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Read your way to wellbeing

13 February 2019

Do you know what day is being celebrated on the 14th of February this and every other year?

If you answered Valentine’s Day, you are correct. But that is not the only thing happening on the day. It is also International Book Giving Day, the day for sharing stories. Did you know reading books can improve your health through the ‘five ways to wellbeing’? The five actions were created by New Economics Foundation (NEF) to help mental wellbeing through life.
Some of the benefits of reading are obvious– for example, books offer entertainment and mental stimulation. They can also help you to Keep Learning (one of the five ways to wellbeing).
Books can also help you Connect. Reading fiction can help you improve your empathy skills? You can better understand how others feel in different situations. You can also connect with others over the stories. Why not share your favourite book with someone close to you then discuss the book together, talk about character, plot lines and twists.
Reading doesn’t have to cost anything. Visit your local library or you can also get thousands of free e-books online then you can share the free links too. Alternatively a quick trip to your local charity shop can provide a treasure trove of books which don’t cost very much.
Books also lend themselves to Taking Notice. Notice the similarities and differences between you and the characters; consider why they are behaving differently to how you would. Be mindful of how reading makes you feel; do you laugh, cry or feel puzzled. When you give a book to someone, notice their reactions. Ask them about their experience of the book – consider how similar or different your reactions are.
This may sound surprising, but books can also help you to Be Active. You can listen to audio books while exercising. If you read about a place you have never been to and you can afford it, why not visit it? Keeping an active mind is also important  – reading books can help you improve your memory and your analytical thinking skills.

While the five ways to wellbeing are well established, arguably there could be a 6th action - Caring for the Planet. Improving the way we use our resources helps improve our wellbeing. This can easily be done on the International Book Giving Day. Go a step further than giving your favourite book to friend or family member; donate the books you no longer want to read to your local charity shop. This can help you declutter your home while Giving Back to the community and being green – it does not get much better than that.
For further information on the international book giving day, follow Book-Giving Day on Facebook or check out their official website
Anna Lorencova - Health and Wellbeing Advisor
The Work and Health Programme – Home Counties

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