November is National Novel Writing Month and what a great way to encourage people to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and start writing a story.
The challenge for this annual event, which started in 1999, is for people to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month.
At Happydesigner, we live and breathe all things children’s books, and as you might already know, as well as designing and illustrating other people’s books, we write, design, illustrate and publish our own children’s stories, too. Luckily, we don’t need a specific event to inspire us, as we find inspiration all around, but for those who have always hankered after writing a book, then National Novel Writing Month should provide the incentive.
And this got us to thinking… apart from the pleasure of getting into print and the feeling of satisfaction at achieving something, what other benefits are there of writing, and for that matter, reading books?
Well, our research reveals, there are LOADS!! Because in this fast-paced age, when we really need to take care of our mental health, both reading and writing stories are excellent stressbusters.
How writing helps you to destress
So, how and why does writing a story reduce your stress levels?
Firstly, it allows you to escape into a different world, giving you a break from everyday stresses and worries. Creating characters and plots can be a form of catharsis, enabling you to express emotions or ideas that you might not otherwise have an outlet for.
Secondly, the process of writing can itself be therapeutic. It can help you organise your thoughts, clarify feelings, and provide a sense of accomplishment as you see your story take shape. Engaging in something creative, like novel writing, can also promote mindfulness and focus, directing your attention away from stresses and into something much more enjoyable.
Thirdly, writing your own story gives you a sense of control. In your novel, you are the ‘god’ of your world, you’re in charge in a way you may not be – or at least feel like you’re not – in the everyday.
How reading helps you destress, too
There are many reasons why reading helps us to destress.
Firstly, reading is a form of escapism. When you read, you transport yourself to different worlds, whether they’re fictional realms, historical time periods, sci-fi or fantasy. This total distraction from the real world and escape into fiction gives you a temporary break from everyday life.
Secondly, engaging in a good book can relax your mind and body. It’s a slower, more contemplative activity compared to many others in our fast-paced lives. It often involves physical comfort, like curling up with a book under a cosy blanket, along with a cup of your favourite brew, which can be inherently calming.
Thirdly, reading has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Immersing yourself in a story can trigger a relaxation response, helping to alleviate tension. You know what it’s like, you start reading and suddenly hours have flown by.
Our fourth point is about mindfulness and focus. Reading requires concentration, which can redirect your focus away from stress-inducing thoughts. It encourages mindfulness by engaging you in the present moment and making you concentrate on the story that is unfolding. You can get the same effect from other activities too, like listening to music, or playing sport; you get absorbed in what you are doing and that allows you to banish stressful thoughts.
Fifthly, emotional connection. Reading will provoke a whole range of emotions, depending on the book – happiness, sadness, rage, sorrow, etc., and feeling these emotions for a character or storyline helps you process your own feelings and gain perspective.
Finally, reading books is a complete education, even if they are non-fiction. Good plots, well-developed stories and believable characters can give you insights into your own situation and help you manage the stresses of life better.
The long and short of it is, there is so much to be gained from writing a book and from reading, and nothing to be lost. So, why not give writing a go? And if you have a great children’s story and want help with getting it illustrated and into print, then we’d love to hear from you. An exciting new addition to the many services we already offer is that Sarah is now available as a consultant, to help with advice on writing your story, or developing your book series or project and take it to the next level. Get in touch today!
Written by Jo Smyth (www.wordworker.co.uk)