The joy of text: Choosing prose over Prozac for happiness therapy

image Last week I mentioned a study pointing to the psychological benefits of creative pursuits.

Now, for the readers among us, there’s more good news. This month The Guardian reported the use of experimental reading groups as a form of therapy. ‘Bibliotherapy’ is being tried across a range of problems – including anxiety and depressive disorders, Alzheimer’s, learning disabilities,  motor-neurone disease and neurological and psychiatric disorders. The idea is to see if reading helps reduce pain and mental distress.

So far, the anecdotal results are heartening – but the scientific jury on bibliotherapy is still out.

Still, even an emeritus professor  like Raymond Tallis of Manchester University is open to the possibilities. He concedes in the article that reading could be therapeutic, especially in easing depression:

“…The pleasure of escape into a parallel world; the sense of control one has as a reader; and the ability to distance one’s self from one’s own circumstances by seeing them from without, suffered by someone else and gathered up into a nicely worked-out plot – somewhere around here is the notion of the Aristotelian purgation and Sartre’s idea of ‘the purifying reflection’.”

Purgation and purifying reflection notwithstanding, reading might offer respite from your daily ills. Whether you join a reading group, discuss books with friends or just lose yourself between the covers, why not add a little bibliotherapy to your repertoire of happiness strategies.

Textual healing

Here are a few books that have lifted my spirits. Feel free to share your own in the comments.

With thanks to my friend Kathy for letting me know about this interesting therapy. 🙂

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By Michele Connolly

Choose to be happier – and you will be.

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