She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain – Louisa May Alcott
A room without books is like a body without a soul – Cicero
Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book – E.B. White
[Fiction can] …repeat…rearrange…clarify the lessons of life…disengage us from ourselves…constrain us to the acquaintance of others…show us the web of experience – Robert Louis Stevenson
I am a self-proclaimed bibliophile. I love to read and spend most of my free time buried in a good book. When I was de-cluttering my house, someone suggested I get rid of some of my precious books. Unthinkable! They are part of who I am.
There is nothing like escaping into the pages of a good book. I think that’s why reading is good for our mental health. It really is an escape from life and responsibilities (unless it is required for school) and a chance to learn something new, do some armchair traveling, or just enjoy a good story.
Humans evolved to tell stories. We remember things better in story format rather than just a dull list of facts. Storytelling, both oral and written, has been used as therapy, now called bibliotherapy, since people first developed language. Libraries in ancient Alexandria and Thebes had a carving over their doors that usually translated to “medicine for the soul”. In ancient Greece, libraries were considered sacred places with curative powers. And best of all, a library card is free.
A 2015 poll showed that people who read for pleasure regularly reported stronger feelings of relaxation than with television or technology activities. Regular readers also reported higher self-esteem, better sleep patterns and better ability to cope with problems. For some reason, the effects are not as pronounced when reading an eBook.
For me, books let me see inside someone else’s mind, see places I’ve never visited, experience lives that are very different from my own. I can learn a new skill or even a new language. I can disengage from my life and get lost in the story for a little while. Then it’s so much easier to get back to “real life.”
Like many book lovers, I also like to write. I devour the contents and then distill them into nuggets of wisdom that can be used in my own life. Getting thoughts out of your head and down on paper is cathartic. Again, writing longhand is more therapeutic than typing into a computer or phone. Studies also show that people remember things better when they write rather than type.
Next time you have a few minutes, stroll the aisles of a library or bookstore and take a closer look at some books that catch your eye. You might just find the perfect medicine for the ills of life.
Staff Blogger: Nicole Perefege, Manager of Peer Education Curriculum
Nicole is a recovering attorney who has worked in peer services since 2008, before Peer Support became a “thing” in Delaware. She has been involved in adult education since 1996, developing curricula and presenting classes and trainings at Immaculata University, University of Delaware Graduate Studies, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) Continuing Education, and the Delaware Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) Training Office. She has been a Peer Educator with Mental Health Association in Delaware since 2016. Nicole was active in the Chester County, PA Bar Association (CCBA) for 17 years, serving on the Board of Directors for 3 years. She wrote curricula and taught classes for The People’s Law School (sponsored by the CCBA), and co-wrote and edited manuals on Elder Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Real Estate Law, and Estate Planning. She also led the Sole Practitioner Section of the CCBA for 7 years. Nicole has been a peer volunteer for LCL (Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers) since 2006, helping attorneys and law students who struggle with depression.
Nicole has been an Advanced Level WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) Facilitator since 2014 and a Certified Mandt instructor from 2010 to 2021. She was the HIPAA Compliance Officer for DSAMH from 2008-2016.
Nicole has a strong need to help others overcome the difficulties, stigma, and discrimination that she experienced or witnessed in her own recovery and tries to be an example of recovery to others. She loves travel and is a devoted fur-baby mom to a dog and three cats.
Lindberg, S. (2021, July 4). How bibliotherapy Works. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-bibliotherapy-4687157.
Team, G. T. E. (2016, September 5). Bibliotherapy. GoodTherapy. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/bibliotherapy.
Brewster, L., & McNicol, S. (2018). Bibliotherapy. Facet Publishing.
Stanley, J. D. (2002). Reading to heal: How to use bibliotherapy to improve your life. Vega, a member of Chrysalis Books plc.
The reader. The Reader. (n.d.). http://www.thereader.org/.