Books make me happy. Stories are my therapy. I’ve said before that I’d probably be in an asylum if I didn’t write, not just because of the voices, but because I find it very difficult to cope with the stresses that come with reality. Plus, I think a lot, and trying to think of multiple things at once sounds productive, but it’s really just super overwhelming. More often than not, it ends up resulting in a panic attack and me turning into a little ball of anxiety—which isn’t helpful to anyone.
When you feel stressed or anxious, psychologists will tell you to go through the senses. Find five things you can see, four you can touch, three things you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste. Do you know why? Because it makes you focus on something very specific.
Here’s the thing, bibliophiles—the human brain is an amazing organ. It’s the control centre for the body and allows us to function—to walk, talk, breathe, taste, smell, remember things, the list goes on. But did you know that even as sophisticated as the brain is, it can only think about one thing at a time?
It’s true. Try it.
Try really focusing on the last book you read and you’re favourite book at the same time. Unless they’re the same, it cannot be done! So, if you actually think about it, reading is a very real form of therapy. When you read, you are focusing on the story. You are immersed in it. Your brain actually gets a break from worrying about things. It plucks one thought from your mind and concentrates on it. The world gets calmer and quieter. It is like a vacation for the mind. It is escapism at its best, and that is what makes reading so therapeutic.
Reading makes you happier. It is scientifically proven. It helps you to decrease stress, better understand people and social relationships, improve self-esteem, reduce depression, plus it’s also super fun.
With all of these benefits, and the fact that it is probably the cheapest form of therapy, why would you not read? Ah, but look who I’m preaching to. You guys already know what’s what.
So the next time someone asks you why you read so much, or why it is so important that you buy more books to add to your overflowing bookcase, you can just tell them that it is necessary for your mental health. I honestly don’t know where I would be without books and stories, but I’d rather not find out. Sometimes they’re the only things that keep me going when I’m trapped in reality. They are my key to calm and my favourite kind of therapy. They are my happy place.
Claire Merchant is an Australian writer and published author of young adult fiction novels set in the imaginary city of South Coast.
She has written stories in genres ranging from fantasy and supernatural fiction, to adventure, drama, and romance.
Claire has a passion for storytelling and character building, and spends a lot of her time drinking black tea and trying to make sense of the voices in her head.
When she's not busy working on her next novel, you will most likely find her by the Swan River in her hometown, Fremantle.
ABOUT CLAIRE’S NEW BOOK, FINDING HOPE:
What do you do when you lose the person dearest to you? How do you dare to live - let alone love, again?
Hope Hadley's answer to these questions is: you don't. She returns reluctantly to her home town after five years of studying in another part of the country. Jensen, her uncle and only family, is relieved that she's back but Hope has only one thing on her mind: to get through life one day at a time, with as little emotion as possible.
Hope doesn't take into account that life has a way of happening regardless of whether one is an active participant or not. Her strategy to keep all emotional attachments at arm's length works for a while. That is, until she meets Damon.