Mental Health Blog

Reading and Mental Health: My Experience

As a university student, I am often enrolled in courses that run late into evening hours. I am a person who really loves drawing, so after class, I would anticipate coming home to rest and draw for a bit. However, by the time I had finished with homework, studying, and house chores, I often found myself too exhausted and lacking time to work on any personal drawings. Sometimes I would find that my days revolved around schoolwork, with little time for much else.

As a child, I was constantly reading books. I was not picky in terms of genre or writing style, and would read and enjoy most of the books I picked up. Every few weeks, my parents would drive me to the library. Before I knew it, closing hours would arrive and I would walk out struggling with two massive baskets filled to the brim with various books. I joined the “library helpers” club at my elementary school, and while other students would pull on snow pants, zip on jackets, and loudly stumble outside into the snow for recess, I enjoyed helping my school librarian sort books on shelves. An added bonus was getting to read if there was extra time, as was often the case. One semester, there was no “library helpers” club being offered. I recall standing by the trees at our school’s field, decked out in an interesting colour combination of a puffy purple jacket and neon yellow snow pants, attempting to flip the papers in my book with gloved hands.

As I transitioned from elementary school to junior high, junior high to high school, and high school to university, I found my daily and weekly reading time gradually decreasing until at one point, I completely stopped reading anything other than assigned class content. Unlike in elementary school, there was no encouragement by instructors to complete leisure reading charts or book logs. There was no assigned class time to go to the library and pick out two books for a weekly book discussion. Carrying a leisure book on public transit, alongside an already heavy laptop, power supply, and water bottle, was simply too heavy and too much of a hassle. Rather than waking up and picking up a book to read, I would find myself waking up and checking our university’s learning platform page in anxious anticipation for last week’s exam grade. Rather than feeling excited for a new day of learning and engagement, I often found myself feeling nausea and dread in the mornings. Learning became an increasingly stressful rather than engaging task. Going to sleep was difficult, knowing that each day would constitute of the same feeling upon waking, and the same routine of getting home, finishing up university work, and collapsing into bed exhausted, only for the cycle to repeat itself the next day.

One day, I decided that I wanted to try something new. I picked up an old favourite paperback book of mine and read it. I could not stop reading, so once my family had gone to bed, I sat on the stairs and read under dim lighting. As a result, I went to sleep late and woke up groggy. However, I felt oddly calm, and ready to face a new day. I found random lightweight paperbacks around the house and started carrying them in my school bag. Most of these were classics, so I anticipated becoming bored of them. However, I found that each was enjoyable in its own way. After each exam, I would treat myself with a trip to the local public library and grab random books that sounded vaguely interesting off the shelves. I read each of these and was exposed to various genres and writing styles. I would also re-read books that my family owned. Life became increasingly exciting, and it felt almost like being a child again. My assigned readings for class also became more interesting. I found myself more able to engage in class content, and became more annoying to my family during dinner time, as I would go off on random tangents about my abnormal psychology class.

Life became more exciting, mornings became less dreadful, and I felt calmer when completing my assignments, exams, and other tasks for the day. Falling asleep did not necessarily become easier, as now I would stay up late either reading or thinking about my most recent book. However, it did become less stressful, and resulted in some interesting adventure dreams that I could rant to my friends about.

While this is my own anecdotal experience, I cannot stress enough the extent to which reading has helped my mental health, and more generally, enriched my life as a whole. In writing this post, I simply wanted to communicate my experience with reading, the joy that it brings into my daily life, and the benefits that it has had on my mental well-being.

Regardless of whether reading is or isn’t a hobby of yours, I hope that this blog post might have entertained you for a bit, and I wish everyone a happy spring!