How reading fiction can help improve our mental health

Nothing like a cup of tea and a good book (Picture: Getty) I’ve been self-medicating with books my whole life. They’ve been my palliatives, my morphine-drips, my adrenaline shot to the chest. Or, less dramatically, I consider the time spent lost in a novel to be essential to maintaining my wellbeing, to keeping me sane – and not just because scientists have suggested reading is like a superfood for the brain . Sure, it’s nice to think that books may have as many health benefits as running or eating broccoli. But it’s probably fair to say that my faith in books, and that of many other readers, runs deeper than quantitative data (even if it is kind of satisfying to have science support the old act of reading in an era of commercialised self-care). So why do people like me believe that books provide a novel cure? When I took part in FutureLearn’s Literature and Mental Health course in 2015, I explored precisely this question during six weeks of online modules. Fiction was our focus. We looked at short stories, novels, plays, and poetry. The thought was that although fiction may not be literally instructive, like some of the […]

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