I want to say at the outset that I am not a therapist, and what I share here is not psychological advice. I’m not advocating that people replace therapy and medication with books. I’m sharing my own experience and opinions with the hope that this content will have a positive impact on someone somewhere.
I’ve had depression for quite some time. It’s situational depression due to the passing of a loved one and also due to how the world has changed over the past two decades. I had to decide how to process everything, and I went into sheer survival mode. For a long time, I was satisfied with simply subsisting. Then I started to believe that was as far as I could get in life. I was on a hamster wheel of working, eating, showering, and sleeping. I had no personality and no desire to explore life. Then I stumbled upon Vicki Jones and Claire Hackney. They’ve devoted their YouTube channel to showing viewers how they are overcoming depression by doing what’s on their bucket list. Their debut novel, Meet Me at 10, is a product of their victory over depression. That intrigued me so much that I downloaded the book to my Kindle and started to read it. I assumed that, like other books, I’d just get tired of reading and forget about it.
Boy was I wrong.
Vicky and Claire influenced me to read my way out of depression. I’m not reading self-help books, but instead I’m diving into all sorts of fiction genres. The proper term would be bibliotherapy, but I’m doing this without the guidance of a therapist. I’m doing it simply for my own sanity. So I’ve listed five ways books can heal depression.
What Books Do
Shift your focus away from yourself and those vying for your attention to negative news
Call it escapism if you want, but sometimes… no, a lot of the time… reading fiction can put you on a healing path. Focusing on someone else’s story and new settings can create healthy suspense. Depression’s grip can be so tight and all-consuming that you can easily forget there’s a whole world to be explored. On top of that, there is so much animosity brewing among people across America these days. The news is riddled with offense after offense. It’s downright depressing. Fantasy and mystery novels are a great antidote to the madness we see around us. Depression has a way of narrowing your focus so that you can’t see the vastness of life’s landscapes because of your focus on one broken branch. Getting absorbed in a plot obviously takes your mind off yourself and your life’s plot, your problems. It’s healthy to focus outside yourself and it’s not the same as being in denial. When you read a book, the setting alone can awaken you to new possibilities.
Broaden your outlook
The human imagination is limitless. My world was quite small until I became a serious bookworm. I was in an echo chamber of sorts, surrounded by my own opinions. But as I read more, I realized what I was missing out on — perspectives from other countries, cultures, and subcultures. There are as many lenses through which to see life as there are people on the planet. It’s easy to get trapped behind one lens and believe that’s all there is. Read more books and see how others view life and the world. You just might encounter unforeseen solutions to your issues.
Have characters that can influence your personality (and change your brain chemistry)
Have you ever admired a book character so much that you wanted to be like them? Have you ever found yourself thinking or feeling like a book character? This experience can work wonders, especially if depression has turned you into an empty shell. For me, I discovered my need for developing my own personality as I continued to read novels and absorb facets of other characters. I literally had no personality. I was simply surviving every day. I can now attest to how reading books is rewiring my neural pathways, and how wonderful it is to come alive again!
Bring humor into your life
Need a laugh? Read comic books or joke books. Even fantasy novels can surprise you with laughable characters and witty dialogue. There have been times when I find myself doubling over laughing because of some funny character description or hilarious interaction. It was then that I realized how much my brain needed a boost of dopamine. If I can get that boost with books and without medication, that works for me!
Simply put, reading books is a healthy distraction from depressing thoughts. Pick up and book and see life from a different perspective.