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  • Anna Dugdale

Why Reading Is A Form Of Self-Care

By Anna Dugdale

In essence, there are four types of self-care: physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Too often do we get drawn into the physical side of self-care, and it can often seem as though there is a greater focus on the aesthetic of self-care rather than on what it truly represents, especially on social media. Everyone advises you to take a bath, wash your hair, do a face mask or paint your nails as the primary form of self-care. Whilst all of these are helpful forms of self-care, these aspects of performative self-care can become tiresome and repetitive. However, one form of self-care, which is often disregarded, that I have recently picked up again is reading.

When I was younger, reading was my favourite way to spend my time but as I got older and had more commitments, reading took a back seat. Over the recent lockdown, however, I’ve found myself spending more time reading and enjoying it as much as I used to when I was a child. After struggling to engage with the genre of books I enjoyed so much when I was little, my friend introduced me to self-help and manifestation books.

When I was a child, I was like any other- I read a lot of Disney books and all the fairy tales you could ever think and dream of. It functioned as a form of escapism for me, I had an incredibly active imagination and these books helped to fuel it.

I was too young to have a phone or to stay up late and watch TV so I would read every night before bed, which I think helped shape me into the person I am today and encouraged me to become interested in English as a subject in school. It tapped into my imagination and it gave me the confidence to truly explore my ideas, thoughts and feelings through language.

Even when I was in high school, I still enjoyed reading. However, it became something I did less and less and found it increasingly difficult to factor into my schedule until it felt as though I could only commit to the time when on holiday. I definitely noticed a difference in myself when I stopped reading- I stopped doing something that had brought me comfortable escapism and instead found myself filling my time with activities that weren’t bringing me joy or fulfilling me.

Now, reading has given me the space where I can spend less time on my phone after realising that being on social media constantly was toxic and harming my mental health. It was an outlet that I didn’t know I needed until I took a step back from living my life on my phone.

At such a difficult time, after finding ourselves in a year of continuous lockdowns, it is so important to look after yourself and enrich your mind and creativity. Many people may not instantly connect reading to self-care- it isn’t exactly the usual face masks, hair masks, painting your nails, watching a film that we see sponsored on social media.

Any book can function as self-care; you could be using it as a form of escapism or education, as long as you’re enjoying what you’re reading, I believe that it’s a valued way to look after your own mental health and emotional wellbeing. I found that The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, a book that focuses on the idea of manifestation, greatly contributed to the idea of self-care through reading.

The premise of the book centres around the law of attraction and how you can apply it to each aspect of your life. In this most recent lockdown, I felt suffocated and scared about how I was going to cope but I found comfort in the advice The Secret offered me. In a time where I felt nothing but uncertainty, when I was reading I felt calm.

This book is the epitome of mental self-care. It taught me so many things about applying the law of attraction to every aspect of my life and I definitely believe the book altered how I approach areas in my life for the better.

Although I still struggle to immerse myself in fiction, I still value the escapism which reading holds, and I have found alternative ways to pursue this. Where I enjoyed reading when I was on holiday, which due to the travel restrictions surrounding coronavirus is not currently possible, I feel as though escaping into a book from my bedroom brings me a similar sense of peace and happiness.

If you are struggling right now, whether it’s due to the lockdown, work, or education, I highly recommend reading as a way to find balance in your life. Sometimes the standard, traditional self-care can become repetitive and you may feel like it is not helping or being effective anymore so trying something new, like reading, can be a worthwhile investment into your mental health.

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