of fiction tend to be better at empathising with others and that reading can ‘improve social abilities and move us emotionally – prompting changes of self-hood’.   Ceridwen concludes:

‘Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm’.

So, if you ever needed a reason to read more and carefully consider your reading choices, bibliotherapy is it!  Reading fiction offers us the greatest escape; where we can literally lose ourselves (or our ego at least) in another world of possibility and untold futures.  Characters who lodge in our hearts with their feisty attitudes, or their ability to turn a terrible situation into something beauty, can in turn help us to re-frame our own attitudes to a particular situation.  Just the very act of taking time out of life to drift away on the prose of a well-crafted book, is a gift to ourselves and an oasis from the demands of modern life.

For those of us who can’t make it to a bibliotherapist, there are plenty of resources online where you can find reading lists and recommendations for every kind of challenge life can throw at  you.  Here is a list of bibliotherapy books on Goodreads and a mood-boosting list from the Reading Agency and if you have any recommendations of fiction books that helped you through a challenging time, please add them in the comments below.

It’s alright not to feel ok

To mark World Mental Health Day, I am releasing a revised eBookProne to Panic cover

edition of my non-fiction title, Prone To Panic.

It all began back in 2005 when I published my book with iUniverse.  Scratch that.  It all began in 2002 when I started experiencing panic attacks and my life took some weird and wonderful turns that inspired me to follow my dreams and write a book.  I felt passionate about sharing my experiences and trying to help other people who found themselves in a similar situation, so I gathered all of the advice, knowledge and tips that I had accumulated over the years and wrote Prone To Panic.

I have since gone on to become a full-time writer and published two novels, The Cross Of Santiago and The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris.  When I was recently given the opportunity to regain the distribution rights for the digital version of Prone To Panic, I jumped at the chance.  After years of wanting to update my eBook and finally have a say in how it was priced, I was like, ya-huh!

So, as an established self-published author, I was delighted to get back in the driving seat and take control of my book again.  The only dilemma I faced was how this would fit in with the ‘author platform’ I had created for my fiction work under my nickname (or nom de plume if you’re posh!) Evie Gaughan.  I could continue to keep the books separate, but the truth is that writing Prone To Panic gave me the confidence and the belief that I could become a writer, and without that book, I’m not sure if I would be an author today.  And so that is why I have decided to announce the release of Prone To Panic (Revised Edition) on my blog to mark World Mental Health Day.  As the book is still available to buy in print with iUniverse under my full name, Evelyn Gaughan, I have published the new eBook edition under that name too.  Simples!

Prone To Panic (Revised Edition) is available to download for 99p on Amazon and Smashwords, and you can also read it for free with Scribd.  My main aim in writing this book was to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health and to let people know that it’s okay to talk about it.  If you or anyone you know is experiencing panic attacks or anxiety, this is a book full of empathy, support and information.  The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone.  As I said, you can still buy the original print version on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I will leave the last word to Heathers 😉