Can reading a book improve your physical and emotional health? The NHS says Yea, Verily Yea!

Bibliotherapy. That’s what they call it in the UK, and the National Health Service actually coordinates with local libraries to make books available by prescription!  It’s called BOP Books on Prescription, and you do actually have your GP prescribe these books/courses.

You can visit the central site Overcoming, to see what’s on offer, but in general the books are designed to help people with more emotional/psychological problems. Most of these books are available for purchase through Amazon and would be considered self-help in the US.  But, don’t most people prefer to help themselves?

Margaret Nesbitt recently wrote an article on this topic but here are some thoughts from that article to ponder

According to Joseph Gold, a former professor of English at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, “Whether the problem be physical discomfort or disability, emotional conflict or suffering, or problems arising from social situations in the family, work or community, reading can change and improve how we feel and behave.” So therapists and doctors are writing “reading” prescriptions for some of their patients. Obese young women will read a book about a successful weight-loss transformation of a young woman and lose weight successfully, more so than someone who didn’t read the book.

  • Michael Duda, a psychologist in Germany, believes “success lies in a combination of the reading process and the content of what we read. When we immerse ourselves in a text, the words stimulate the production of mental images. We imagine what characters look and sound like; we visualize the places they play and work.”
  • According to brain researchers, when reading, our brains simulate what happens in the story, using the same circuits we would use if the same things happened to us. Duda believes books are so powerful that they “act like a key that opens the door to a person’s inner world.”
  • Bibliotherapy has been found not just effective but relatively cheap, which is why  the United Kingdom’s National Health Service encourages physicians to use the “books on prescription” program  which reaches thousands of people each year, and more than half of all English libraries are participating.

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 8:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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