With winter here, many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or just feel a little melancholy and low in a colder, darker time. For many readers, books are a go-to all-natural antidepressant. Stories are powerful mood uplifters—through a book you can be transported far away: to a warmer climate, to a passionate love affair, to a cerebral and captivating mystery, and more.
But the therapeutic ways that books can alleviate a low mood expand beyond just reading. Sometimes, reading a book can be as much an obstacle as relief. Depression and anxiety can affect your mind by make concentrating on a book tougher than usual. If you’re in a reading slump, it can be even more difficult to relate to reading the way you normally would. Thus this list of bookish ways to fight depression also includes non-reading activities. There’s something for everyone, from the pet lover to the crafty reader.
- Re-arrange Your Bookshelves
This is my go-to activity for when I’m feeling down. Maybe it’s all the time I spent shelving at the library, but I love organizing my bookshelves. I get a tactile boost from just touching books, holding them, moving them around, and seeing them in front of me—just being surrounded by books. As a kinesthetic learner, I guess it’s no surprise, since I am a very tactile and hands-on person. Ordinarily in non-winter months I would promote going to the bookstore or the library for this kind of experience, but as my mood gets lower (and the days get colder) I tend to hibernate and withdraw from the world. My personal mini-library always brings me back.
So put on some music (I recommend jazz, acoustic music, something low key) and take stock of your shelves. If you’re currently organizing by genre, mix it up and organize by what part of the world the books are set in (e.g. India, England, Nigeria, New York City); or general subjects that bridge genres (e.g. Friendship, Family, School); or time period (e.g. Victorian-era, 1920s, 2010s, 2574). Alphabetize them any way you want while you’re at it. Whichever shelf organization method you choose, rearranging your shelves or tidying up can be a powerful mood lifter. Giving your mind and body something to do that’s project-oriented and complex but creatively engaging is a great way to get you thinking
- Knit a Bookish Pattern or Color in a Coloring Book
Knitting can be extremely relaxing. You don’t have to be especially good at it to make something simple like a scarf, and the therapeutic benefits of such a repetitive, nearly hypnotic activity can help quiet the demons in your mind. If you’re trying adult coloring books, you can multitask. To get a bookish benefit, I recommend putting on an audiobook to have on in the background. Soon your hands will take over and allow your mind to drift to the story you’re hearing. It is lulling and soothing to hear someone else read to you. You can read more about adult coloring books here on the AllPsych blog.
- Read Out Loud to Others
My cats, Jon Snow and Minerva, make a great audience when I read books. Even though Jon Snow is deaf, I can tell he appreciates it when I read him a book. And I feel a powerful mood lifting experience when I read to my pets because it is reciprocal. I get lost in a story and find myself rising to the occasion and entertaining somebody else. You can feel that way, too, when you read out loud to others, whether your friends, your loved one, your family, or your pets. This makes reading a social activity and puts you in contact with others at a time when your depression makes you want to withdraw. You might want to choose a short story or a short novel and switch off with someone else so you get a break.
Books can be the basis of fighting the winter blues. Whether you suffer from seasonal depression or just feel down from the shorter days and colder weather, try incorporating books into your mood lifting routine.