How Setting a Reading Goal for Yourself can Improve your Mental Health

books, Mental Health, Motherhood

No matter how busy you are, you can and should make time to experience the positive health benefits associated with reading.

This year I set a reading goal for myself. I wanted to read 50 books by the end of the year. Obviously life happened at the end of last year. Negative thoughts occupied my mind for far too long. For months I have worked on growing as a person, avoiding negative thoughts, and keeping a positive mindset no matter what. It’s something that I have to work at every day, but it’s getting easier. Now when I set a goal for myself, I try to spend time actually reaching that goal and avoiding all excuses. There’s no reason why I can’t accomplish something that I’m passionate about. Negative thoughts will consume your mind if you let them, and it’s estimated that about eighty percent of the tens of thousands of thoughts that go through our mind every day are negative. Crazy right? Let me share with you how reading positively impacted my mental health and helped me escape.

Learning to love myself didn’t happen overnight. First, I had to realize that I’m an empath. I am happiest when the people around me are thriving. I feed off of other people’s emotions, and that’s only okay when I set healthy boundaries. I’m still learning to say no, but I have found ways to make the most of my time and not allow room for unhealthy thought processes. As a teenager, I remember letting go of any anxiety as soon as I walked in a book store. I could spend hours enjoying the magic of picking up a book and reading the plot summary in an effort to make the best selection for my next read. I was one of those nerdy kids that looked forward to purchasing books during the summer for required reading.

When I feel a destructive or negative thought coming on, I take a deep breath, count backwards by 5 (utilizing the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins LIFE CHANGING), and replace that thought with something productive. I love to read and learn new things. I also love to create and escape through travel and books.

I’m sure you can come up with a million and one excuses for why you don’t have time to read. But I’m a toddler mom and I can play this game all day. Leggo.

I don’t have time.

Yes, you do. We make time for the aspects of life that we find valuable. Find value in yourself. Invest in who you are as a person. Tell yourself that you are worth it every day until you finally believe it. I have four children, work full time on night shift as a laboratory scientist, homeschool my kids by choice, have a photography business on the side, and about 20 different things from day to day. We throw the words “don’t have time” around way too freely. We shut down suggestions before we even hear someone out.

I remember graduating college with my five month old a few feet away from me as I walked across the stage. Any time that I would talk to someone who either didn’t attend or didn’t graduate college, their reasoning was that they couldn’t study or couldn’t focus. I’m ADHD. I couldn’t take medication for the majority of my college career due to pregnancy. But I did read. The more I read, the less I struggled with it. Picking up the book is the hardest part. Sometimes we are so reluctant to welcome change. We are so scared to fail that we limit ourselves before we even try. That gets us no where.

I have kids and they deserve my full attention.

You’re absolutely right. They do. I’ve been there. For years I took my kids to the zoo on no sleep after working the night before. We constantly went on trips and honestly I was happy…for awhile. But somewhere along the way I forgot to fill up my own cup. I forgot how to reset. I had four babies that absolutely gave me joy, but when you forget who you are as a person, you lose the ability to truly be present. You lose the ability to give back to them.

After so many years of going through the motions and just trying to stay awake, I stopped seeing a beach sunset as magical. I stopped looking back as we left a pretty field during golden hour. I couldn’t picture it anymore. I was there, but in my mind I was constantly searching. Your kids know when you aren’t really there. They don’t want a warm body. They want Y O U.

Fitness isn’t just about tightening your core or a good cardio routine. We have to put our brain to work also. Stop acting as if your brain doesn’t control everything else because it most certainly does.

Reading increases your critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and writing skills. Links to decreases in blood pressure and even longer life expectancy have been made in correlation to reading. Reading for pleasure helps us relate to others, be compassionate and empathetic, and reduces stress levels. It’s good for your mind. Daily reading keeps your brain engaged and aids in preventing memory loss.

Good Reads helps me track my reading goal. When I can see progress, I am more likely to stick with something. I can mark books that I’d like to read, books I’ve purchased, books I’m currently reading, and books that I have previously read. It’s also fun to see that other people are reading and discuss the characters of a book that felt so real to me. I’ve related to so many characters in books and I carry them with me. Being an empath can mean feeling things way too deeply. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up being able to ride the Magic School Bus, or walk into a tree house and end up in ancient times. I wouldn’t give up feeling the sand between my toes at a beach I’ve never physically visited. I wouldn’t even give up having my heart break for a fictional character.

I utilize Book of the Month club because it helps me with book selection when I’m feeling overwhelmed with options, the book is shipped to me, and I can read reviews from an app on my phone. I can discuss the book with other members as I’m reading or by leaving a review when it’s finished. If I don’t like the book choices that month, I can skip. In my experience, the few times this has happened I used my credit to pick two books the next month. I am able to support up and coming authors and have access to books before they are released to the public. Who doesn’t love having something exclusive?

Get a discount on your first BOTM here!

Thrift Books, The Book Bundler, and a local thrift store are all good outlets to keep you looking forward to your next read. I typically pick out my next book as I’m reading my current selection so that I have something to look forward to. Sometimes I give myself a day or two to process the book that I just read and then I start a new book. Don’t give yourself too much time to get out of the routine.

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Magic Tree House books are THE BEST

Here’s the thing. This year I have lost more than I can count. I lost my sense of security, I had my car stolen, my marriage was barely hanging on by a thread, and I saw the true colors of the people I thought were “my people”. Plot T W I S T…those colors weren’t so bright and wonderful. I lost financial freedom, my daily routine, and my ability to stop the racing thoughts and go to sleep. But you know what I didn’t lose? Knowledge. And it really is power. I’ll admit that my thoughts weren’t always positive, but one day I was able to say enough is enough. On that same day, I already had the tools to begin taking my life back.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

I didn’t engage with people because I felt like I could no longer bring value to the conversation. As moms, we do this all the time. Look, I get it. I’m a mama to four little girls. The youngest hasn’t even turned two. They are the best thing about my life. But was I the best part of theirs? I see the smiles returning to their faces when they are around me now. I see the relief, and as much as that breaks my mama heart…I’m so glad that I finally see it. Reading helped give me something to contribute again. We feel as though our lives are boring or others won’t relate. Sometimes it’s easier to relate to a character in a book and mention his or her story in conversation. In my experience, your friend is probably feeling the same way. She is just too afraid to say it out loud.

Let me know if you found this helpful! I’d love for you to follow along. Drop a comment with your favorite book <3.

-The Zombie Mom