The word ‘well-being’ gets tossed around a lot – so much, in fact that it starts to lose its meaning. I’ve begun to associate it with skincare products and bathbombs, which are both great but are also short term solutions. Wellbeing is more than a surface fix. It's about finding ways to reduce stress levels long term.
Which is why it was really refreshing to see it being used in relation to Libraries Ireland’s initiative for the government’s ‘Keep Well’ campaign. The overuse of the word cheapens it, taking away from an important message of looking after our mental health during a very unsettling time.
Libraries Ireland’s campaign centres around ‘National Day of Reading’ on Thursday February 25th. The ‘Ireland Reads’ campaign is asking everyone to ‘squeeze in a read’ before that date and providing lots of information and resources to help you do that. By teaming up with lots of publishers, booksellers, authors and others for the campaign, they launched their website www.irelandreads.ie to reach out to people and get the nation reading!
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England research by Dr David Lewis showed stress levels could be reduced by up to 60% by reading for as little as six minutes a day. Reading reduces your heart rate, muscle tension and alters your state of mind and is better for stress reduction than music, a cup of tea, walking or playing video games. Escapism is also a big factor in stress reduction related to reading. Reading becomes a transformative process that changes how we interact with the world.
The website allows you to pledge to read a certain amount on the 25th and has so far had 127,818 minutes pledged! The challenge is open to all ages and stages of reading, with a personalised book recommendation suited to a person’s interests and the time they have available. There are more than 800 recommendations from librarians all around the country in the database, so you know it’s only the best books being put forward.
Not only do they provide a recommendation, but they make every resource to get your hands on the book available in-site. With links to your local library and local bookstore that supplies the book, you can start reading right away! Although libraries are not currently open for browsing or borrowing due to Covid restrictions, library members can use the library’s Borrowbox service online and choose from more than 44,000 eBooks and 33,000 eAudiobooks.
If you’re not already a member or you haven’t yet used these services, find out how to join and start using online services right now.
With lots of big names and experts on board, this campaign promises to be a winner. ‘Room’ writer, Emma Donoghue said, ‘I support Ireland Reads with all my heart because it’s just what we need to stay safe, well and sane this winter. There’s nothing like a good book for engrossing excitement and escape - for transporting you to another time, place or situation. Reading about other people’s lives and dilemmas puts your own into perspective and makes you vividly feel those invisible threads of human connection which bind us all together even in the hardest of times.’
Patricia Scanlan, who hardly needs an introduction is also an ambassador, and spoke about the importance of escapism at times like these: ‘You’re never alone when you have a book. You can travel the universe and beyond, from the comfort of your armchair, by joining Ireland Reads. I always had my head stuck in a book when I was a child. I can still remember the exhilaration of reading a whole sentence, rather than just words. ‘I’m reading!’ I exclaimed, joyfully. This memory colours everything I do to promote literacy. Read books you want to read. Read to escape, for inspiration, for knowledge, for pleasure. As the Rachel Anders quote goes…“The journey of a lifetime starts with the turning of a page.”’
Child and family psychotherapist, Professor John Sharry, weighed in from a professional perspective:
‘As a child mental professional, I have long known the importance of parents reading with their children. Bedtime stories and shared reading times are amongst the most important parenting habits with many benefits for children including improved literacy and communication, better relationships with parents not to mention much more relaxed bedtimes! Instilling in your children a love of reading is life-long gift that keeps on giving. On a personal note, reading a great book is my best relaxation. There is nothing I love more than immersing myself in a novel just before sleep. Even just twenty minutes can take the edge off a difficult day.’
There are lots of great events happening the day of too, like ‘The Great Escape!’, running Thursday 25th February 7pm, a discussion with Rick O’Shea focusing on reading during lockdown and how books have helped us escape. Another one un by the The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) will lead a look at the science behind the benefits of reading, with input from researchers, writers and readers speaking to the wellbeing aspect of reading for pleasure. ‘Reading Matters: science | stories | soul’ will run Wednesday 24th February 2pm.
See here for further information.