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How starting a bookstagram improved my mental health

IMAGE VIA @DOLLYALDERTON/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY MAGENTA PORTER

If yoga isn’t your thing, maybe it’s time to look to your bookshelf.

Like many of you, I love books – to me, there is no better feeling than being completely lost in a story. But the hours I used to spend getting lost in a novel during my teenage years slowly disappeared as I entered adulthood. I went from smashing out two books a week to barely reading at all. Between navigating university, relationships and a few too many 4am drunken kebabs, I almost forgot about how important reading was all together.

The pressure of adulting had slowly started to impact my mental health. The little ‘me time’ I had to spare was wasted on reruns of early 2000s teen dramas, or scrolling through my phone – neither of which did anything to destress me or nurture my health, rather, they offered a temporary distraction from my life. Little did I know, a corner of the internet called ‘bookstagram’ would be just the thing I needed to get back on track.


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Unbeknown to me, the forced time at home that was coming for us all in 2020 was just the thing I needed to get back into the swing of reading, and if book sales last year are anything to go by, the rest of Australia followed suit. Suddenly, I was unemployed and had a never-ending amount of time to fill.

After I had exhausted all other options, I finally decided to give in and rediscover the magical world of books. Armed with some extra birthday cash from Nan, I made an alarmingly large book order and threw open Insta to jump on the bookstagram train.

What is bookstagram you ask?

It’s not only the influx of aesthetically pleasing, almost editorial worthy shots of colour-coded bookshelves that have taken over your feed. At a casual 60 million hashtagged posts, there is an entire community on Instagram filled with fellow book lovers posting reviews, rants and of course, beautiful photos of books. I was absolutely hooked, and I think you could be too.  

Arguably one of the healthiest and most educational corners of social media, bookstagram is not concerned with who you partied with on the weekend, what you’re eating for breakfast or even your OOTD (for the uninitiated, that’s outfit of the day). Rather, it’s a place filled with endless recommendations, insightful opinions and meaningful conversations about what people are reading and why.

It was the perfect online space for me, a place where I could provide unsolicited book advice to fellow bibliophiles who wanted to know what I was reading, just as much as I did them. Bookstagram is likely one of the only communities or trends on Instagram that isn’t solely concerned with follower counts, likes and comments.

Admittedly, I have a couple of favourite accounts myself (like this one) but unlike other areas of Instagram, I solely follow these accounts due to their literature of choice, not because I feel like I am supposed to or out of fear of being ‘off the pulse’.

 

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Bookstagram has not only reignited my love for reading, but it has held me accountable to my reading goals, and there’s nothing like the pressure of a few hundred people weighing on you to finish the book you promised to review, like, yesterday. The cherry on the cake, as they say, has been the positive impact my bookstagram account has had on my mental health.

For me, reading is not only a way to escape to another world, it is a form of meditation. If you’re anything like me, yoga and journaling just don’t hit the spot. Yoga is painful (my physio once told me that I have the joints of a 50-year-old), journaling feels too similar to my job, and I struggle to sit still for more than five minutes to meditate. To my pleasant surprise, I learnt that reading, an activity that brings me genuine solace, relaxation and happiness, is a form of therapy itself, called bibliotherapy.  

Since this discovery, I have felt far less guilty about cancelling plans to cuddle up in bed with a good book. It’s a psychologist approved form of mental health self-care after all. 

Reading allows me to escape my little world for a second. It helps me cut down my screen time before bed, and detach from the hustle of work, social life and study. Books may burn a (small) hole in your budget, but to me, the benefits of education, therapy, enjoyment and escapism they provide are priceless. 

So, if you’re even the least bit bookstagram curious (which I hope you are) @nomoreshittybooks is a great place to find inspirational reads. It might even have you itching to get on board the bookstagram train yourself.

Head here to learn more about bibliotherapy or if this has got you aching for a good read, here for some book inspo. 

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