Presidents, Reading and Mental Health
Did you know that all presidents receive a rating for how effective they were during their time as presidents? It makes sense, because how else would we know which presidents get their face on Mount Rushmore?
The most effective presidents (Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, the Roosevelts) are also the presidents that have a reputation for reading more books than other presidents. I believe this is not an accident. Reading changes us because it helps us learn and grow as individuals. I also think reading helps us become more effective at the work we set out to do, as it has the ability to change our view of the world. In honor of our well-read leaders, here are some of my favorite genres of books and how I believe they can help us grow in our mental health.
Young Adult Fiction
While these books are meant for teenagers, I believe they can be even more impactful for adults. In our teenage years, we grow so much in our understanding of who we are, who we dream of becoming, and how we want to interact with the world. As adults, we can get stuck as we get bogged down with the mundane of careers, finances, and family life. Revisiting our teenage years through the lens of fictional characters can help us reignite our passion for some of the things we used to dream of. It can also show us how our values have changed, (for better or for worse) so that we can choose to live a more effective life.
Many children’s stories are written more for the adults that are reading them than the children receiving them. Books like, “The Giving Tree,” “The Lorax,” and, “The Velveteen Rabbit,” have all stood the test of time because of the lessons they teach about love, sacrifice, and giving to others. Children’s stories are a lot less daunting, but they can also move us in very deep ways. Sometimes, it can be really hard to remember what our childhood was like, but as adults, we can form new relationships to help us heal. Along the way, the stories we loved as children can provide a road-map for making new friends and finding new ways to love.
Historical Non-fiction can get a bad wrap for being dry or boring. However, we can learn the most about who we are today and how we can choose to change tomorrow from the past. We can learn from the mistakes of our forefathers and learn how history truly repeats itself. This allows us to consider our own pasts, our family heritage, and decide what we will keep or change as we move forward as autonomous adults.We see how some of our heroes (George Washington for example) failed many times on their way to success, which teaches us resilience. We can also learn a lot about other cultures from historical non-fiction, which helps us grow in our compassion, empathy and relationships to others.
You might think it’s odd that a therapist did not include “self-help” books on the list of my favorite genres. I think self-help books are very important for our personal growth, but sometimes, they can cause us to feel guilty or stuck. Not every author is right for every reader, and some authors may be too harsh or too kind for the growth you are looking for.
If you want additional guidance with the life lessons you are learning, a therapist can help you find the voices that are best for you and help you develop your inner voice. Call today to continue to grow in your effectiveness and confidence!
Written by therapist Elise Champanhet
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