During a particularly low point in my life, I started browsing the tinterwebs for help.
In-between amusing cat videos, I saw the advice to combat ennui by exploring enjoyable childhood activities.
Forever a cynic, I was naturally skeptical, but decided to give it a go anyway.
After thinking through what I used to like, the answer hit me like a sledgehammer to the face.
During my youth, I was a voracious reader, but it was an activity that had fallen by the wayside.
So, I slowly started picking up a few books again.
And, almost immediately, I felt my mood start to improve.
Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a cure-all, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.
Which is why in this article, I’m going to talk about some bibliotherapy activities if you’re in a similar position.
12 Bibliotherapy Activities to Try at Home
If you’re looking for a fun and therapeutic technique, bibliotherapy is the practice of using books to promote healing and self-awareness.
It’s a technique you can explore yourself first. So here are 10 bibliotherapy activities to try at home:
1. Identify your favorite book character. What qualities do you admire in this person? How can you incorporate these traits into your own life? If you choose a book with a strong protagonist, you can empower yourself by reading about someone who overcomes challenges and adversity.
2. Seek out books from different cultures and perspectives. How do they challenge your beliefs and understanding of the world? A large part of improving our mental health is developing the cognitive flexibility to analyze our situation from different angles (reframing). So exiting our own mental echo chamber can be a useful exercise, even if we disagree with the character or message in the text.
3. Read a book that addresses an issue you’re struggling with in your own life. Whether it’s addiction, grief, or depression, sometimes the best way to deal with our problems is to see how others have faced them head-on. What inspiration can we take from these fictional stories or non-fiction accounts?
4. Re-read a childhood favorite from beginning to end. Reconnecting with the things that brought us joy as children can help us tap into our inner wells of happiness as adults and can relieve psychological blockages. Don’t be embarrassed if these books don’t feel cerebral enough.
5. Seek out books with positive messages about relationships, family, and friendships. These stories will help you break bad habits and develop healthier patterns in your own life.
6. Read a book about personal growth or self-improvement, and make a plan to implement any helpful tips or strategies. I specifically recommend books about mindfulness and meditation; practices can have numerous benefits, including reducing stress and improving focus. This was one of my first forays into nonfiction bibliotherapy and it opened a whole new world of exploring the topic of personal psychology.
7. Use reading prompts to stimulate insights as you read. For example:
- How does the protagonist in this book handle a difficult situation, and what can I learn from their approach?
- What do the themes in this book teach me about my own life and experiences?
- How does this book challenge my current worldview?
- How can I apply the lessons and insights from this book to my own personal growth and development?
8. Keep a journal of your thoughts as you read a book. Reflect on how the storyline and characters may mirror your own experiences. It’s all about bridging the gap between fiction and fact, harnessing actionable insights or reflections from your reading.
9. Document key quotes or passages that inspire you and use them as daily affirmations or mantras. Keeping a quote list by topic is a fantastic way of reminding yourself of moving passages and insights when you most need them.
10. Convene with a supportive group of fellow readers to compare notes and vocalize your insights. Take this a step further by making your reflections actionable and holding each other accountable, especially when it comes to behavior change.
11. Set yourself a bibliotherapy quiz after finishing the book. Create your questions before you begin reading to help you reflect on the material.
12. After reading a book and writing your own reflections, check external summaries and reviews to see if there are any themes you may have missed that spark further insights and connections. I have some book summaries on this site, which may be useful.
How to Choose the Right Book for Your Needs
With so many books on the shelves, it can be hard to know which one is right for you.
If you’re looking for a light read, you might want to steer clear of War and Peace.
And if you’re in the market for something a little more challenging, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland might not be the best choice.
So how do you choose the right book for your needs?
- One way to narrow down your options is to consider your mood. Are you looking for something funny or uplifting? Something that will make you think? Or are you in the mood for a tearjerker?
- If you’re still having trouble, ask a friend or family member for recommendations. Chances are, they’ve read something recently that they think you would enjoy. Alternatively, peruse our detailed book guides on this humble little site.
- And if all else fails, there’s always more professional help. Consider investigating our splendid bibliotherapy service for more formal recommendations to get you started.
Bibliotherapy Resources for Further Reading
Here are some non-fiction examples of books you might find useful if you’re experiencing particular mental health issues.
- For those dealing with anxiety: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne
- For those dealing with depression: The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
- For those seeking general self-help: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
The next time you’re feeling down, remember that a trip to the library (or the bookstore) could be just what the doctor ordered.
There are many ways to deal with the stresses of everyday life.
Some people turn to exercise, others to television, and still others to food.
But for those who really want a nourishing self-management technique, there is bibliotherapy.
From self-help manuals to novels and memoirs, there’s a book out there for everyone.
And while reading can’t replace professional help, it can be a useful tool for managing a range of conditions.
While it may sound far-fetched, research has shown that bibliotherapy can be an effective treatment for a number of different conditions, including anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider reaching for a book instead of the ice cream.
It just might do the trick.